Archive | quiet islands

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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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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Autumn, elections, swimming, biking…even photography!

*It has taken me some time to get back on the horse.  I was out the other day with my Voigtlander, exposing some film…it felt good…gentle.  No urgency, no great time-line to follow.  So I took some pictures.  I have some ideas.

*I have been combing through my negative notebooks, trying to find images of my mother’s office.  I have found some.  I know there are others.  I would like to print some of these this winter.

*I need to type up my mother’s newspaper articles.  I keep on saying that to myself…siga-siga…it’ll happen.

*I developed the 4 rolls of Tri-X that I shot when I was back in America in July.  The camera I had on hand was a medium format Holga, so that’s what I used.  I guess that sums up a philosophy…The best camera I could use is the one I am using.  People talk a lot about camera X, or  lens Y.  They list the many attributes and the technical aspects…these things never made a photographer better, or even good.  That has to come from within.  Ansel Adams said something about that…good gear, bad photography…I can’t remember the exact quote.  Liz knows.

*It is autumn, and we have had some cooler weather, but not right now.  It is Little Summer and the scirocco blows a steady Force 5, gusting to 6.  The air is hazy and hot and feels like 26C.  I was out for a bit of mountain biking and then a swim in the sea.  People here say the water is cold, but they haven’t been in Cape Cod in August.

*The election for the next American President is today.  Polls have begun to open, voters are lining up to cast their ballots. There is so much at stake in this contest.  I am not sure anyone can really guess everything that hangs in the balance.  I mailed in my absentee ballot well over a month ago.  We shall see.  I am more concerned about the potential for aggression and actual violence at the polls.  America will be divided whatever the outcome.

–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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Travel notes, May 2016…Kea…

–The short ferry ride from Lavrio to Kea is, despite its single hour, quite remarkable.  As a student of 20th century Balkan History I had heard of, and read about, the concentration camp island of Makronisos, but I had not realized it lay so close to the mainland.  As we slowly sailed past I could see the ruins of buildings and structures…political prisoners, social dissidents and members of the military suspected of being “infected” with dangerous ideas were sent to Makronisos during the Greek Civil War (1946-49).  For a more detailed and moving account of this time, read Kevin Andrews’ The Flight of Ikaros: a journey into Greece.  Ironically, I re-read this book only a few weeks ago…

–Kea is a rugged place.  Smaller than Paros, yet it feels bigger.  The Port of Korissia is small and around the port are a number of meadows heading inland, but only for a short distance.  After that it is a long climb to the chora, Loulida, perched along the ravine.  The streets in the chora are steep and car-free.  It is pretty little town and the archeological museum is supposed to be one of the best in Greece.  It is, however, only open on Friday from 08:00-15:00 and so I will miss it.  Kea reminds me of a smaller and greener Naxos.

–The flora of Kea is very much the same as on Paros and many of the other islands with one lovely exception: the pedunculate oak.  For centuries, Kea supplied the tanners of Greece, Rome, Venice, etc… with acorn caps.  By the end of the 19th century this practice had been replaced with less expensive synthetic processes so the acorn was not needed and the thriving industry collapsed.  Thank God they didn’t cut down the trees!  You know what…go here instead.  These folks know more about it than I do and are a big part of the new sustainable Kea.

–Kea is still a thriving agricultural island and this is evident when one hikes along the well used donkey paths and other by-ways.  Pommes de terre are numerous!   The xcero-lithia that crisscross the island are lovely, beautiful, crafted…some are so old that the moss and lichen that cover them are dissolving them, turning their hard edges round and soft.  New wall construction is in the old fashion, so the technique is being preserved.

–I will have shot three rolls of 35mm film when I leave on Friday as well as  fair amount of digital.  I have been hiking a lot although I did rent a car.  It is a good idea so at least get up and out of town into the interior before setting out walking to a cove or mountain top.  This time of year it is quite empty outside the port, so it has been rare to see anyone else but the occasional goat.  Most of the others I have seen are, I think, French and English.  I cannot be sure.  Athenian day sailors like Kea too.

–If I had brought my mountain bike, I would have rented a car anyway for the same reasons as above.  Mountain biking on pavement is a drag and bad for the tires.  Best to load the bike into a car and drive inland, park, and bike on the dirt roads.  For road biking, anyone who wants constant interval training on hills, come to Kea.  The fun never ends.

–JDCM

Kea walls and oaks                  Kea walls 2

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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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