May 07, 2014

The Homeric Winds

Looking to the Sea

As Odysseus and his men are preparing to leave Aeolia to sail back to Ithaka, Aeolus, king of the winds, gives Odysseus a leather sack containing all of the winds except the west wind which will take them safely home.  Aeolus tells Odysseus not to open it or he will release storm and chaos onto the waters.  Odysseus does not tell his men that this is what is in the sack.  After a week or so of sailing calmly and nearly in sight of the homeland, when Odysseus is sleeping, the men begin to suspect that Odysseus is hiding a treasure keeping the booty all for himself, and so they open the satchel to look for gold and instead they release the winds turning the sea into terrible storm and chaos, driving the ship back to Aeolia.

Winds from the North
The release of the wind yesterday morning was like that—a sudden declarative burst of turmoil from the north as if the merciful satchel had been opened, keeping the ships from advancing and forcing them into the harbor.  Now I can see that these winds on Serifos come up for days on end and trees could never survive on the open hills.  The island is like a gigantic hard surfaced sea turtle and we are riding on its back.  Today we have 50 mph gusts, howling and buffeting the house.  Nothing that I haven’t been through in Olympia.  Here it is actually safer because there are no trees to be blown down.

Last night, I closed the heavy shutters against the wind and felt myself entering a cave of silence.  Nothing outside, only this interior darkness.  I could begin to sense what I feel is the mystery of the starkness and reticence of the Greek nature.  Completely gregarious and bursting with dance on one side, and a dark unspeaking reserve on the other.  Howling persisted all night and this morning I woke to darkness as the shutters block out any light as well as wind.  The small sailboats are holding steady in the harbor.  This commotion may continue for several more days, I suppose until we are driven back to Aeolia where Aeolus will refuse to help but send the ship off again only to arrive at the land of the Laestrygonians.  Woe is me!!