Archive | beauty

The hazy shade of winter…

After a few weeks of unseasonably warm and dry days, the weather has turned back to winter here on Paros.  The rains have started, the clouds have rolled in…the wind has shifted from the north.  We need the water badly.  I am sitting at Port Kafe, waiting for the boat to come and take me to Athens for a couple of days.  The schedules have changed for today so I have a few hours to wait.  Still, I would rather wait here than in my flat.  Pericles makes an exceptional Greek coffee and he knows me well.

Today is the first day of Lent in the Greek Orthodox Church.  For the next 40 days there should be seriousness, sadness, contemplation.  Also no oil, no animal products, no leavened bread,no meat with a backbone.  No weddings, no christenings, no birthdays, no name-days…Thank the gods for octopus and chorta, fresh clams and beans with lemon juice!  Like most traditions co-opted by the Church, the idea began long before Christianity.  It falls around the same time of the year when the stores of food would begin to run low.  The fall and summer harvest’s bounty is beginning to be used up and it is too early for the new lambs…the seas perhaps too rough to fish.  So for the next 40 days we scrimp and don’t eat so much.  Or so we should.  I think, maybe, considering everything that is happening in the world,  we should do it just to experience a little starvation.   Many people don’t have this luxury.

Today is also my mother’s birthday.  She would have been 92 today and we would have gathered and helped her to celebrate with flowers and cards.  I can still celebrate the day.  She was very proud of me and my sisters, loved us dearly and without conditions, without judgment.  She worried, like all good mothers can and do.  She rushed to our aid when she could.  She let us go as we needed.  She gathered us in her arms when we returned home for a holiday, a weekend or a much needed break from all the difficulties that taxed her children’s existence.   For me, she was the parent I turned to for help.  In times of trouble she would look me in the eye and say, “Listen, this is all going to be over soon…” or  “You have always been able to just do it, just go out there and make your own way…!”  and eventually “The last thing I want you to do is waste your life taking care of me…I’m alright.  You get on with it.”  She was quite the woman.  Quite the mother.  My mama.  Our mama! I miss her every Goddamn day…that would have been something she would have said too.  She was brilliant, caring, gentle and could curse like a longshoreman.  Happy Birthday mama.  Many kisses.

Below are some images from the past few weeks–pictures drawn by the children of some friends for my birthday, a photo of me at the bike race receiving the 3rd Place Bronze…Mom would have been tickled pink to see these things and to be at the party.  I would like to think she was.

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bday pic 2

 

bday pic 3

 

bday pic 5bday pic 6

–JDCM

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Another year…

I am 51 and a day today.  This past year has been one that is still hitting me in waves, endless ripples from countless stones tossed in my emotional pool.  I contemplate making a phone call and suddenly realize there is will be no one on the other end of the line.  I imagine a voice and the softness of a cheek…and they are gone.  My mother will no longer look up from the New York Times Sunday crossword, over her glasses, and announce, “Well, that’s done!”  My father will no longer smack his lips after taking a sip of something tasty and raise his glass.  He was always one for toasts.  “Hear, hear,” she would chorus during better times.

Polly and Hilary in Provincetown, 1970. photo by Sara Ballard

Polly and Hilary in Provincetown, 1970.

I was thinking the other day that I have never been the “cool” guy.  Never hip, never dressed in the latest fashion…I was feeling down that day.  Then I realized I didn’t  care.  When I was younger, maybe, but then again I was envious of those around me who had better or more or newer or sexier (or so I believed)…not much weight there.  Pretty superficial stuff.  I hope they are happy in their respective lives.

So these days I do what I am wanting to do and this makes me happy.  I am not treading on the lives of others and I am moving forward and slightly uphill.  I am honouring my mother and my father in my life and activities.  I am finally getting around to reading a short biography of St. Augustine given to me by my sister a few years ago.  I am reading some Epicurus.  I am back to building fine scale WW 1 aircraft which give me great joy and satisfaction, not just in their execution but in the research involved.  I am in training for a very tough mountain bike race being held here March 6th.  I have a photo shoot coming up next week which I have been looking forward to for months.  It will be several hours of intense work, and then that stage will be done.  Then I develop the film.  Then I choose what to print, etc…intervals and stages, tension and release.  One day I am 50, and then the next day…

Biking here on Paros is a good metaphor for my life.  The stress of the uphill slogs are rewarded by not only the accomplishment but also the release of the inevitable downhill run, slaloming around rocks and through washed out sections of red dirt roads.  Then it is uphill again.

It all feels pretty cool to me.

–JDCM

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January on Paros…

The header image is from New York, a view of the family property in Ancramdale.  It is a winter scene.  Looks pretty cold and all but monochromatic.  That where I had been since December 1st, 2015.  Much has happened since then.  You all know that.  Life and death.  Pretty important.

I have been back in Greece since January 22 and today is February 1, 2016!  Kalo Mina everyone!  I am back on Paros and the weather has been lovely–mid-teens Celsius with light breezy winds.  It was pretty cold when I arrived.  It will get cold again, I think.  I am a fortunate man.

