Milk and Honey

by Srushti Shah (United Kingdom (Great Britain))

Making a local connection Greece


MILK AND HONEY I read a lot about inherited pain. The kind that women hold between the withered lines on their palms and the kind that make legacies harder to carry on the backs of our fathers. But here in Kefalonia, there is a different wound desperately trying to scab over on the sides of Mount Ainos. Constance, the hotel manager, talks to me about how the days pass here. Dawn breaks quietly and everyone wakes up to their new adjusted way of life; he tells me about Cupid, a large jolly man who once owned a printing business over in mainland Greece and now spends his days pulling in boats at the small harbour ten minutes from his house. “Everyone fills their bellies with laughter and olives,” Constance says as he guides me to my room. “We cannot think about the things we do not have anymore.” I watch as he stares out to the blue water, the trenches dug by the sides of his eyes become more prominent when he smiles. “Was the recession really hard here?” I ask cautiously in fear of bringing up traumatic memories but trauma is only realized by conscious thought. It’s clear that the people of Kefalonia choose to bury the pain in the past. Constance doesn’t say anything for a moment, breathing deeply instead and savouring the salt breeze on his tongue. “A lot of good people lost a lot of things during the recession. If you only lost your job, you were lucky.” The sun feels good on my skin, warmth wrapping around me with tight arms. Through all the white noise, I hear a hushed silence resting over the island and my heart clenches. “I’m sorry,” I say for a lack of better words. In the distance, I can see the heat blur the tea farms in their endless mounds and I watch the land breathe. “Alessandra, the woman you passed on the street, she lost her dad to cancer. Then she lost her farm to the government.” He sighs. “Now she sells honey to tourists, the purest you’ll find around in the area.” He says perfunctorily. And then as a quiet afterthought, “no-one buys it though, there’s no money left here.” London comes back to me in a faint memory just as I left it. Sideways, after all the banks fell and my dad lost his job. I try not to think about it. I understand the people here a bit more, taking an olive and biting into it. We’re all the same kind of strangers. There is no telling of what will replace the pieces we lose of ourselves and of course, there remains so much doubt of what our children will inherit from us. But still, Constance sleeps comfortably at night and as pink stretches over the coast, I learn to appreciate it. “Why did you stay, Constance?” “Odysseus travelled these waters you know,” Constance tells me as he looks out to the Ionian Sea. “This is where he finally ended his journey. This is where he chose to rest.”