On Tuesday, my writing workshop left Thasos. They boarded the bus to Limenas, where they would catch the ferry to Keramoti, and then continue north to Thessaloniki. They left amid hugs and tears, smiles and sadness. And I couldn’t stop thinking: wasn’t it only yesterday I wrote about their arrival? Have four weeks really gone by?
An interesting thing has happened during this, my second year, on Thasos. The way in which time moves forward has completely changed. Last year, a single day amounted to eternity. A month felt like I’d lived here a lifetime. Perhaps it was the novelty of this place, of filling each day with new discoveries and new experiences, of breaking my normal routine and having 20 different people to hang out with at all times, of putting life back into my day. Maybe it was simply because I had no expectations, and the reality of Thasos was overwhelming. But this year, it’s different. Time both stretches wide and compresses inward: yesterday feels like the distant past, and a month ago feels like yesterday. I think I closed my eyes in May and woke up in July.
I intended to write a blog about the writing workshop, what we do, what a normal day is like. But today, the group flies home to America. A year ago today I, too, flew home to America. I remember the ever-widening gap that grew with every mile I traveled west, the feeling of being ripped in two. How can a place do this to a person? I still don’t understand.
Last year I didn’t worry about what the end would mean, what effect leaving this place would have, but now I know. And so I’m already chasing the past. I’m chasing the moments I’ve already lived in order to memorize every detail. Time moves in reverse, and each day is marked by the knowledge that someday it’s going to end. Even those who know they’re coming back in a few months, or next year, don’t simply walk away unscathed; they break every time. Twenty-five years they’ve been coming, or fifteen, or five, coming and leaving, and it never gets easier.
Before I attempt to write a tribute to Writing Workshops in Greece, I feel I must issue a warning: Enter at your own risk. If you allow yourself to be a part of this place—of Greece, of Thassos, of Archodissa—if you open yourself to the slightest possibility of change, you will never be the same. Not because of the picturesque views or the warm waters or the delectable food, although all of those shape the experience. But rather, it’s the people. It’s the music, the dancing, the generosity, the filotimo. It exists here, and life can be restored here, if you allow it.