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Across from the street from our hotel in Rethymno, a massive pine tree grew beneath an Orthodox church. Every night I contemplated it while smoking a cigarette on our balcony. I even sketched it, clumsily, reminded by its twisting, supplicating limbs of Greek myths in which maidens were transformed into trees. At night, a little white cat would leap over the gap in its patrol of the neighborhood.

Around the corner was a palaeontology museum, established on what had been an Ottoman mosque. On my penultimate day of our holiday—it feels a century ago—I lingered over its ammonites, perfect whorls cleaved to ancient limestone beds. Fossils allude, I mused, to the accretion of time and the finitude of human mortality. Behind me, as cicada song filtered through the windows, lovers fitted into each other while conversing in German. I didn't dare to look at them. I didn't want to break the brief golden spell of their intimacy.

The grounds contain a ghost of a garden, once lush with aromatic plants, now dusty and sparse; from here I could hear barking dogs, passing cars, always the song of the cicada. Everywhere: flowers, little cats, and lovers. And underneath it all: stones and bones.


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