Zeus is just the beginning.

Today was a beautiful day for love at first sight, and then heartbreak.

The Cave of ZeusI took a local shuttle bus, a “dolmuş” in Turkish, to The Cave of Zeus, (one of three hereabouts) named for the legend that young Zeus, being a mischievous godling, would antagonize his brother Poseidon, then hide out in a cave until the storm blew over, so to speak.

The cave was filled with lucid water tinted blue with minerals, and cold enough to require a little pep-talk before I jumped in. Bracing. Do I have super powers now?

But if the cave belongs to Zeus, then the path leading to it belongs to Cupid.
I could hear her cries from a fair distance away, and it took a minute to find her. She stood, unsteady, plainly in need of assistance and love.

And probably some milk.

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I don’t know where her mother was, but this kitten was far too cute to be left alone, so I volunteered for a few minutes. Then a second shift. After a pep-talk longer than the one required to dive into freezing water, I managed to put her down and walk away.

But then she would immediately chase after me, mewling desperately, fuzzy kitten paws clumsy as she romped-ran after me. Still no sign of cat or human to take care of the little thing, and the sound of a kitten’s purr is surprisingly effective at manipulating full-grown human males. (And no it’s not just me; one of the things I love about Turkey is that the men, so brusque, stern, and mustachioed, clearly have a nationwide soft spot for felines.)

Tourists of various nationalities passed me on their way to the cave, inevitably pausing to coo at the wee fuzzball. And time after time, as they returned to their cars after seeing Zeus’s cave, there I was, still unable to walk away from this kitten.

Ruthless cuteness.

But I finally had to go, after seriously considering bringing her back to the hostel as their new mascot. Walking away from her plaintive cries was awful!

Luckily the rest of the day was a walk along a winding road through Dilek Yarimadasi National Park, where new (to me) Black Keys, Elbow, and Macklemore songs had me feeling fine. My shirt went in the bag and the politely earnest Turkish sun warmed my shoulders and the pavement with equal magnanimity.

I took a swim in the surprisingly cold Aegean Sea, pointed Odysseus towards Ionia, and sat down to a cold soda and some sudoku, the sun drying my back. Not too shabby.

Behind me a foursome of pensioner Australians made of leather and goodnatured sass were being themselves, and I noticed when their chortling turned to alarm. I looked up to see the cafe’s adorable dog, a white retriever of muddy forepaws and drippy smiles, being attacked and chased by two absolutely massive wild pigs, while I third looked on with porcine belligerence.

I love you, HoraceLuckily the hound was fast enough, and the pigs went along their way without tangible mayhem. The Aussies and I looked at each other, curious if the other could name that feeling. I went with “You don’t see that every day” and went back to my sudoku.

It was about a 7 kilometer walk back to the entrance, where I hoped to find another dolmuş back to Kuşadasi. I paid my dirham and started up the road, and was joined by the retriever, who followed a pace behind me in the proper regional dynamic. Once we were out of sight of the cafe her/his boisterous nature prevailed and off s/he went, sniffing stuff, peeing on it, and looking for more.

For the second time that day I was in love, and named my companion Horace.

But I was running on two consecutive days of well-above-average sun exposure, and my skin felt like pancakes ready to leave the grill, so when a car passed, I stuck out a thumb. It sped by, and Horace and I continued on, only to see it reversing back around the turn to get me.

The young Turkish couple seemed willing to take both me and my dog, but I managed to sign-language that Horace was not actually mine. So for the second time that day I had to move away from an animal love, innocent and pure, explanations impossible.

Today was a beautiful day for love at first sight, and then heartbreak, twice.