A view in Marathi, Paros, February 1, 2016

     A view in Marathi, Paros, February 1, 2016

It is so quiet here, so perfect.  In a couple of weeks I will begin a new photo project and I am looking forward to that.  There is also a mountain bike race on March 6th for which I am training.  After two months out of the saddle I need some time to get fit, but hey, it’s like riding a bike, right?  Ha!

One would think that I have some great wisdom to impart, but really I don’t.  I guess I’ll have to paraphrase my friend Jac who reminds us all to follow your heart, do your exercises, and eat your peas…or whatever.  The food is relative.

–JDCM

 

 

 

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Need for beauty…

With all the horror, pain and uncertainty in the world, I need to remind myself there is real beauty in the world.  It is just down the street, around the corner or on the table in a bowl, sun shining…More can be found here

Cypress cones, Paros, Greece...November 2015

Cypress cones, Paros, Greece…November 2015

Local clementines, just picked, sunshine, glass, marble...

Local clementines, just picked, sunshine, glass, marble…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pomegranates, lemons, bay leaves from a nearby tree and a pear...

Pomegranates, lemons, bay leaves from a nearby tree and a pear…

–JDCM

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New spaces…

After waiting over 6 months and living surrounded by boxes of books, photo stuff, odds and ends, and clothes I have finally moved to my new flat.  What relief!  I had lived (gratefully, mind you) in the previous apartment for so long and grown so accustomed to being crammed into an old building in need of serious repair that this new space really twists my head around.  My light fixtures do not need re-wiring, the plumbing doesn’t smell of bacterial rot and shutters are not decaying and falling off of their hinges.  These were everyday living conditions before last week.  I also have almost twice the amount of room as well as an apothiki (‘warehouse’), so that much of what I had lived with before can now be tucked away–boxes of negatives, portfolios, seasonal clothes, extra stuff…all of this is now out of sight and out of my living area.  And I feel no need to fill up the new and open spaces with stuff.  I am enjoying the freedom of movement.  I have an IKEA order coming, but it is not so much and only replaces some of what my current landlord has supplied.  I want to put my own touch on things so I have purchased a new dining room table, some rugs, an easy chair and footstool, some lamps, a clock.  I also bought some traditional taverna chairs down the street and stained them a yellow tone.  As they dried I realized they turned a bright yellow ochre.  It made me think that maybe I should have used the tetrachromy for my design.  Just an idea.  Next time maybe.

The move has also affected my dreams.  Maybe it is because my bed now faces due north (it faced south for almost 3 years), but my dreams all week have been vivid, complex and memorable.  Sometimes even a bit disturbing.  I am not complaining, just keeping notes.

I think my overwhelming feelings are ‘Finally!’ and also ‘What now?’  This applies to my physical as well as emotional states.  So many endings, so many beginnings, so many new spaces and ideas.  There is plenty of room for all of this thinking and action.  I’ll post some photos once the IKEA goods have arrived and are assembled.  My current landlord walked into the flat the other day and exclaimed “So much light!”  I’ll try to keep it that way.

 

4 new chairs

4 new chairs

–JDCM

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Just an update…

I have always loved the change of seasons.  Whether in the Hudson Valley where I grew up or the small island in the Aegean Sea where I now live.  I welcome each new season with joy and relief, only to say good riddance three months later after weariness sets in.  This autumn is no different and there are many changes to go along with the weather.  Clocks have been set back.  Tea time seems more meaningful as darkness falls.

I have been living in an apartment full of boxes for the past two months.  All of my books, shelving, camera gear, odds and ends…have been packed up and ready to be moved.  At first it was an exciting feeling, to come home to this pyramid of brown cardboard.  It has grown stale as the day approaches when I can finally begin to move from one side of town to the other.  As one friend remarked last night, moving house is inspiring and makes one reevaluate routines.  Like the change of seasons, this move will give me a new perspective.  I need it.

My small photo show was, on many levels, a superb success.  Many people came to the opening and I was struck by the wide variety of people I know here on Paros: people involved in the arts, those I know through the local biking community, others I have come to know over the years, students from a local art school…people who would ordinarily not mix.  They crammed into the space provided by a small Italian restaurant and had a good time.  I guess that was the point, really, to have a small gathering on a night in mid-October when there was ordinarily little to do.  Many compliments, many questions…alas, not a single sale so I am stuck with 22 framed and matted photos.  So I will choose one to put up in my new apartment.  There is a part of me that wants to just burn the rest.  But what to do with the frames and glass?  Eventually I will get around to scanning the photos so people can see them online, which suddenly feels like cheating.  Now I don’t want to do that.  If you missed the show, you missed it.  Is that so selfish?

