Journey to Ithaca

Did you know there’s a tiny church on the island of Dia? We planned to swim to shore and light a candle to absolve ourselves from the sinful acts of the night before. I dove in first. The water was crystal clear. It felt especially refreshing after sitting on that hot fishing boat for hours. Treading water for a moment, I turned back to face my friends. There’s a shipwreck snorkelers make a day trip from Crete to see, and I knew it was only a short swim away. I motioned for them to follow me on the slight detour. The currents were strong that day. I was getting tousled around, but it was Poseidon himself who dragged me down.

I was only two feet below the surface but caught in a whirlpool. Reaching upwards, kicking with all my might, I fought for my life. I kept reaching, pulling, kicking, fighting. I got my head out just long enough to scream for help. By the time they reached me, it was my third time going under. I was exhausted. My body, like the anchor we had thrown down earlier, couldn’t help but sink. That’s when I saw the weighted rope. They must have gone back for the boat. My friends pulled, I kicked. Together we managed it.

Once they got me on deck, the hot surface I was cursing earlier made for a comfortable place to recover. I didn’t have a chance to show them the shipwreck or the little church. To this day, I don’t remember how I got back home and into my bed that night. What matters is what happened the next morning.

I stopped complaining when my father woke me up before dawn to check on the sheep. I made that early morning hike with pride, never taking another sunrise for granted. I would pick fresh oregano and chamomile from the mountain and bring it to the square for anyone too old to make the trek themselves. I started really listening to people instead of thinking I had something more important to do or somewhere more important to be when they spoke. I gained wisdom in that whirlpool, but it came at a price. The familiar sound of waves crashing changed into something ominous. I avoided swimming or sailing alone. I started to feel trapped, as if the shoreline was receding more and more each day. I began to see my future abroad.

Ithaca was no longer an island in the sea.


Sofia Martimianakis is a writer and photographer based in Toronto. She was raised by two talented storytellers who immigrated to Canada from Crete. Sofia’s nonfiction work draws on her Greek heritage and summers spent abroad. She aims to bring locations rarely visited by tourists to life through her writing. Sofia completed her undergraduate degree in English at the University of Toronto and her MA in Literary Studies at the University of Waterloo. She is currently continuing her education with creative writing classes and is working on a fantasy novel for young adults.