In the beginning, we were going to go to Sifnos only once. The world is large, it has endless places to see and our future travels would take us to more of those. The only thing we wondered was whether this small island would keep us interested and occupied for the three weeks we were planning to stay. It did. Since then, my husband and I have returned to the island ten more times, always for a month at a time. The one certainty now when we go to plan our next year’s trips is that it’s not a question of whether we’ll go to Sifnos, we only ask ourselves when.
Stop me if you’ve heard this story before. Perhaps it is yours, whether with Sifnos or more likely somewhere else. Travellers take their time to explore a place well and, the more they look, the more fascinating they find what they see and the more connections they make there. Before they know it, the place has sunk its hooks into them and the pull to go back a second time and many more is strong. Irresistible, really. Ask them about this place and their eyes shine.
There was a time when I worried that the desire to go back somewhere we’d already been was a sign of laziness on our part, a lack of imagination, a certain complacency perhaps. It is easier to simply say, “Yup, let’s go there,” than to sort through all the alternatives, to research what each one has to offer, to decide which is the right one just now, and then to arrange the logistics of how to get there and where to stay. But the warmth of the Sifnian sun and so much more had crept into my bones, had put a smile on my face that would not be erased, and thoughts of going back would not be stilled. Yet I wondered, was this a trap, were we getting into a rut? Had we already done everything there was to do there, and we’d find ourselves bored?
I’m so glad now that we listened to that loud voice, did not resist the island’s strong pull on our hearts. The writer Scott Stavrou talks about living on a small island, nearby Paros in his case, and sharing the same stones as everyone else there, the same stories. My eyes flew open when I read that. I’ve felt the same phenomenon myself, have found endless stories on Sifnos to write about – two books so far and this blog – and the more often I go there, the more I realize I am not merely witness to those tales, I find myself becoming a small part of them myself.
“What do you do when you’re there?” so many people at home ask. Surely you’ve seen it all by now, is what I know they are thinking. Why on earth don’t you go somewhere new?
What do we do? We explore. We eat. We drink. We laugh. We learn more every time we are there. We live whatever adventures the island has in store for us this time. We make connections, spend time with good friends and make more. We experience life in this part of the world and bring back home with us the best parts of it. All of that takes time. We know now that we’ve barely scratched the surface.
This past spring on Sifnos my husband Jim, a serious black-and-white photographer, turned his camera lens onto the kind of stones Scott speaks of. I spent a lot of my time merely sitting on one rock or another, listening to the echoes of this ancient land. After finishing my second book Sifnos Chronicles 2: more greek island tales just before we left home, right then I needed nothing more. And nothing less.
Small Shores, Large Horizons, Scott Stavrou