I wasn’t asking a huge amount for these photos.  They were priced inexpensively.  If I had sold five I would have broken even on the costs.  I think many people have no idea of the work that goes into a single image.  Even had these been digital images, the work would have been substantial.  They are not, of course, so we are talking days of labor to get the picture right and that is before matting, framing, the overall cost for the exhibit opening…I guess I am taking page from Robert Fripp’s advice to artists–work for free–an expensive venture.

My list for today is as long as my arm and I must get it all done.

–JDCM

 

 

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Temperate climate change…

There are only a few days left until the Autumnal Equinox and it feels like it here on Paros.  The crushing summer heat has fled, and in its wake the days have become clear and sunny, with cooler breezes.  The tourist crowds have thinned considerably and our island is slowly being returned to us.  There is nothing quite so lovely as the change of seasons.

So much has happened in the past 4 months.  After my father died things changed.  A re-assessment of my life, goals, raison d’etre…Once again I am looking into what makes me ‘happy’.  Life, for me at least, is no longer about hitting myself with a hammer while thinking that the next blow wouldn’t hurt.  Time to stop doing what I do not like, when at all possible.

I am also moving house.  I have everything boxed up and ready to go save for my clothes, some small amount of kitchen stuff and what art is hanging on my walls.  I move at the end of October and assume all of my own bills and rent.   That will be a relief and a freedom I have missed.

boxed up and ready to go...

boxed up and almost ready to go…

Here are some still lives from a friend’s back terrace…

Blue Vase, 2015

Blue Vase, 2015

Ladder and Anchor, 2015

Ladder and Anchor, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My header image is from a short bike trip I took to Antiparos recently.  It is a reminder of two of the things I love to do and have been neglecting the past few months.  It is also a reminder that William Henry Jackson may have had his mules but I have my mountain bike.

Yashica and Bike, Andiparos, September 2015

Yashica and Bike, Andiparos, September 2015

That’s it.

–JDCM

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Asleep, then waking…

The streets of Athens feel empty at 04:00.  This ancient city is sleeping.

I have returned home from my father’s memorial service in Provincetown.  It was a lovely and moving weekend laughter and tears.  On Sunday we scattered his ashes in the bay.  We boarded the rented schooner and set sail on a foggy and grey afternoon, light winds from the south.  As the skipper cut the motor and the crew raised sail, I was struck by how calm and peaceful the air had become, silent but for the waves lapping at the hull.  Light mist settled upon us with caring hands. As we came about my sisters and I stood against the gunwale and poured him into the briny blue-green, the water turning momentarily milky as the ash melted into the deep.  And he was gone.  Afterwards we gathered with friends and told tales of the man.  We watched a moving short film prepared by his widow, and ate some food.  We all agreed he would have enjoyed  it.  He would have also exclaimed, at one point, “Enough already!”, his modesty finally outweighing his pride.  So long, weary traveler!  Kalo taxidhi!

I have been musing on happiness–again.  I have heard that it is an ‘inside job.’ If so then what are the external expressions?  I know that I am happy yet my world, to some, may look messy, chaotic, perhaps unsystematic.  There is nothing neat and orderly about it.  It is not sanitary or perfectly aligned.  Maybe a need for external neatness, a desk of neatly sharpened pencils and carefully arranged in/out boxes is actually a cry for help?  I know my father’s office, even when he was young and dementia had not taken its toll, was what would have been thought of as messy and disorganized. In fact, everything was exactly where it needed to be.  His internal life, his ethos, was ship-shape and trim.  His morality and sense of self were in alignment and he was happy.  And he left a desk of unfinished work–a sign of a life well-lived.

I celebrate the dust and disorder of the external and understand how it feeds my imagination.  It is a zen geometry, creating an oblique stack of books, random pieces of folded paper, a crumbling temple on a rock overlooking the noise and chaos–all precarious. It allows me to get lost, discovering the jewel in the mud that others will never discover.  I have permission to get muddy.  To find joy and laughter in the lack of right-angles, the subtle aspects of color and shades of grey…That is fun.  That is happiness.  Creation is messy work, full of uncertainty and risk.

Macmillan-Wharf-view-2015

–JDCM

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Happiness…

Gouna is a traditional Greek fish dish–sundried mackerel, seasoned and grilled.  Fasolakia are a type of green bean, like haricot vert, but much longer.  They make an excellent salad.  Together they make an excellent dinner with friends, family and loved ones.  Especially overlooking the bay of Paroikia at sunset.

Gouna, fasolakia and Paros at sunset...

Gouna, fasolakia and Paros at sunset…(photo  by Angelique Tsantanis)

 

 

I have so much on my mind…so many things to say that seem extremely important to pass along.  When I feel this way I become verbose and sophomoric.  Best to say nothing.  I will say, however,  that the inevitability of change has been on my mind for the past month or so.  I can let it go.

The close-up...

The close-up. (photo by Angelique Tsantanis)

One choice I have to is to try to stay ahead of the curve.  Although I have never surfed, I feel an apt metaphor lies in that activity.  I can either ride the wave or let the wave ride me.  I have let many waves ride me over the years.  Time to shoot the curl.

–JDCM

 

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