Archive | Paroikia

Kalo mina!

It’s November 1st and here on Paros the weather is decidedly cold and chilly this morning.  The winter is beginning to set in.  99% of the tourists have left and the few that remain wander around the empty streets, looking in the windows of closed shops, shuttered tavernas…the island has been returned to those who live here.  Thank the gods!

Here are the bullet points…

— I am going to Naxos this weekend for a mountain bike race, my third on that island.  27km around a mountain and through the town of Sangri, high above the port.  The weather predictions are good–high pressure, 14-18C, sunny, breezy.  Perfect for biking.  We have had some rain which will keep the dust down and reduce the amount of loose, gravely ruts.  I’ll go and have fun.

— I am grateful and happy to have joined up with the Photography Club of Paros.  They are a good bunch of photography-loving folks with excellent eyes who love to take pictures.  I will begin a long-term darkroom project with them tonight.  For most of them, it will be a first in this digital-automatic age.  Each week, a member gets a 35mm camera (Pentax K1000/f.2 50mm lens) and roll of 35mm film (Ilford Pan 400) and shoots the roll.  Then we (me and the group member) go into the darkroom, develop the film, print, etc…all in a week.  So far there are about 10 people signed up, but that number, I predict, will jump to 20 quickly.  The project will go until the end of April and then they will look at the assembled portfolio and hang a small show.  For more reasons than I can count, this is a superb thing/event/group/happening with which to be involved.

— My own work is moving along.  The year-long Canon G-11 project is ticking away.  I am ready to print a new portfolio of abstract pieces.  I have to re-shoot or otherwise re-evaluate a b/w still life idea.  I am unhappy with several of the pieces due to their DoF, i.e. focus.

— My gym membership is paying off.  I have been going 2-4 times a week for either Hip/Abs classes or just to burn off calories on the treadmill.  After only a few weeks I can once again fit into my 34″ green Levis.  I will go this morning and push some more limits.  That, plus the biking, is keeping me fit and sane.

— The world?  Well…we all read the news and while it isn’t all bad, it isn’t great.  Leaks in the dam…death and disease, as Polly Jo would have said.

My life is Greece is expanding and growing every day.  I am eternally thankful to the wise woman who advised me over 5 years ago that if were to stay here on Paros, I would need to build a life around me.  And so I have.  Biking and exercise, photography and fellowship, the arts and humanities, connections in the community.  Thank you Liz!

–JDCM

 

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What’s happenin’….?

Kalo Mina!  I haven’t posted anything in well over a month.  Why?  Just being lazy, I suppose, because there is so much to talk about!  I should probably just get some stuff out of the way.

I am appalled by the behaviour of the current US President and his smarmy,  creepy entourage.  His European trip is finished (probably his only trip here) and he acted poorly–immature, arrogant–the worst kind of visitor.  I am not the only one to be shocked and amazed at his ignorant, insulting and banal actions.  We have all read the news.  We have all seen the clips.  I am not going to link to anything.  I am appalled and disturbed to know that there are people in the US who believe this kind of behaviour is acceptable.  Educated, well-read, professionals who feel that this is how an American President should act.  I even know some of these folks.  How ashamed I am to be connected to the US at times like these.  Phew!  Enough of that…

I have been invited to show some of my work in a small group exhibit in September.  It will be in Hudson, New York and the woman who is organizing the event asked me to send a few pieces.  I have 7 new prints from the darkroom and will send an additional 6 from previous shows that I already have matted and framed.  A Baker’s Dozen of b/w darkroom work, some of Greece and some of the area where the show will be held.  I will price them well and my instructions to her are to not send any of them back!

I have decided I need an agent to sell me and my work.  I cannot do it well.  Other people see things in my work that I do not and are better at that kind of ‘retail’ mentality.  So I will ask around.  It needn’t be a full time job or even the first and last agent I have.  Just someone to get the process off the ground.

I competed in the 7th Round of Paros bicycle race last Sunday and I did very well.  The morning was perfect for the race, with light breezes from the north, sun and clouds.   In short, not too hot.  I was able to ride the 61km course in 2:31:45, which is a 6 minute improvement over my best time on the same route.  I placed 59th out of 99 bikes and 12th out of 18 in my age-group.  I am happy with these numbers.  Now I begin working towards the 40km mountain bike race on Paros towards the end of September which will be  gruelling.  Plus, the sea is wonderful so there is swimming every day.  In fact, I hope to do both–bike and swim–as soon as I post this missive.

I have begun yoga.  Odd…yoga has been around my life for so many years, people urging me to try it and all that.  I think my mind and heart were not ready.  There was too much I had to let go of before I could open up and do it.  Death, tumultuous change, perceived uprooting…On the surface it is allowing me to stretch muscles that I have been using in a way that actually stretches them.  I have discovered that those calisthenics and stretches I learned in high school were mostly wrong and don’t really stretch anything at all.  Deeper inside..I don’t know.  I have only taken three classes (once a week) so I’ll let you know what rises to the surface.  I know that I have moved on from where I was.

