Sunday: Caryatids in Formation.
Tonight, over dinner, we were talking about the Acropolis in Athens. There’s a porch of sorts on it, the roof of which is supported by six female figures rather than the typical Greek columns. These figures are known as caryatids, which means “maidens of Karyai” – Karyai being an ancient town of Peloponnese. Back in the (ancient) day, there was a temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis in her Karyatis form as she danced, and so the female support forms were made in her likeness and called caryatids. It’s complicated and frankly a little vague. But know that the most distinctive portion of one of the most important structures in all of Greece features female figures in formation, working together to support the heavy stone above them. They are each distinct and beautiful and make the work look effortless – a dance.
Let me back up to this morning. Only Richie, Lulu and I overnighted aboard our yacht on the Lefkas marina dock. I’ve moved to a cabin which I will share with my fellow guide Alina this week, and with my door open, Lulu and I can gab from our beds. Richie was a dear this morning and brought us both our coffees. Treacle.
After our coffees and chats we all got up and got busy, tackling the final details before our two guests and Alina arrived from Athens later in the morning.
This week we have a special, private charter for SwimVacation alum Myssie and her dear friend Kelly. Myssie is celebrating her 60th birthday and is embracing what she is calling her “Sea Change”. I’m so glad to be celebrating with her and can’t think of a better sea in which to do it.
Myssie and Kelly have an interesting history. They rented an old house together in San Antonio, Texas when they were – in Myssie’s words – young, single and wild. They hosted parties but wouldn’t allow anyone to visit unless they came with a bottle of Champaign (these ladies knew what they wanted). At one point they decided to spring for a real washer and dryer and picked up a Lady Kenmore from Sears. At that point, they dubbed themselves as Ladies Kenmore. Fast forward a few decades of friendship to about 5 years ago when Kelly met an Italian man on an airplane. They struck up a conversation and he seemed to know instantly that he was in love. After many months of contact, he convinced her to have dinner with him when he was in Texas. A relationship was born. Two years later, Kelly dropped everything and moved to Italy with him, where she still lives today. I’m just getting to know Kelly, and there’s no question she’s a Texas girl. But she embraced love and life and has become a woman of Italy. And so, Myssie flew over to spend a few days with Kelly there, and now the Ladies Kenmore are both here, in Greece, to swim and celebrate decades of friendship and one very special birthday.
And so they left Athens with Alina by car, driven by Dimitris who speaks quietly until the topic of the missing caryatid comes up.
There were originally 6 of the female figures supporting the Acropolis porch (now supported by replicas), but in the museum, there are only 5, as one was removed and taken to England in the early 19th century by British Lord Elgin. This is a real bone of contention here in Greece, and Dimitris gets pretty hot under the collar about it. So Myssie, Kelly and Alina got a loud education about the caryatids and their missing member. All of Greece awaits her return – there is an empty spot for her at the new and fantastic Acropolis museum.
I met the ladies as they arrived and whisked them off to our yacht. Skipper pulled out of port and we made for Meganisi Island and a new portion of our Bay of 1000 swims. Lulu put out an incredible mezzes lunch, and we chatted under sail.
The sea was calm and clear. On arrival at Meganisi, Alina jumped in with the stern line wrapped around her and expertly swam to shore and wrapped it around a large rock, becoming the first woman in SwimVacation history to take on stern line duties. She did so well, Skipper had her do a second.
The four of us jumped in and fell into an easy formation. Without discussion or trying, we found ourselves shoulder to shoulder to shoulder to shoulder, skimming along in the blue, sharing momentum and energy in the first swim of our week. We covered about a mile, stopping occasionally to chat, identify fish and sponges, pose for a few pictures and generally get to know each other in the water. We all felt the benefit of our instant, inadvertent formation, and vowed to play around with flow and energy sharing during more swims later in the week.
We popped out and stretched out in the sun on the bow, where Goddess Lulu found us with her wicked plate of heavenly figs and warm cheese – this time, camemmmmmmmbert. That’s how you say it when your mouth is full of it. Yes, I held off long enough this time for a photograph.
We presented Myssie with a pretty pink floral Greek crown with little sparkly lights which she wore all through her birthday dinner of fabulous pork with curried yogurt and fantastic red peppers, followed by baklava dessert complete with candles. She was touched, and the evening continued with easy conversation as these two lovely ladies make themselves at home on our dear Caretta Nana.
One of the coolest things about the caryatids is their hair. Each figure, slightly different, has distinct, fantastic, long, thick hair. It occurred to me tonight that Myssie’s thick, beautiful ponytail looks just like one of the caryatid’s.
And so, this week we will be part and witness to Myssie’s embrace of 60 and her sea change, and we 4 will swim together, in various formations, exploring the shores of these Ionian Islands. With only four of us, it’s easy to stay together, share the effort, embrace what the sea will offer and challenge us with.
All the while, our 5th caryatid, the Princess Lulu, will support us with surely more food than any ancient Greek figure ever had the luxury to enjoy. Our Richie will carry us from isle to isle making our journey smooth and swift.
Me? I get another week in the sea. To guide and swim beside my fellow caryatids as we stay open to what Poseidon has in store.
The breeze is blowing tonight and I can hear the waves gently lapping at the shores of Meganisi. The boat is rocking ever so slightly and everyone is tucked into their bunks. I’m headed there now, too.