Friday, September 28, 2007

Theleis Ena Kafedaki?

Would you like a little coffee?

Here in Greece, where a cup of coffee is more expensive than anywhere else in Europe, where you choose to drink it means a lot. Each cafe bar, expresso joint, kafeneio--even Starbucks in down town Athens--has it's own particular personality and its own set of devotees.

And would you believe it, decaf is now available! I guess it is a case of the market demand by those of us who like to get up in the early morning for a stroll in the cool and quiet before all the madness begins. Can't do this if amped up at 200 am with a frappe...

Here in my "hometown" of Paleochora, Crete, there are so many choices for coffee that it would take three weeks to exhaust them all. In the evening, such as now as I am writing in an internet cafe, the main street is closed off and the cafe tables are brought into the street. It seems that EVERYONE in town, tourists and locals alike, is out for a stroll and something to drink. It is wonderful to walk the friendly gantlet and run into a distant cousin. We'll walk together and greet the townspeople, talking about family history, politics, or maybe remembering the red-haired Barbarossa, who ruined the Venetian castle here so many years ago.

The town has gone through many successive eras since then. A few days ago the local troupe of traditional singers and dancers paid tribute in the main square to those killed during the Nazi occupation and near destruction of the town. Now there is cheerful prosperity everywhere you look, but as in all of Crete, the memories run deep.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Here in Athens

The flight always seems too long, but when you think of how far you've come, almost halfway around the world, it seems more like a miracle has happened.
We are here safe, and enjoying the AVA Hotel after a good night's rest. The buffet table was wonderful, with more than enough food for anyone's taste. One highlight was the peach juice, made here in Greece. It is perfection, and even if you have sworn off juice, you'd have to try it.
By the way, we are staying practically in the shadow of the Acropolis. Today we will go to see a show of Praxiteles' scultures at the National Archaeological Museum. There is a fresh breeze through the window this morning, just slightly laced with diesel fumes. It is like Greece; it revives you with a sense of wonderment but sometimes on the periphery there are troubling things, such as uneven sidewalks, that can bring a slight sense of peril. But siga siga! We will be fine...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Not in Greece just yet...

This vine might look like it is from Santorini but it is right in my back yard in the East Bay.
A few years ago, my friend Mara installed a garden where before it had been all concrete. She and her trusty assistant dug out a crater in the concrete and used the pieces to build a rock wall around a circular plot where now there is an olive tree and other plants.
Beside this is a california wild grape, planted in a vertical ceramic pipe and climbing on rebar and over wires to make a shady area for a table. It has come a long way in two years...

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Poem in Question

THIS is my letter to the world,

That never wrote to me,—

The simple news that Nature told,

With tender majesty.

Her message is committed

To hands I cannot see;

For love of her, sweet countrymen,

Judge tenderly of me!

The first line of Emily Dickinson's famous poem seemed like a perfect name for a blog. The common image is (I suppose) of the shy but redoubtable Emily standing in a gabled window and shouting silently to the world: "Here it is, and there's lots more!"

A simple reading of the poem belies this. The "world" here is clearly the unvoiced but active world of nature: apprehended by the senses and then, for her, almost always stretching out to an infinity that borders on the abstract. And yet it's as present as the echo of a footfall in the hallway.

The last line is important to me. What lover, parent, child or friend has not pleaded this at one time or another, if only in the privacy of the heart?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Better Late Than Never

This is my first posting. (Thanks, Cristin: we set this blog up in under 5 minutes!)

No, we are not in Athens yet. This is an old photo of me in front of the Parthenon. But we are going to Athens in a week. (Katerina and Mom are going with me.)

Right now I am in the throes of getting ready. Actually, I am taking a little breath after scrambling to get most of the details worked out with an agent in Athens.

We are going to posh out on our first leg. Staying at the AVA Suites. Check it out: