Archive | spiritual journey

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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Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to Christina Book and Joe Splendido, wherever you are, and to me too!  I have forgotten how old they are…friends from the distant past…maybe the same as me, or damn close.

52 years and doing alright, all things considered.

I woke up this morning at 6AM after a fitful 5 hours of sleep–dreams of lost luggage, being stuck in crumbling concrete airports, missed flights, mercenary taxi cabs…

As of tomorrow I will be off-line for almost two weeks.  I am sending my laptop into Athens to Apple to be repaired and cleaned.  I am taking this time to avoid my mobile phone as well.  I’ll get some reading done, take a lot of pictures and sleep differently, I imagine.

I inherited my mother’s old Olivetti Lettera 22 (c.1966) which she used for over 30 years, one of many typewriters she owned.  It needs some TLC, and I found a repairman in Venice who will do it, but it will be expensive.  It will be expensive to send it there and have it sent back but I feel it is worth it.  It might be cheaper to go to Venice and deliver it, stay for a few days, then bring it back.  Well…not really, but it might be worth the trip!  Venice in the spring?  I would like to use it…type some letters to those I love…write something interesting.  The happy organic sound of a manual typewriter clacking away on the front terrace…

Olivetti Lettera 22, c.1966

This post was going to be about politics, but I deleted what I wrote.  Not worth the effort.

–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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Deep in the Ancient City…

Below my hotel balcony the city breathes deeply.  Tribal drums motivate interpretive dance, guitars reverb surf music through metro tunnels, amplified bouzoukis in Syntagma stir a metallic thrum, mingling the aromatic sounds into a heady stew.  And the smells!  Food, concrete, diesel, piss and old, old stone.  Athens is alive!  In the distance I hear a saxophone, I imagine the player–sunglasses at night, hat on the sidewalk at his feet, the slow crooned blue woodwind wail runs through the ancient marble veins.  Voice carry up from the street–all the languages I have ever heard and many from central Asia, east Asia, Eurasia…The Cosmopolis…the world as a city.  It is here. I am here.  It is my home.  I am blessed.  I wear the sign of the anointed.  If you have to ask, you’ll never know.

I was in taxi and the driver and I were talking.  He told me had two jobs and was raising his three children by himself.  “You have three jobs then, ” I said.  He laughed in agreement.  “I think this is the beginning of something”, he said.  “There is only one choice now for us and it is that things will improve.  There is no other alternative.”  It must be the truth.

This is the beginning of something.  It is all happening here.  The Pope came to town.  There are rumbles of possibilities and energy flows, rich static arcing through the crowds in Monastiraki, Psirri, Exarchia, Sygrou Fix, Thissio, Keramikos…We wait for the great popular firework display, crescendos of chrysanthemums and showers of sparking lights heralding a New Age.  The Emperor will emerge, naked. The applause will be deafening, the laughter unending.  The party is always starting…

I have worked for the past few days deep in a secret archive in the city, a vault of imagination and celluloid.  We are alchemists turning crystals into precious metal.  Magicians.  The dancer moves across the page, fading into view.  Her body leaves atomic molecules, drifting bits of herself, richly perfumed droplets of life.  She bursts from her black background, glowing, free and transcendent.   This is what it is all about.  We plant our collective flags and cry “This is me, this is who I am!” We glow, shine and dance through the traffic, gathering stars in our arms, passing them out like leaflets to the big show.  Entasi!

dancer 1

 

–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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Polly Jo Masters March 14, 1924 — December 4, 2015

 

 

Polly Jo and JDCM, Provincetown 1967

Polly Jo and JDCM, Provincetown 1967

 

We mourn the passing of Polly Jo Masters of Ancramdale, NY who died peacefully at home on December 4, 2015 surrounded by her children, at the age of 91.  The family thanks the community of caregivers and friends who encircled her with love, companionship, laughter and music since 2008: Diane, Keavy, Joni, Elizabeth, Gaye, Peggy, Lolly, Anne, Julia, Jackie, Mandy, Mary, Carol, Brian, Becky, Harold, Gregg, David and Terry.

Born in Beckley, West Virginia on March 14, 1924, she was the daughter of Dr. John H. McCulloch and Effie Lajo Stalnaker.

After graduating from the University of Kentucky fate ushered her through the doors of Beckley’s WJLS radio station where, as “Side-Saddle Sue”, she hosted a weekly radio program.   She played banjo and ukulele, singing cowboy music, reading local news and engaging in easy humor.  A year or so later she departed for New York City, where she pursued a career in musical theater.  She sang cabaret, stage managed many productions including “Oh, Captain!” and was a principal in the summer traveling company of ‘Brigadoon.’  In 1951, she and a business partner, the director George Quick, renovated several old stables and barns on the Vanderbilt Estate in Hyde Park, NY, establishing the Hyde Park Playhouse.  While in Hyde Park she also assisted the late Eleanor Roosevelt with the NY State Literacy Project.  When theatrical success required a press agent, she and Quick hired a young writer, Hilary Masters.  Polly and Hilary fell in love, married and ran the Playhouse for the next 7 years.

In 1960 they sold the Playhouse and moved to their new home on Woods Drive in Ancramdale, New York.  From the mid-1960s she was very active in her community.  She volunteered for the American Cancer Society, worked with the local PTA and was a friendly and welcoming face at the polls during election time.  In 1968 she ran successfully for President of the Pine Plains Board of Education, becoming the first woman in local history to hold that honour.  She held that post until 1975 and was, among many other things, instrumental in the conception and building of the Stissing Mountain Junior-Senior High School, also the first of its kind in the region.  From 1979 until the mid-1990s she contributed a regular column for a local newspaper, the Roe-Jan Independent, under the heading “One Side to Everything”.  She wrote about politics, local and national education, television, rural homeownership, the origins of linguistic memory and the diminutive interior dimensions of the original Ancramdale Post Office.

She is pre-deceased by her brother, John H. McCulloch Jr., her parents and her former husband, Hilary Masters, whom she divorced in 1985.  She is survived by her sister-in-law, Carolyn McCulloch of Beckley, W. Va., as well as her three children, Joellen Masters of Lexington, Massachusetts, Catherine Masters of Deer Isle, Maine, John D.C. Masters of Paros, Greece and a grand-child, Kaolin R.E. Pitcher of Portland, Maine.  She was a mother, a grandmother, a prescient community leader, a lover of Broadway musicals, English mysteries, a fount of knowledge and a source of no-nonsense unending love and support to all.  She covered the ground she walked on.

–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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