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Flowers…

I haven’t updated in a long time.  Much has happened in the past 2 months.  I have written list after list, big and small.  All but a few items have been crossed off.  I have much to say but words fail…

 

yucca

yucca

lilies and hydrangea

lilies and hydrangea

by the pond

by the pond

reflection of the Pink Barn

reflection

Pink Barn

Pink Barn

Queen Anne's lace

Queen Anne’s lace

 

 

lilies and wall

lilies and wall

sunflowers

sunflowers                                                                       –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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Hopping my way back home…

I have spent the last weekend on the island of Evia, northeast of Athens, for a non-sectarian weekend of fun, food and fellowship.  I saw people I had not seen in months, years and even decades.  A superb time!

My goal was to ride my bike there but the 4-day ferry strike two weekends ago prevented me from leaving Paros on the day I wanted, so I had to hoof it instead.  Ferries, taxis, busses, etc…I got there.  That’s all that’s important.

This morning I accepted a lift from a friend back to Athens where I caught the regional bus to the Port of Lavrio where I will take the Marmari Express to the island of Kea.  I will spend a few days there and then head to Kythnos.  Due to the ferry schedule I am on Kythnos for a week.  From there I head to Syros.  I have about 10 rolls of 35mm film and also my Fuji X-t1.  The weather is looking so-so…It is, after all, only mid-May which means anything could happen.  The reports say 22-25C with Beaufort 3-5 all week.  Being the Kyklades, this means almost nothing, but it sounds good.  Currently I am in a cafe waiting for the boat to take me on…good Greek coffee!

On the way back to Paros I am getting back into photographing the ‘xerolithia’ (schero-lithia), the dry stone walls of which I am so fond.   After Kea, Kythnos and Syros, I will only have to visit Tinos and Andros.  I think I might try to put a book together someday…

sun beams

–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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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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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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