A Poem for Crete: The Wind Chimes of Kriti

The Wind Chimes of Kriti

by Eileen McLaughlin

Time transient,
cherished moments collect in memory and soul.
Events, places, links of person and person.
elusive, exclusive energies imbued on unique occasions,
reaching the innermost core of spirit.
Forever they nourish the soul.

Klank, klack, klink…

Perhaps the Kriti visit came at a time of senses
acutely open, mind and spirit exquisitely permeable,
receptive as dry sponge to water.
Midway, the land had me wholly captured,
senses, mind and soul enveloped,
diffused into each and every cell and space
within my physical self.
It had my heart. It became one with my spirit.

Klunk, klink, klack, klack…

By choice and whim and transport,
half a world was I from country and culture and origin.
Now as foreigner, there to wander, to wonder.
A day on a mountainside, an outlook on the Libyan Sea,
my self and soul thus and there overwhelmed,
every sense engaged, vibrant.
days prior became one with that day;
days after, nurtured, enriched,
embedding it all, deeper, deeper.

Klink klink klunk klack klank
Klunk klackety klunk
Klink klink klack klunk klunk

Solo and duo,
trio and orchestra,
harmony in compliment and competition.

Notes strung together
irregular and overlapping,
de facto as composition and celebration,
underscoring voices
of the katsiká.

Every note freeform and voice unexpected.
so were the wind chimes of Kriti.

Klink klink klunk klack klank
Klunk klackety klunk
Klink klink klack klunk klunk

The wind had changed our plans,
had created a new plan and a new day.
It was that wind and the hillside music evoked,
that would reach deep within.
Tonal vibrations would instantly link
so many sensations already consumed.

Klink, klack, klank…

Stopped at a switchback in the trail,
we soon would continue each zig and zag
of a long, steep descent.
Moments to reflect on the panorama we stood within.
Yes, within.

Earlier, an absolutely extraordinary panorama had lain
fully before us, from the mountain’s crest,
on the grounds of the small Chapel of St. Catherine.
Enormous vistas of sky, land and sea
drew the senses outward then deeply inward.
Feeling very small and gifted and humble,
it was so very right that a chapel was placed just there.
Again, another tiny, well-tended,
white-washed Greek Orthodox chapel,
found everywhere and anywhere,
often, starkly, symbolically alone.
Piety and tradition, art and nature and daily life
were as one.

East and west of us the steeply sloped coast
met the gorgeous blues of the Libyan Sea,
spanning the entire horizon.
Far away, all across the southern reach of our vision,
gray mists lay where the waters met the sky.
A pair of darkened outlines, barely perceptible,
ghostly silhouettes.
the most southerly islands of Greece.
The larger of them is said to be Calypso,
the island storied in ancient Greek myths.
Belief validated as truth
by mist-shrouded, spectral visage.

Klack, klunk klink, klunk…

Striking white buildings, below us,
captive within a peninsula’s curve.
Our destination, the tiny town of Loutro,
idyllic, even from afar.
Rocky cliffs surround, tower above the small bay,
orange and brown in rock and earth,
sprinkles of greenery barely seen.
Waters richly blue, too distant yet
to sense their tides, their rhythms.
Glistening buildings fill, grace, a narrow, spare shore.
The cliffs’ sharply rise and more structures cling,
paint-dressed, bright blue upon white.
From skyward vantage, vertical layers of human presence
framed by water and rock.

A few boats lay moored,
simple in shape, small, white,
as on display in the rich blue of the bay.
The ferry, white too, larger,
floating pier-side, that day hobbled by the winds.
Trail and boat, the only ways
to or from Loutro.
Oh so splendid the isolation.

Jutting into the sea,
the plateau’d peninsula bore mankind’s traces.
Oh yes, there again, a white chapel
perched at one edge, water beyond.
Inward from the sea, forms and shadows of ancient Kriti
blended, toned in gray and brown.
A thick-walled, ancient cylinder rises,
still solid, standing alone.
Elsewhere, walls grouped, once squared and roofed,
now ragged, broken, open to the sky.
Venetian and Turkish reminders survive,
Unseen yet and camouflaged by distance,
stones of field wall and hut, arches,
some in place, scattered, re-used.
telling of the Roman presence there too.
Layers of time, century upon century past.

Not for the first time, but again,
a sense pervasive,
the persistence of antiquity everywhere,
on this island, and in this part…of our world.

