Morning Essential

[Breakfast, coffee required, March 2009.]

I woke up this morning feeling a bit fractious. It’s been hot here, climbing to the 80s, even, which for this sea-blown city is an anomaly except for a few times a year (though I’m not complaining; I love the warmer weather) — too hot to sleep almost. Also, the birds suddenly know it’s spring and are pealing away every morning, noon, and sometimes all night with their riotous singing. I’m not wishing this away by any means but it does make for a sort of restless night’s sleep.

Even that early I could already feel the press of the day’s heat in my apartment. Hot, I thought, almost East Coast hot. Almost-but-not-quite Greece hot. I wandered sleepily into thoughts of the beach, summer camping trips, hikes out to Tomales Point, to baseball games and home made ice cream. I stretched out and wished for just another hour of delicious sleep and a whole day off for rambling.

I’ve never exactly been a morning person — my ex always used to complain I was a wee bit, err, cranky before 8 a.m. though really I must argue in my own defense that I wasn’t so much cranky as just barely awake and in the past few years I’ve learned the early morning hours are some of the most beautiful of the whole day — but there is one thing that always gets me up and out the door. You know what it is: my daily cup of coffee.

I texted my bff with a question: Quick! Iced coffee or americano?! She responded as I hoped she would: IC

. The hot weather really did deserve to be celebrated with a special treat.

[Northern Greece, August 2005.]

For some reason this morning my coffee tastes like Greece — or at least very like the coffee I drank so much of when I was there. Coffee first thing in the still, heavy mornings right when I woke up, with the milk heated in one of those little Greek coffee pot-tins on the hot plate. Then I’d walk through the narrow, hot streets to the kafenio near the boat yard where my brother worked to meet him for a mid-morning frappé (mine I liked metrios, and with a little milk) or met his girlfriend Emily at a restaurant above the dock to watch the ferry come in. Inevitably we also had one or two in the afternoons; it was too hot not to.

It’s always like that. The second time I was in Greece, in the north, I found I could hardly sleep and couldn’t figure it out until I realized just how much coffee I was drinking every day.

But it’s so good — bitter, strong, and full of the Mediterranean.

The last time I went to Greece was almost two years ago now, and it was my favorite trip of all — maybe because I’d been there a few times already so I knew what to expect; most likely it was because I was back to the islands and staying with my brother and it felt good and right to be there. Even Athens, dirty and hot and crowded as it is, didn’t feel strange; for once, and for the first time, I felt like I could slip into it pretty easily. It was familiar somehow.

All we did really was sleep and eat (well, they worked, too) and swim and eat and swim and swim and swim and read on the little rocky beach that was their favorite. One day we road bikes to the supposed best restaurant on the island (and it was very good) up the hills and past the horses in the blazing sun. The last bit was down a dirt path and as soon as we got the beach we threw the bikes down and jumped in the water to wash away all the dust and sweat. I probably have never been so tan in my entire life and I never got sunburned. We drank beer with dinner and rode back through the deserted roads to town, me stopping every so often to take pictures of the bay and the boats anchored there. It was so quiet I could hear the wind rushing through the dry grass. A tanker ship sailed serenely in at dusk.

It was a golden time, relaxed and full of good food and stretching out. I almost didn’t go — so expensive, my boyfriend wasn’t interested, hard to get the time off — but what if I hadn’t? I would never have known. I want to go back, of course, but it won’t be the same; my brother lives in Maine now and without my tie to the island I might not feel as at-home (well, sure).

Still, I want to go to Aegena, where I went on my very first trip so long ago, to try to find any bits of my family who may still be there. I want to find out for certain where my grandfather grew up — I could well imagine him under the drooping pistachio trees in the island’s dusty interior but I’d like to know for sure. For whatever reason that connection to family I’ve never met, even generations back, endlessly fascinates.

This kind of weather makes me nostalgic for so many things: childhood summers playing soccer in the field, sweat running into my eyes; early-morning swim lessons at the pool downtown; life on the East Coast; trips abroad. It seems almost like vacation — tropical and exotic. I’m surely not the only one who feels this way. My coffee guy this morning looked a little woebegone and when I asked him how he was doing he said this weather makes him daydreamy for Rome, where he’s from.

I know that homesickness well.

There are so many places I want to go: Argentina, Australia and New Zealand, Barcelona, South Africa and beyond, back to Greece, even bits of the Middle East one day. I long for the time and money to do it all; in the meantime I will just drink lots of coffee, and remember.

Join the Conversation

  1. Hi from a New Zealand blog reader! I stumbled upon your blog awhile ago…love the beautiful photos!

  2. This was such a beautiful post.

    It makes me want to go back to Greece too!

  3. I’m so glad we’ve cooled off! I loved this post btw. The warm weather gives me wanderlust something fierce!

  4. It is definitely iced coffee time. As well as remembering time, but when isn’t it that?!

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