I was once helping out on a dig in Greece. We’d start work early in the morning, knock off for the hot part of the day, then start up again when it got cooler. In the hot part, we’d generally go down to the taverna and eat, then go off and nap, or in my case lie down and read, because I don’t do naps.
One day, when we got to the taverna, I realized I’d left my book back at the dig. When I announced that I was going back, several people wanted me to bring things for them, a pair of glasses, a bag of apples. So I walked back up slowly in the very hot mid-day heat.
When I got there, there was the dig, deserted. There were our line measures, and our bags of stuff, and my book and the glasses and someone’s straw hat and the bag of apples, and there were the broken pots and the fallen pillars and the dropped coins, and they were all exactly the same. We’d gone to the taverna, meaning to come back, and we hadn’t come back yet. And they had gone out of the temple because the ground was shaking, and they had meant to come back just as much as we did, but they hadn’t come back. It was all the same, we were all the same, two and a half thousand years or not, if something prevented us coming back then the book and the glasses and the line markers I was stepping over to get them were part of someone else’s future site just like the pot-sherds. There was no difference. We were all intending to come back, and just as they did not know they would not, I did not, could not, know that we would.
It’s very quiet in Greece, at mid-day, and the sky is very blue and the sea is very blue and almost always in sight somewhere, and the olive trees are almost grey. The shadows are sharp edged, and the air very clear. The heat is very dry, so it feels like a weight you carry, not something that flattens you like the same heat with humidity. All of this would have been the same. I took the glasses and the apples and my book, and I walked back through the heat to the taverna, where everyone was drinking wine and eating watermelon and laughing and calling to me and meaning to go back.
This is how I have felt ever since.