The Fig Tree

When I first arrived in Greece and was running around Athens to stage my project/expedition/odyssey, I often took the bus to get around. One day, while riding the bus near Melissia where I was staying with the Cosmopoulos family (Melissia is a very pretty, relatively green neighborhood on the outskirts of Athens), I was surprised to see a neatly dressed, late-middle-aged woman riding the bus with a fig tree at her feet. It was a spindly tree, but had a lot of young fruit.

A lady who passed by the lady with the fig tree asked her which kind of fig tree it was, as if riding the bus with a fig tree were a perfectly natural thing to do. As I stood by the tree waiting for my bus to stop, I commented to the lady about how laden the young tree was with fruit. She gave me a wide smile and told me that she has many fig trees, but none of them are bearing fruit this year, so she bought this one to have some figs this summer.

This encounter was redolent with so much symbolism, I’ve wanted to write about it since it happened. The bible stories–the cursed fig tree–Greece losing its way?–and the desire for a new start, Genesis, etc.. I think of the Greeks and their troubles, yet their resilience and–despite much grumbling, their joy in their country and life. Living the ancient way and looking to the new, facing both east and west– despite the really bleak time the country is going through–Greece holds within it so much richness, beauty, and meaning.

August is around the corner and this is the month of the fig. The fig and the olive are the two fruit that speak most to me of Greece. How many songs and poems have been written about these two trees and their fruit? I, for one, am really looking forward to eating figs off the tree in August. My friend Mercini, of Batos fame, told me that she has an American cousin who flies to Lesvos to stay in Batos for week every August to eat figs.

This makes me think that I’d like to paint a fig tree–while sitting in its shade eating figs :).

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