Everything in Milos is either 50 meters or 3.5 kilometers away. With dust from the dirt road caught in my eyelashes, I step out of the car to ask for directions to the village of Klima. The only person to ask is a shepherd.
“Excuse me, sir?” I shout into the wind.
A goat bahs, the shepherd does not react.
“Καλησπέραααααααα!” I yell good afternoon across the valley. What was I thinking “excuse-me-siring” my way through a Greek island!
The shepherd turns around. “Is this the way to Klima?”
“Yes. But what are you doing in a dirt road?”
I am learning to love the roosters that block my path. Nobody honks on a Greek island. You cannot cut a conversation short. You stop to ask for directions to that one tavern, and you end up answering questions about your life path and “is that auburn hair your natural color?” There can be no rush to inspire the honking or the quick “thanks for the directions.” Milos is the kind of place that expands time, that stretches the interval between your getting in the car and your paying for the souvlaki. The real Milos does not lie in the volcanic cliff formations, the couples backlit by the sunset, or even the blue domes of the churches. It lies in the cracks, the back-roads, the donkeys and roosters that block your path, the conversations you are required to have if you are to ever navigate away from the water. The distraction is the attraction.
In addition to fostering a warped sense of time, Milos appears to possess a unique sense of space too. The gas station that is allegedly 50 meters away is at least 2.5 kilometers from here and you pray that the whining Hyundai can crawl there before giving up and stopping mid-dirt road. The beach the sign tells you is 3.5 kilometers away is no closer than 7 kilometers. You keep second-guessing yourself. “Did I miss it? Is the map wrong? Is the sign wrong? Should I turn around?” Milos teaches you to keep going. It is a twister of an island, spinning you around, reminding you that you do not always need direction. That this is your first time traveling without evacuation insurance or Imodium in your suitcase, and it is high time you remember how to live in a way not dictated exclusively by deliverables or impact or risk assessments.
I am not sure why the locals are so attached to 50 meters and 3.5 kilometers as the false units of distance they use to respond to your questions. Then again, are we ever more than 50 meters away from immeasurable, unimaginable beauty?