A Special Moment on An Ass

April 7, 2004

His fingers were the size of bananas and his palm the size of a discus. There were remnants of what looked like manure buttered into the crevices on his hand. After closing his fist with my coins he quickly pointed at the donkey. His gesture was easy to follow considering the size of his hand. What he pointed at looked more like a large dog than a donkey.

There was no way around it, my donkey was a midget. I felt bad for the little guy because he had his saddle on, but looked like a joke compared to the other donkeys. I had trust in him because I knew not only humans understand short man’s complex. As I jumped on, he took off as if he were super charged.

It was a bumpy ride; all I had to hang on to was the saddle horn. After he took off, I began to wonder if he could actually make it up this sharply cut hill. The hill slid almost vertically down to the ocean. The town of Santorini sat at the top of this hillside, and cascaded away from sea. For a mere three-euro these brave donkeys would carry tourists who came by ship up to the town. The path that had been built for these donkeys was made out of small blocks of rock packed together. Every five feet or so these shelves would rise to another tier. The road to the top was zigzagged due to the degree of Steepness. This trek would make even the fittest of people stop to catch their breath.

Around the first corner I saw my friends behind me, all on picks of the litter. Some of their larger donkeys tried to pass my donkey, but he would cut them off and sprint ahead. My donkey seemed to have path rage along with short mule complex, which made it impossible to know what he would do next.

I turned my head to the top of the hill where there were whitewash houses imbedded all along the side of the cliff. This to me was an amazing architectural accomplishment. The houses reminded me of adobes with white washed walls, blue storm shutters, and blue doors. They harmonized beautifully in their natural surroundings.

Jetting forward my donkey made me focus on what he was doing. My donkey stalled at about the third cut back. By stalled I mean he didn’t move for about two minutes. I thought that he was tired, but he was just waiting for someone to race. As another donkey came to his side, he took off causing all of the donkeys behind me to start running. Holding on for dear life, and trying to catch my breath from laughing, my donkey sprinted a good portion of the path.

As my donkey slowed down there was a comforting feel the way he shifted his weight back and forth. I was able to look back out into the cove where my ship, the Triton, had dropped anchor. That is when it all hit me. Riding an ass, fighting his way up a steep hill, I finally realized I was in Greece. Most people spend their lives dreaming about such adventures and I was there! A feeling of excitement and joy flooded my body. It was one of those special times that I’ll never forget. A beautiful panorama, where nothing was due and there was nowhere to be! It was in this moment I felt truly free.

My donkey pushed his way up the last set of stairs bring my ride to an end. He probably hated me for being so heavy, but I had grown fond of him. From that ride I saw a small glimpse of the complexity of cultures. Those donkeys had been traveling up that path for years; the men at the bottom had collected money for generations, and the houses that were planted onto the hillside. I found a great deal of knowledge by sitting on my ass and opening my eyes.