Uphill and off the saddle in Kostas

–JDCM

 

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Chronio Polla!

Well…It is my name day!  I am so happy to have finally been able to celebrate it here.  In Greece, one’s birthday isn’t nearly important as one’s ‘Saint’s Day.’  Today (January 7) is the day that we celebrate St. John/Agios Ioannis — this John being St. John the Baptist (in the Greek Orthodox Church, not the Roman Catholic), not John the Apostle, or any of the many, many Johns that have been canonized by both churches over the millennia.   So Chronia Polla! to all you Johns, Seans, Johannes, Joannas, Ioannas, Yannis, Ivans, etc…out there!  Many years!

Paros has dipped back into the cold today and the rains have been glorious and dramatic.  It’ll be close to Zero C for the next 24 hours or so, and the weather man has posted a possibility of sleet.

I went biking the other day with a friend.  We both have new mountain bikes and I had only been able to ride mine two or three times due to the weather.  The day we rode the wind was low, the sun was out and the temperature was in the high teens centigrade.  Really nice.

I have converted my old mountain bike into my shopping/getting about bike, with panniers and 1.75 inch road tires.  Who needs a car?

Just a couple of guys with their new bikes!

— JDCM

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Man, oh man, oh man…

Ha!  Well, I had grand ideas about updating the blog after the Presidential Election in America…and then I did not. Then again when I went to Santorini for a quick visit…and I didn’t.  Time has gone by, the Winter Solstice was yesterday and in acknowledging this planetary shift I am locked in to updating this thing today.  This afternoon, I think.  I’ll write, edit, load the new header image and post from the very same cafe where I currently sit, snug and warm and out of the cold and rain.  And, yes…I have a head cold.  Shit.  ‘Tis the season.  It is a wet and windy 6C (42F) outside and with the 43km north wind it feels more like 3C (38F).  Suffice to say that those of us who live in houses without central heating all wear clothes, all the time.  I sleep in fleece and base layers.   And a hat.

So there are the bullet points.

–Santorini was good.  I went solely to visit the archeological site of Akrotiri, which was closed the last time I visited 10 years ago.  I took the ferry on Friday afternoon, saw the site and both museums the next morning and then took the boat back.  I was off-island for just over 24 hours.  I was glad to be back on Paros.  Aside from the caldera and the archeological sites, Santorini is pretty dull.  Too built up, too barren and, at this time of year, mostly closed.  Some that is no one’s fault.  3400 years ago the place blew up and has never really recovered.  I guess that is part of its charm.  It is, after all, still an active volcano.  This link is really good…Hey man…that’s my neighbourhood!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minoan_eruption

–I have been re-watching ‘The Sopranos’ since I never actually finished the series a few years years ago.  It is very good.  I have fallen in love with this clan of sociopathic narcissistic trash.  Really amazing.  Like watching a train wreck.  And then, somewhere in the middle of Season 2, or maybe 3, it dawned on me…The White House has been handed over to The Sopranos!   Think about it.  Complete with a goon squad!

–“For the love of money is the root of many evils…” (1 Timothy 6:10)  If this guy (I daren’t say his name) didn’t have any money, he’d just be another vulgar, racist, sexist, loud-mouthed, annoying asshole xenophobe sitting at the end of the bar.  Really.  No joke.  He is proof that money cannot buy you class or taste.  In fact,  he symbolizes all that is wrong and bad in our world–avarice, hubris, graft, ignorance–a deep soul-sickness lying beneath his veneer-like need for attention.  He is the winner of that contest, hands down.  I think he’d even win the popular vote.  This makes him very dangerous.  Anyone who studies history knows this.

–I’ll blog again before the new year.  There is more to report from this lovely rock in the middle of the Aegean Sea.  Have a Merry Christmas everyone, or whatever you wish to celebrate!

–JDCM

 

 

 

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Thoughts meander…

The sun rose golden peaches as I departed the Port of Pireaus 3/4 of the way through September.  I have been back in Greece and on Paros since the middle of August.  Through a window of the Blue Star Delos and across the gulf the mountains surround Attica.  How I love this place.  Ancient rocks cradle my heart and timeless seas ferry me home…

I haven’t blogged in a long time and I apologize.  Sometimes I have had too much on my mind and to sort out any coherent thoughts and to put them down seems daunting.  What I need is time to let the events of the past year-and-half filter out into something resembling…something, something solid.

I return to the island after a long weekend wth friends on another island, another archipelago.  This marks the last of my long-term commitments for 2016 and I finally feel like I can relax.  The deeply emotional yet business-like events of laying my mother to rest and selling the family home are behind me.  My inherited furnitures, works of art, books and homewares are tucked away in storage units.  I packed my bags with those things that I could smuggle and left America.  Oddly enough, I feel no sadness in leaving the house I called home for so long.  With my mother’s absence, the place felt empty and hollow.  She had been its heart and soul and without her it was just a shell.

