Friday, August 8

Be Still

It is quiet in Croatia.

I don't mean quiet in that reverent hush that fills the great hall of a Gothic cathedral, nor the silence of a sleeping house. The sensation is more akin to a cleansing breath at the end of a long day, the peaceful stillness that enters your brain after a lingering hug, the kind of quiet that subdues the chaos and noise of the everyday stress.

Quiet that fills you with sound.

The home we rented for our stay sits about 100 meters from the ocean. The walk to the water takes only 3 minutes (5 if you are walking with Andrew who tends to move at the speed of his own drum) and even before you arrive you can hear the noises of the beachfront. Waves slapping the boardwalk. Laughter of children playing in the blue, blue water. Low engine noises of jet ski or small boats. Conversation happening en masse in multiple tongues--it is impossible to distinguish the sounds of our own familiar language, let alone differentiate the various dialects and languages being spoken on this beach. And still, it's my own world I am in as we stake out a place on the pebbled shore, lay out blankets, open air rafts, slather sunscreen and join the throng worshipping the sun and enjoying the gifts of the ocean.

And it is quiet.

The evening air is filled with the cacophony of cicadas singing out their woes. It's a sound which fascinates Andrew and he is continually craning his neck to cast his gaze upward to spot what he believes must be an airplane flying low. We talk about the sound they make and the way their skins crack open and get left behind. He thinks that's hilarious and he laughs maniacally at the end of the day over that and almost every random event. He's tired, and his laughter loudly reverberates off the walls of our apartment. Laughter so deep and so contagious it leads to a group effort guffaw, a snort or two, and hilarity induced tears.

Yet, still, this place is quiet.

The village we inhabit is unsullied. There is no commercialism here. No mall, no supermarket sprawl, no Starbucks, and *gasp* not even a McDonald's anywhere nearby. Instead the fields are full of produce planted, cultivated and harvested by local hands. Fresh everything--tomatoes, garlic, onion, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, potatoes, corn, watermelon, plums, peaches, apples--is sold in small roadside stands along the one paved road in the town. Cars travel this path as do pedestrians. Those on their way to the ocean and those on their way home stop to shop or chat or linger in conversation with others.

The small market, a single street away, holds sundry treasures and grocery staples which make the cooking convenient. I am seized by the desire to instantaneously have the know-how to make local cuisine and follow custom in Croatian tastes and smells. It doesn't come, but still I do what I can to make pasta sauces from the fresh vegetables at hand and open a bottle of wine made from local grapes. That will have to do.

I watch the people of this country, talking to a few as opportunity presents itself, and I am over and again struck by the quiet of this people. The stillness of this life here. It's possible that it's my illusion, my projection of vacation mentality to all those I see, but I am not certain that would explain it all. In truth this country and this people have certainly known tumultuous times. Things I cannot imagine and experiences which have never touched my life have invaded the lives of these people and it has marked them forever. By rights this could be a place of chaos and stress and overwhelming reality. It isn't. In fact it is just the opposite.

It is quiet in Croatia.

Today there is peace and in spite of everything past, this land is unspoiled and these inhabitants are alive and living. Really living.

In the quiet.


  1. What a lovely tribute. So glad you had just such a vacation and you helped dispell some of my misconceptions of Croatia.

  2. How utterly gorgeous! I'm so glad you got to experience it all. And did I mention that I'm glad you're back here? I am.

    And that not-too-quiet peacefulness? I grew up hearing it at the homes of extended family deep in the Piney Woods of east Texas. My mother used to refer to that kind of quiet as "bub" - it's "hubbub" without the "hub" ... just the quieter "bub" part. I'm glad to see you got to enjoy Croatia's bub.

  3. jami-
    Hahahaha! That's a perfect way to describe the kind of quiet I am talking about!

    Thanks. It was lovely. Really, really, lovely.

  4. Very lovely tribute! makes me want to vaction there myself.

  5. I felt like I was right along with you on that.

    Totally serene.

    Although you nearly killed me with the photos and description of the fresh produce. Sigh.

  6. cap lady-
    I highly recommend it!

    cat teri-
    Thanks for pointing that out. It makes me appreciate that very fact.

    Serene is a perfect word. I remember using that word in a poetry assignment when I was a 3rd grader and the substitute accused me of plagairism since he felt that no child could possibly know such a word. Now in my old age it makes me wonder if that man could possibly recognize the feeling.

  7. It's interesting when you really live in a new place and absorb the differences.

    Gorgeous piece, Jenn.

  8. Oh Jenn, it sounds AMAZING! This is so beautifully written. It makes me feel like I'm there with you! (of course, when I realize I'm NOT there with you, I find myself wallowing in self-pity...)

    Glad you had such an amazing quiet time.

    (And just READING about Andrew laughing makes me laugh too. I can only imagine what it's like to actually HEAR him!)

  9. Sounds like a lovely place and that it was thoroughly enjoyed!

  10. I LOVE the way you express things. So glad you stopped by the EO. Now I get to visit you and read more as it comes. Nice to "meet" you!