The fig tree

If I had to summarize „summer on a southern island“ in one symbol, I would choose a fig tree. It might sound crazy, but this fruit tree is very special to me. First of all : I don’t have easy access to it. As I am living in a Northern country of Europe, normally I do know figs only from the super market, where I can buy them for a high price and let’s not talk about the taste, you get for it.

Therefore passing the summer on Ikaria and being surrounded by fig trees, makes me feel like Eve in paradise. During the last couple of weeks I had the pleasure to see my fruits growing. I found my way to different kind of trees and as I was going forwards and backwards for testing the ripeness of the fruits, I created my own path of « degustation de figs» on Ikaria. As the time of harvesting is approaching I could notice, that I am not the only one waiting impatiently for picking my favorites. All of a sudden I meet all different kind of people on my little path: I love to watch the old man, who is leaning on his stick, while walking up the road. But when he passes the fig trees, where the ripe fruits are hanging low, he puts the stick aside and like a young Dionysos he is reaching up high into the branches to get the biggest and sweetest fruits. Cautiously he is putting them into a little plastic bag, he is fumbling out of his trouser pocket, and after closing it carefully, he is heading on his way home. I might be mistaken, but it looks like, that he is more light-footed then before and whistling a song from the 50-ies. In my imagination I could see him coming home, sitting down at a table with a typical plastic table cloth on it and offering his fruits to his wife. They will sit together, enjoying the sweetness of the stolen figs and remembering a similar summer day a long time ago.

But I also like to follow the young girls, who are coming up the hill at dawn on their motorbikes, laughing and their skin still shimmering from the sun and salt of a day at the sea. Hungry, they will reach out for the biggest fruits on the fig trees, picking them with both hands. Right on the spot, they will hastly open the fruit and put it into their mouth, the juice dripping down their lips and chin. Easily they will wipe it off with their hand and just seconds later they will head off on their bike, leaving just a dust cloud and the memory of a wonderful moment behind them.

And in these days I may even discover young men on my path to the fig trees. Normally they are primarely concentrated on their cool appearance : beart, sunglasses - but now they also have their little stop-overs under a fig tree to taste the sweetness of its fruits. They take their time to choose a good fruit, to peal it down and you may witness, how some of them are swallowing it down with closed eyes, being ready to enjoy the richness of the moment.

So in a « nutshell» a fig tree is my symbol of a summer full of joy for life, the smell of salt on my skin after a day at the beach, the different colours of the sea at dawn or sunrise, the taste of a Tsiporou at night, the melody of a good discussion with friends over a good meal,  but also the richness of nature and the silence of the mountains at early morning. A fig tree feeds me and satisfies my hunger for life …. what else do I need?

Birgit Urban

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