“Meanwhile”, said her partner Dennis, “less than seven hundred miles from where we’re dining now in deepest rural Greece, citizens of biblical Israel yearned to sit under their own vines and fig trees – symbolic of an harmonious well-being never wholly realised”.
“Perhaps so”, said Mona, a rabbi from New York. “Study of the Hebrew bible shows time and again how lasting peace has been achieved only by totally annihilating the opposition!
“But”, she laughed, “a Saturday evening’s secular entertainment like this, in a vine trellised arbour like yours, would be possible only after the Sabbath concluded. By then, the devout would have detected three stars in the darkened sky and blessed the new week with candlelight and sweet spice in a ritual shielding the holiness of the day of rest from the mundanities of the working week.
“I first visited the area as a student during the early 1960s with a non-Jewish friend who is now a respected Christian theologian.
“She was wholly captivated from the first by many local customs, some of which reminded her of what she often saw when in my company. I ponder still, as modern Judaism developed, if it adopted universally popular Mediterranean habits and hallowed them by dogged daily use”.
“I’ve lived here for much of my adult life,” said Joe, a travel writer. “But my knowledge of local religious practice is still superficial.
“Instead, I’m eternally spellbound by these islands’ capacity for physical enchantment and will always treasure their aura of ecstatic sensuality. No wonder tiny villages like Kalami in Corfu continue to attract romantic artists and their adoring fans.
“I’m now aged 72 and still get a kick from witnessing the quite brazen procreation all around us! Everything - everyone – simply pulsates with life and the potential of life. So unless it’s proven otherwise, I’ll die convinced these islands were the true and first Eden”.
“But what of our younger guests, Aron and Emily? You’ve both been very quiet,” said Anna, now serving traditional desserts with thick, bitter coffee and Ouzo.
“Er, apologies for not joining the conversation,” said Aron. “Our bedroom window looks over a pond filled with frogs which woo lustily all night long. They’ve - well, we’ve not – had much sleep!”.
“I’ll be using vines as a theme in a piece for a creative writing course I’m beginning in October and have heard that a ‘vignette’ is not only a decoration in a book or a ‘snapshot in words’. Apparently, the term began as ‘something that may be written on a vine leaf’. It’s supposed to focus on one element of a story, mood, character, setting, object, or perhaps in good hands, a rare blend of them all”.
“I know exactly what Joe meant earlier, said Anna’s mother, Carmel, who’d just come home.
“On nights like this”, she said drawing up a chair, “when the weather was almost too hot to bear, my late husband, David and I used the same room where Emily and Aron are - not sleeping this week!
“It’s secluded, so we’d drag the mattress onto the balcony where we’d make a love as dense as the overhanging vines, trembling like two tender leaves in a freak summer storm. We never spoke, it was as though the mood would shrivel – blow away – from a gust of mere speech.
“Later,” she concluded, her large grey eyes laden with regret, “as we cuddled in devoted silence, David would fall asleep, his head resting against my bosom. So I’d lie still as a rock for hours, loath to have him stir. The next year Anna was born”.
(Copyright, Natalie Irene Wood – 06 August 2013)