I have been re-reading Brideshead Revisited. Please forgive me.
The languid days of summer have too quickly concluded, and but for the tan, I would believe it all a dream. A beautiful dream. In my past notes on the season, I failed to note the splendor with which the heads of cabbage gave way to mounds, piled high, of bright green watermelon, succulent honeydew, cantaloupe, and fruits I had no name for. The pitted fruits took the place of the short seasoned strawberries and even then, cherries and apricots gave way to peaches and the peaches now to plums with their purple shades beckoning fall, a wonderful trick of evolution to capture the fading spectrum of sunlight as the days get shorter and shorter.
It was recently in conversation with my friend Kyle, that I suddenly became more aware of time. Not just of the quickening fall, but also of my time in Albania. I realized that, even throughout the summer, I had looked on things in sections of time. Chapters of events isolated, closed off and only demarcated by the dizzying activities that filled each one. I had just closed one more chapter.
In the halcyon days of late August, Russell came to visit. Both of us were ignorant of what the region held, and so became voracious, holiday tourists consuming all the Balkans had to offer. We were explorers and each day whether it was in Kotor, Dubrovnik, Sarajevo or Prizren, was filled with adventures. We climbed the castle walls of ancient citadels, conquering fortresses once garrisoned by Roman and Turkish soldiers, and now, transient internationals; denizens of hotels, hostels and passing cruise ships. One particularly proud moment was a 2 hour kayaking trip on the choppy seas around the island of Lokrum. Battered by the waves, there was one particular point, a narrow pass through sharp cliff sides, where I felt like Odysseus on alert of the monsters, Scylla and Charybdis.
At the end of Russell’s stay, when we had exhausted ourselves, we returned to Elbasan and but for a short trip to Pogradec, spent the days lounging in the sun, enjoying cold beers and decent wines. It was splendid. How I thought, “If only it could always be like this, ‘always summer, the fruit always ripe’ and not a care in the world.”
I said goodbye to my friend, and goodbye to the free, long summer days. The new, near final chapter has begun, filled with a frenzy of work activities and projects. New youth council, public speaking courses, human rights presentations. . . and while the vigor of the new challenges and learning opportunities excites me, in the recess of my mind, I am nostalgic and melancholy for simplicity and an aesthetic education. Like Charles Ryder, on arrival at Oxford, and throughout his life, perhaps I too am searching to learn about Beauty or Love. Are the answers in a chapter yet un-lived or is the opportunity to find it fading with the sun?
The nights are chilly now in Elbasan. Winter is coming.