May Day!

According to the law it’s the last day for burning wood in the garden. It’s Sunday 30th April and I’m on the Greek island of Aigina. Through the net curtains and the tall blue slatted shutters I look up from my bed at the Saronic Gulf, calm as a lake between the pines of the garden and the distant cities and mountains, veiled in today’s brown mist. 

The air is spiced with a smell, and it’s the aroma of wood smoke. If you don’t trim and burn your bushes and trees today, they’ll have to wait until November. I’m in the mood for lapsing souchong ☕️ tea but I make two big plastic cups of PG Tips that we brought from England. 

We sit on the veranda and look at the familiar view, as we have over five decades. Today the sea is clearly revealed by the work we did yesterday. Having filed for permission from the local ‘Dimos’ we reduced four pines to reveal the pale expanse of ancient water. 

The burning to ashes will wait now until November but immediately we are reconnected with the scene of our youth, and the scene of seagoing heroes when the ancient world was young, and magic was everywhere. 

We also love to see lines of washing on the rooftops below us down the hillside, left in the sun by women who wake and work early while it’s cooler. And today there is special work to do. 

Perhaps tomorrow is summer. We will expect only long hot days and nights. The time for burning and ashes is passing. Announce it to yourself! 

Here in Greece, May Day is a national holiday with a difference. A few will choose to work but nobody is ‘given’ the day off. Instead everybody ‘takes’ the day off. It’s a national, annual, scheduled, strike! Not taken for granted; but taken!

That’s an announcement! You are free! Step out! Winter is gone! Sins are to be forgiven, and life is to be lived. Finish your burning, put out the ashen fires, pull in your last breaths of wood smoke, fading in your nostrils, and come down to the beach and be baptised in hope and the blue waters, yet cold but stirring warmer, under the benign faithful sun.  

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