Walking to the top of the castle in Molivos
Yesterday I was trying to organize some of my books which are sitting in piles all over my living room. (Too many books and not enough book shelves!) I came across a journal that was empty except for the first eight pages. I have to admit, I have a lot of half-filled notebooks scattered around my life. In fact, I suspect, if I perused each one, I’d find a lot more un-finished rather than finished journals. Actually, I knew myself so well when I started this particular one, that my first paragraph of writing ends with this line: “. . . I found this perfect notebook last night, and I bought it. So let’s see how much writing I actually do.” Not much, I’m afraid. But these eight pages are gems, if I do say so myself. They are not really about me (although what I chose to write about is definitely a reflection of who I am), but are a series of four little stories that were told to me about people from the town of Molivos, Greece.
Looking through the castle window at the harbor
Molivos is a tiny town on the island of Lesvos, Greece. It is in this town where my husband was born and raised. It’s the town I visited while on vacation when we were both in our mid-twenties. It’s where I met him and where we fell in love. I not only fell in love with him, but also with his home. The stories I am going to relate were written from my last visit there in 2001. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I do.
Story #1 – Letting Go
Last night was very nice. We [Michael and I] went to the home of Nikko and his wife, Yota. Nikko and Michael were childhood friends. I really liked Yota a lot. Maybe it’s becasue she talked to me in English and asked me questions about my job, which I could actually answer back in a comprehensible way since I didn’t have to speak Greek.
Yota is a vegetarian and a veterinarian. I suspect those two things are related somethow. She lived in Australia as a child which explains why her English is so good. She has beautiful big brown eyes and a perfect white simile — she must have the best teeth in Molivos. Michael tells me that her family is rich, so maybe she could afford to go to the dentist.
I don’t know how the conversation came to this, but she told me this story about her dog of sixteen years.
Her dog was pretty old and was ill and dying. Yota was going to be going to Athens for three weeks. She would be leaving in two days. She knew her dog was dying and should be put to sleep, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Yet she didn’t want the dog to die without her while she was gone.
One evening she was reading a story to Nikko and her sister, It was about a yogi who had been given a sick deer to heal. The yogi had become attached to the deer, and when its health had improved, he did not want the deer to leave. So the deer stayed. Somehow the yogi came to the understanding that he could not keep the deer because it was a wild thing and had to be set free. So the yogi told the deer that it could go, and it did.
After listening to the story, Nikko went out to the patio where Yota’s dog was lying. He stroked the dog’s fur and told him that it was all right, that Yota would be okay and that he was free to go. At the very moment he said those words, the dog died.
Yota believes that her dog was holding on to life because she couldn’t let him go, but that Nikko had the strength to set him free.
The next day they buried their beloved dog, and the day after that, Yota left for Athens.
Looking down towards Eftalou
Story #2 – Good Intentions
When Nikko was a young boy, his father owned a huge garden on the outskirts of Molivos. One day as a joke, a neighbor lady told Nikko that he could help his father’s watermelons grow better if he stuck a hole in them and turned them upside down.
So one evening, hoping to help his father, Nikko took a stick and punched a hole through every single watermelon rind and then turned the fruit over.
Of course, when Nikko’s father found out he was furious — but not with Nikko. The angry farmer went over and yelled at the neighbor woman who had lied to his son.
Looking down along the coast
Story #3 – The Evil School Teacher
Michael often mentions a school teacher that he had here in Molivos who was feared by all the students because he was so mean.
One day Michael was at school and he hadn’t done his lesson from the day before. His excuse was that the class had been on a field trip, and he hadn’t had time to get the assignment finished.
The teacher was going over the lesson while Michael sat in his seat nervously chewing on a pencil, afraid that he was going to be called on. Of course, he was.
The teacher asked Michael to go to the front of the room to give an answer for a problem they were reviewing. Unfortunately, Michael still had a big chunk of chewed-off pencil in his mouth. In an attempt to get rid of it on his way up to the front of the class, he spit it out. It landed right on his teacher’s arm. The angry teacher grabbed Michael by the skin right in front of his ears and dragged him to the back of the room with Michael howling the entire way.
Nikko also told us how once this same evil teacher hung Nikko upside down in the classroom [I was not clear on how this was accomplished], and then started paddling him to punish him for some purported crime.
A few minutes into this endeavor, another teacher came into the room and said, “Take him down! You have the wrong kid!” Apparently, Nikko had a cousin at the school with the exact same name, and he was the one who had commited the offense and was supposed to be punished.
Looking down at the town beach
Story #4 – Costas and the Foreign Lady
There is an old man named Costas who lives a few houses down from the place where Michael grew up. Costas does not really live in a house — it is more like a hovel, with a corrugated tin roof and small square windows that are always covered. He has two or three junky cars in his yard that he can’t drive since he lost one of his legs a few years ago. They say he hurt himself, although they don’t say how, that the leg developed gangrene and had to be removed.
When we first arrived in Molivos, Costas asked Michael to drive him to a cafe so they could watch the women walk by.
Michael says Costas was married to a nice woman, but after she died, Costas started to go a bit crazy. He used to be one of the biggest land owners in Molivos. He owned most of the land at the top of the hill below the castle. Then he started dividing it and selling off the pieces. He would spend all the money or sometimes give it away. It seems that his daughter and her husband, didn’t appreciate Costas selling off their future inheritance, so one night they snuck up to Costas’ house and beat him up while he was sleeping. He almost died. I don’t know whether this caused him to stop selling his land.
Nikkos told us another story about Costas. Once there was a foreign woman who came to Molivos. She met Nikko and asked thim to introduce her to a real traditional Greek man, so Nikko took her to meet Costas.
The foreign lady and Costas were up in his yard, sitting under a tree talking and drinking coffee. There was a goat nearby in the yard. It was bleating and making a lot of noise. Costas threw a couple of stones at the goat to get it to shut up, but it contined to bellow. So Costas pulled out a long switch blade that he had in his pocket, snapped it open, walked past the foreign woman, and slit the goat’s throat from ear to ear. Then he wiped the blood from his knife on the dead goat’s coat, closed it up, put it back in his pocket, and sat down to finish his coffee. The foreign woman left rather quickly after that.
Molivos at sunset