I have finally found an ear doctor who has offered anything like a solution to my labyrinthitis/Meuniere’s/tinnitus…Dr. Peraki’s prescription has improved my hearing almost 10% over the past month so I have been told to keep at the regimen and we shall see what is what in about 2 months, just before Christmas.

Speaking of that…one novel feeling…I am not thinking about plane tickets back to America.  This time, during the past several years, I would begin looking at dates, routes, etc…not today, thank the gods.  I am looking forward to being here through all of December and January, February, without the interruption of having to leave.

And so on I ramble…

—JDCM

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Kythnos and a change of plan…

–There is a lot to see and do on Kythnos and by the time I leave on Friday I will have seen and done most of it.  Superb hiking, archaeological sites (mesolithic, Byzantium, 19th century mining…), good eats, friendly folks…The weather was so-so for the first two days but then the sun came out, the winds shifted and there was fine weather for getting lost on the donkey trails and photographing more stone walls than I knew what to do with.  I am pretty much saturated with walls at the moment.  I have a feeling I will finish up the roll I have in my camera today and be done with this island for the time being.  I have one more long hike to do tomorrow (12 km) so perhaps I will try to use one more roll.  Maybe I will, maybe I won’t.

–I found an excellent little taverna on the port of Merichas.  Typical family-run, spitiko, without all the frippish tom-foolery of frankish cuisine.  I ate roasted goat in lemon sauce last night; grilled fresh sardines the night before…local, mild feta on my salads.  I’ll go there again tonight.  Funny thing…when Kostas, the owner’s son, heard I was from Paros, he told me that his cousin Giorgos worked in a fish taverna in Paroikia…Hmmm…I know Giorgos well!  We had a good time and then Kostas called Giorgos and he and I had a quick chat.  I love these alliances.  So Yalos Byzantio is my spot.  I dine there again tonight.

–My lodging has been excellent.  My small studio overlooks the harbour of Merichas.  The ferries dock just a few hundred meters away and the ins-and-outs of tourist sailors in their small rented sailboats make for interesting comedy-drama.  Only some seem to be good sailors.  The rest look like they are trying too park their cars.  Oh well…I wish them all the fun in the world.  The Aegean is a lovely place to sail.

–I am tired.  I am tired of living out of my luggage.  I will have a lot more of that this summer so I suppose I should get used to it, but for the moment…

I left Paros on May 10th, after a four-day general strike which threw all my plans into the air.  As a result of this strike, I was forced to use one of the High-Speed ferries that runs around the Aegean.  I hate these things for many reasons.  The only other time I was on one was in 2006 and I picked up a terrible respiratory bug just by being shut inside the interior for several hours with no fresh air.  True to form, by the time I reached Evia on Thursday the 12th, my throat was scratchy.  By Saturday I was on antibiotics, decongestants…sick.  11 days later I am finally off the meds.  I need to go home.  I feel great, but it is time to sit on my own terrace, sleep in my own bed…

As luck would have it, the same ferry that would have brought me to Syros, continues on home to Paros.  So I will leave Kythnos Friday morning and be home in time for tea…

Pezoules, walls and and Agios Anathasios, Kythnos, 2016

Pezoules, walls and and Agios Anathasios, Kythnos, 2016

 

 

–JDCM

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Darkness and light…

It is Easter here.  The symbolic nature of the the life/death/life cycle are not lost on me.  My grief over the death of both my parents last year will continue to shake my psyche for some time.  This week I have been particularly sad.   My father and I had a troubled and difficult relationship.  Still, I miss his little emails about what he would be making for dinner, what he was reading…My mother?  Ah, yes…mama…

She was my center.   She was stability and gentleness, support and unconditional love.  Regardless of my age or maturity, she was there.  I would come home and she would greet me at the door with a hug.  If I had telephoned beforehand, she would have always asked, “What do you want for dinner?”  There was always food, hugs, warmth, encouragement.  Roast chicken. Pot roast.

Panagia

Amidst this crushing grief,  my family and I are all but forced to sell her house, the house where I grew up and, for 47 years of my life, the only home I have ever known.  It is a matter of practicality since none of us can afford to live there and pay the taxes–and for this I am ashamed.  I can only speak for myself.  I have had to reduce a source of protection, nurturing and golden memory into a commodity, something to be passed on to strangers.   May they find the same hub of stability there that I have known forever.

I decided 3 years ago to move to Paros full time, to make my home here, to try to sink roots in this rocky land.  The deaths of my parents has rendered my old compass obsolete and my maps out of date.   Previous points of reference have faded and mean too much or nothing at all.   My new compass is a thing of beauty–bronze, marble, sunlight and the wine-dark sea.  My new maps are crisp and unmarked.

So darkness and light, death and life…we grasp for handholds on our respective islands.  We find ourselves in treacherous waters, between rocks and the hardest of places.  Tonight at midnight the lights will go out and from behind the curtain the magic appears…a single trembling flame–hope for the hopeless, a light in the darkness.

Kalo Pascha!

–JDCM

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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.

DSC_0677

bday pic 2

 

bday pic 3

 

bday pic 5bday pic 6

–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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