Diving into myself in Crete
Editor’s note: This is one in a series of journal entries from Rick Gunn, a South Lake Tahoe photographer, detailing his two-year bicycle journey around the world. Along the way, he is soliciting donations for The Make-A-Wish Foundation. To donate, go to wish.org. To read his complete “Wish Tour” journal, go to rickgunnphotography.com.
I moved gracefully upon the islands of Siros, Mykonos, Santorini and Crete.
I wandered among whitewashed buildings and tiny churches perched on magnificent rocks overlooking the ocean, and set ablaze by deeply colored accents: blues, yellows, oranges, reds and greens.
It was a photographer’s dream. But like any other spot in the world that had become overtouristed, at some point these places had remolded themselves. Not in their own unique likeness, but in the likeness of what people wanted.
During one of my last afternoons on Crete, I’d found myself camped within a secluded pine grove overlooking the Gulf of Mirabello. I laid out my equipment and inspected it in preparation for my greatest challenge yet: the developing world.
There, my challenges would increase tenfold, and I would be tested on every level.
On the front of my bicycle trailer I inspected two deep cracks that had formed on a joint in the metal frame. A heaviness settled into my chest.
This equipment would not see me through. Worse was my daily budget. It had now dropped to a jangle of 2 euro coins that fit neatly in the palm of one hand. I was running on financial fumes.
I needed help. Physical and financial support. When I looked around, there was no one.
The nearest familiar human being was more than 3,000 miles away.
And at that moment I felt like an astronaut whose lifeline had broken. I carried this feeling down a small steep path. Reaching the bottom, I lifted my attention to the cerulean blue waters.
I took a seat in the sand, hoping to patch my insecurities with a double coating of thick white sunscreen and the book, “The Five People You Meet In Heaven,” by Mitch Albom.
I came to a page where the main character, Eddie, had died and gone to Heaven, and was now having his life explained to him. Unsure of the outcome of the events around his death, he asks:
“Just tell me one thing. Did I save the little girl? At the pier. Did I save her?”
The blue man did not answer.
Eddie slumped. “Then my death was a waste, just like my life.”
“No life is a waste,” the blue man said. “The only time we waste is the time we spend thinking we are alone.”
I set the book down and turned my attention back over the empty beach.
Deep pools of tears welled in my eyes, cutting flesh-colored paths through the thick layers of sunscreen.
It was time to stop wasting time.
I stood, stripped my clothes and ran to the water. I dove in.
Within seconds, I moved with clean, graceful movements through the liquid blue.
My parents had introduced me to this world at the age of 3. It was a place that felt like home.
I moved my arms in great arches through the cool, blue waters, then flipped to my back.
I stared into the sky. For a moment I imagined Kanellos, a friend I’d met in Athens, who had made history by pedaling his human-powered aircraft – the Daedalus – 74 miles over the Aegean Sea.
In my mind, he was smiling as he pedaled his spindly craft above the water.
Then something within me settled, and what would be, I thought, would be.
When: April 1-27, 2006
Where: Greece – Patras, Krathio, Athens, Siros, Mykonos, Santorini, Crete, Rodos
Mileage log: 8,850 – 9,205
Elevation: Sea level – 1,500 feet
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