New world roots feeling in stark contrast,
as in youthful simplicity.
Pride and patriotism mitigated.
Millenniums ago, it is true,
ice sheets advanced and retreated
while peoples thrived on the “new” continent.
Neither scientist nor historian can there report,
can reveal culture so old, so rich, so immense.
For humankind, the Mediterranean incubated,
Kriti fully encircled and involved,
civilizations rising and expiring,
again and again.

Ruins below, on days just before and still to come,
evoke awe beyond expression.
Barely, just barely,
can thought and spirit link reality of now to then.
So fragile a connection,
so few, so short the days to absorb.
Antiquity evident at every turn,
Cretans so enriched, day-by-day
by generations unending.

Klank, klink, klink, klinkety klunk…

Though May, it was cool, comfortable,
a hiker’s gift as the winds swept the coast.
Clouds, small and few, moved swiftly,
rarely shadowing our trek nor interrupting
perspectives presenting all around.

Earlier and higher,
a griffon vulture glided, afloat, above the slope,
the breezes its ally.
Two and three thousand feet and more above the sea,
it was the vulture’s domain.
Unique to this continent,
always above Greek mountains and gorges,
here, familiar, the common vulture.
Large, broad of wing,
white head upon a long neck,
downwardly curved beak.
Close enough were we to revel
in a birdwatcher’s analogy in some year past,
anointing it with the mythical name of griffon.
Nature and antiquity connected.

Thus it was that my head whirled.
So many impressions.


I stood briefly alone.
Now mid-slope, looking outward,
from deep within the panorama,
up toward the crest and white chapel and sky.
To the east and west,
up, down, across the great expanse of sloping mountains.
Then to the sweep of sea from coast to horizon
and to the murk beyond.
Sensation upon sensation came together,
collided and united,
held within, enveloped by a landscape.
So simple. So much.
So hard to explain.

Then it was that I became aware of chimes,
airborne reminders of the land underfoot,
the slopes where we were not alone.
Amid the earth and rocks
and thorny burnet and poison onion,
we walked lands used by shepherds
for eons long past and yet still today.
Rock and ridge and slope,
What other place for foraging goats?

Tones in varied abundance,
wind ringing the bells of a meandering flock.
Simple, uncomplicated sounds,
the only music that belonged there.
Even to say…katsiká…was to hear rhythm
In the Grecian name for goats.
Goat to goat, each bell differs,
size, shape and metal,
with time, battered, bent,
tonality changed, exquisitely unique.

Roaming free, the goats easily amble, scramble
across, up and down rocky hillsides,
terrain that so challenged,
tested my every step.
With every move, each clapper
strikes yet again and then again
emitting its own klunk, klack, klank, or klink.

As the goats paused to graze or gaze at us,
the bells swayed with the wind alone
and seemed never silent.
The orchestra of bells chimed
in compliment and in clash and in random repeat.
Voices of goats the chorus,
bleating heard every now, then, here, there.
Sounds harsh, nasal and abrupt,
in contrast to the ringing chimes.

Raw and real and beautiful,
overwhelming and extraordinary.
So very there was I.

As when an orchestra reaches dramatic crescendo,
the music of that moment and that place
carried abundant and immense sensations
into and through all
of my mind, my soul, my body.
In an instant, I was immersed, saturated,
every sense heightened.
My spirit soared and silently sang.

Klink klink klunk klack klank
Klunk klackety klunk
Klink klink klack klunk klunk

Solo and duo,
trio and orchestra,
harmony in compliment and competition.

Notes strung together
irregular and overlapping,
de facto as composition and celebration.
Underscoring voices
of the katsiká.

Every note freeform and voice unexpected.
So were the wind chimes of Kriti.

Klink klink klunk klack klank
Klunk klackety klunk
Klink klink klack klunk klunk

Home, once again immersed in the familiar.
Wind chimes of wood, metal and clay
hang just outside, below the eaves.
Windows open for summer breezes,
I hear their gentle chimes.
a sensation now changed.

Forever, I think,
those chimes will send my heart racing,
back to that day, that hillside,
to the moment Kriti so completely filled me.
Again and again, I will feel unending joy.

Author’s Note: The year 2001 produced a number of firsts for this Californian. They included a walking tour in Crete and the intense, vivid impressions that produced this story-poem.

Eileen McLaughlin

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