As I do with everything of a very serious nature, I am having to turn this into a hilarious post to avoid the reality that yeah- I could have very easily been dead yesterday.
So, in case you’re having a bad week, a bad hair day, or you’re just bored with life- here’s how to efficiently end your days on this earth- Greek Style!
1. Think you are strong like bull
2. Volunteer to help a friend clear their olive grove
3. Make big brush piles & add petrol
4. Crumple newspaper at the bottom and light it on fire
5. Nude sun bathe down the hill while waiting for the fires to “finish burning”
Now, reading that list makes me sound like a total idiot (which I very well may be), but I assure you these events came about in a manner that seemed totally legit. Let’s go back, Tarantino style.
When a friend in Greece is undertaking a project, if you are not otherwise occupied, that means you are undertaking the project- that’s how friends work.
My friend, Nicos was going to clear his olive grove the last few days, so of course I volunteered to come along. The first few days weren’t bad, cutting branches and burning them in small piles. Then came the bigger pieces. Literally, I can now throw a small olive tree (about 6 feet tall) about 4 yards and land it in a burning pile- with no problem. I was pretty excited about this new development, but we realized if we hoped to get the job done in only one more day, we would need an extra hand.
Nicos got a friend, Christos to help us out, and we set off at 9am the next morning for the grove. By 10am we had 5 piles burning and were making good time- great! We continued at a breakneck pace until 2pm, when Nicos had to leave to get more petrol. We decided we would break under the trees while he was gone and just wait for the few piles to finish dying out. I left Christos at the top to watch the fires and I went down the hill.
I have this thing about the sun in Greece, if it’s at all humanly possible I want to be absorbing it with every inch of my body. So I hid myself behind a tree and decided I was gonna sunbathe in the nude for a few minutes. By the time I had my top off, a really nice wind came and made me wonder if I wouldn’t be too cold. I realized the wind was REALLY cold, then I heard the noise that every person who has lived in California their whole life knows- the sound of a tree burning.
I grabbed my top and started running up the hill yelling to Christos. He got up from under the tree he was laying under and started running. I finally saw the fire, flames about 10 feet high taking its toll on the sweet olive tree. Then, another gust of wind. This one tree spread 6 small fires all around it- less than 10 seconds. These 6 small fires turned into 8 fires, which turned into 10 fires- all under 20 seconds.
I was 99% certain if I ran up the hill we could stamp out the fires and save the rest of the grove. The very thought of Greece, specifically my dear Olympia burning again was too terrifying.
I ran up and started to stamp a few of the smaller ones- then came another gust of wind and the small fire that was under my feet shot a flame straight up and licked my chest. I looked down at the hole that was just burned in my shirt, and realized I was an idiot. My life is not worth a few olive trees.
I yelled up to Christos whose 6 small fires had become 1 rather large fire that it was time for us to go down the mountain and get help. He ignored me and kept stomping on the fires. I yelled at him one more time and he ignored me. As I started running, leaping, or bounding down the hill I vowed that if the fire didn’t kill him, I was going to!
I reached the bottom of the gorge and started running up the next hill towards the freeway. I was literally doing the splits up the hill, climbing over trees, landing on rocks- running for my life,- running for Christos’ life. I took one look behind me and saw much more smoke and flames than I wanted to.
The worst place to be is above the fire, and yet- this is where Christos was, chasing the fire, leaping into it and stamping on the flames with his Nikes. I was praying to everything I believed in, and things I didn’t believe in, please stop the wind, just stop the wind. I looked back across the valley to other side of the mountain- Christos was now stamping on fires and using a branch to put out another fire at the same time. Oh, I’m going to kill him if he lives through this.
Being as the grove was on a freeway at the end of a tunnel, the cars had about 5 seconds to see me before they were into the next curving tunnel. As cars passed me going about 200 kph I realized no one was going to stop unless I forced them to. I took my shirt back off and started running into the road. As I did this, I hearing Christos yelling. “ola kala- ola kala!!!!” (all good) I looked, and sure enough all the small fires had been stamped out and only 3 mature trees were up in flames. Then he threw himself on the ground.
I put my shirt back on and started cussing up a storm. Then I looked at my shirt, saw the hole in the fabric, and I was throwing up before I even realized it.
When Nicos arrived I filled him in on the situation and told him he better run up there and thank that boy, because if it wasn’t for him, that whole grove would be in flames. I refused to go back and help finish the job- I sat on the side of the freeway while they finished burning two more large piles.
I sat with my back to the grove and practiced meditating breaths. Two hours later, when they were finished Christos comes immediately up to me. “you are okay?” I forgot that I wanted to kill him. I smiled, pointed to the hole in my shirt, and said “ola kala” (all okay).
One wrong wind and this boy would have never seen his 30th birthday. If we had both fallen asleep under our trees, who knows what would have happened. All I know is, I’m alive, and though I am more bruised than a Law & Order SVU actress I still have air in my lungs- that’s all I need.