When I visited Athens in January and walked past the cafe pictured above, I felt almost bent double with grief, assailed by memories of that previous trip with Mark that seemed so recent. Yet time had been cleaved by his death. Today, I passed the cafe and memories of the moments we shared, the times we walked up the hill together, fluttered at the edge of my thoughts and, while there was sadness, this time it didn’t assail me, almost floor me, as I walked.
This is my third visit to Athens this year and I’ve decided that over the next few days I’m going to experiment with not thinking about what is past, or about grief, or recovering from it, but to immerse myself in being here, now, in Athens. It gives me an odd feeling, which I’ve felt once or twice recently, a kind of bewilderment, a swimming feeling, that I’m here, living these moments. It’s like being at the top of a hill – with so much expanse all around, you can feel a little unsteady. Maybe I’m like a toddler learning to walk in a new, unfamiliar landscape. I know that there will be times when grief and sadness knocks me over – there’s no stopping them when the waves come. But for now it feels OK.
This sense, though, of being in a new space, of determinedly shifting the focus to a forward-looking one, being prepared to move unsteadily on unfamiliar terrain, attentive to what might emerge, was on my mind when I was talking to Marilena today about the Greek crisis. We met in Cafe Filion on Skoufa, where I met her when I was here in March. That time there was still some optimism that the Syriza government might succeed in taking on the Troika, but now, Marilena said, it was difficult to see any light up ahead, any hope for the country, whether the outcome of the talks is more austerity or bankruptcy and exit from the Euro.
I found myself casting around for solutions that were of a different order, ones that were shaped by different dynamics such as abundance and generosity instead of mean-spiritedness and lack. I don’t have a clue what actions they might prompt in such tremendously difficult circumstances, but found myself wondering what would happen if somehow the presumptions, the prejudices – the past – that holds people so tight could be let go of and instead, as they/we wobble precariously in unfamiliar terrain, new ways of approaching old problems might emerge.