Zen and the Art of Sunbathing

Whoever has seen Greece will carry forever in his heart the remembrance of a miracle of light. No blinding glare, no blazing colors, but an all-pervading, luminous brightness which bathes the foreground in a delicate glow, yet makes the furthest distances clearly visible.

Walter F. Howe, “The Homeric Gods,” 1924.

What makes light here in Greece so unique, how it enhances and enriches certain colours and reliefs at certain times of the day, has been the subject of much artistic discourse for centuries. The mechanisms can, I’m sure, be described more than adequately in the cold language of physics, but in no way does this even begin to scratch the surface of how it affects the human condition. The light, the sun, and it’s lazy parade across the summer sky, draws world-weary travelers in their hordes to this ancient land over and over again.

Ironically, summer wasn’t always an enthusiastically anticipated season in Greece, nor was it in other nearby regions. In antiquity, Aristotle’s ‘dog days’, marked by the rising of Sirius (the dog star, and the brightest star in the night sky) with the sun, heralded the beginning of drought, mad dogs, sour wine and lethargy. Perhaps it’s the last of these however, that chimes so harmoniously with the modern holiday-maker who keeps to an otherwise insane schedule throughout the rest of the working year: Greece, with her laid back summer attitude, is a picture perfect place to make that rejuvenating pilgrimage.

Her shores in summer months become an ashram of sorts, lined with devotees unknowingly worshiping at the altar of long forgotten sun gods, quietly meditating, silently basking in glorious hues that bring tranquility and peace. And outwith the small enclaves of mass tourism, is to be found a whole world of unspoilt coastline; secluded beaches, secret coves and picturesque rocky bays. A quiet place can always be found here, places of breath-taking natural beauty where turquoise waters gently caress the shore and that magical light glistens on the sea. The traveler almost owes it to himself to seek out these priceless gems, for they are everywhere on Greece’s rugged coastline.

A short walk around a nearby headland can often reveal an otherwise hidden paradise, a small serene bay where you can be alone with your thoughts or your loved ones. There, you are almost guaranteed to find the markings of other devoted pilgrims who came before you: rock and pebble formations arranged in totemic symbols of kinship, driftwood shrines, a faint echo of a mysterious and ancient past; zen beach art created by travelers compelled to make their mark, urged to speak in some way to their brethren. This is the art of sunbathing.