Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Santorini Sunset

Santorini, Greece.

I have been waiting for this moment for a long time. I have waited ever since I sported those round glasses in third grade that Harry Potter hadn't made cool yet (or that he never did). I used to hide under the especially pink blankets, picked by my mom's interior designer friend to match our unfortunately pink and green persian rug, after lights out to read all about the ancient Greeks. The moment mom's worn slippers slapped their way back into her bedroom, seemingly on constant patrol of kids who had snucked out of bed, I pulled out my mini flashlight and scurried under the covers with my latest novel. I shoved the flashlight into my mouth and shone the light on my precious book. Ever so often, I took out the flashlight to gulp down the saliva building up in my mouth. I always told the librarian that I accidentally flicked water onto some of the pages. She bought it.

When I got to college and watched a movie about two old men on their death beds making lists of things they wished they could have done, I made a bucket list too. Item #5 - Walk among ancient ruins of Athens. Sometime in my junior year, I crossed it out and replaced it with Watch a sunset in Santorini. Still in Greece, just a more sophisticated version, that's all. I thought it was one of the most romantic, adult thing to wish for and was slightly mortified to find that this specific item was also on the list of almost every pedestrian Most Stunning Sunsets You MUST See!! travel/ honeymoon magazine column.

Anyhow, I am here now.

Despite the throngs of adoring tourists, the Oia village of Santorini sits untouched. She doesn't dress to impress because she doesn't need to. White washed walls, churches, and cafes are offset by the brilliant hue of royal blue that colors select rooftops, evoking childhood memories of fine China. Everywhere you turn, there's another prime location for a bridal shoot. The well-worn cobblestone foot paths, every creaking door, the occasional surprises of auburn neighborhood walls, the hanging balcony restaurants that serve up ocean fresh octopus and warmly baked moussaka all add to its beauty -  heck, even the dog napping by the rustic turquoise school gate is photogenic.

There is something in the air too. A sense of light airiness rests gently on the cliffs, greatly enhanced by the soft ocean breeze and the almost tangible expectations of the crowd waiting for something magical to happen. This is Santorini after all and it must deliver.

As the orange sun dips slowly, the crowd moves urgently toward the tip of Oia, to the edge where the best sunset views are promised. No more lingering in front of the jewelry boutique that sells handmade crystal pieces. No more posing thoughtfully against a ledge. This is the culminating moment, the one that will grace many instagram accounts.

I hurry in my Grecian leather sandals. A guides me gently along, expertly fielding away those bumping from behind us. Tugging at my navy jumpsuit, I am nervous. What if the sunset isn't what I have always imagined it to be?

And what if it is what I have always imagined it to be? I chased the sun in the last three years and have been fortunate enough to watch it light upon many famed sights. Purple and pink dawn like berry blush in Ankor Wat, Cambodia. Burnt almond sunset in land of the 4000 temples in Bagan, Myanmar. Brilliant specks of every color on the shores of Maldives. Majestic and lonely osage orange on the Masai Mara plains in Kenya. A casual and dark disappearance around the Eiffel Tower in France.

Each sunrise and sunset evoked different emotions in me. Grateful. Peaceful. Lonely. Happy. All beautiful in its own way.

I am nervous because intermingled with the awe and wonder of nature while watching the last few "bucket list" sunsets, I felt that I wanted more. I wanted somebody to share it with. I was always with great friends, family, or "a boy", but I could never shake that feeling. I was afraid that I was getting ungrateful. That I was growing up and getting bored of sunsets.

But I shuffle onwards, because I am still curious about the sunset of Oia and because I am pushed forward by the crowd.

But the crowds! The travel magazines never warn you about the pesky crowd who also wants a slice of your bucket list moment, especially when everybody seems to be taller than you, barricading against any hopeful glimpses on tip toe with the wall of smartphones and tablets. The hum of the tourists crescendoes as the sun slips ever lower in the sky. I resign myself to watch through the screens, with the single solace that I will be watching through a high res iPad screen.

A looks around and drops his cotopaxi backpack. Without waiting for my ladylike protests, he hoists me onto his shoulders, heads above the tourists. And there I sit and watch as the sun kisses the horizons, casting a lingering splay of soft coral and plum glow. The crowd, hushed for a brief moment, breaks out in a spontaneous cheer and claps for the appreciation of beauty that unites us all on the tip of that cliff.

And then I feel -


I stay sitting on his shoulders and playing with his familiar sandy hair for an extra moment as the waves glisten with the day's last remaining rays below.