Aeolus’ Bag of Winds, et cetera

LAST weekend at Porto Rafti, where the sea and the sky matched the Aegean and the flag.

Visual Description of 3 photos from resort town 45 minutes from downtown                                                 1: From our table at lunch, over pots of white flowers, across the road, to the Aegean Sea.                    2: Exterior, Whitewashed Greek Orthodox chapel, with blue-and-white Greek flag.                                     3: Shoreline of the Aegean, deep blue sea, and in the background a pyramid-shaped island

THIS Weekend in Athens

As it was  for Odysseus and his crew, however, Aeolus’ bag of winds can be brutal in Greece.  People in cafes, forced away from the ubiquitous  umbrellas-and-tables outside most cafes, move inside, pleased to bring themselves in where it’s warm. At the best (imo) cafe in my Exarchia neighborhood,  The Blue Bear,  their pets are welcome inside, too. 


(Visual description of photo inside The Blue Bear Cafe: A young German Shepherd, standing guard inside the cafe, where his owner is finishing up a latte. I insert this photo of 8-month-old Mojo because he is, as Tom Briel said, “Indy’s brother from another father” – Indiana (Jones) is Tom’s 8-month-old German Shepherd.)

As I was saying, the winds change everything here. 

–> Passengers can’t take ferries to the islands.

–> People on the streets don heavy coats, scarves, and some of them, gloves and  hats. The temp as I write this morning: 53F. 

—> My herb garden’s 3 plants are toppled a couple times a day, but still require watering because the gusts dry out the soil so quickly.  

Visual Description of photo: Edge of terrace, Elizabath’s studio. 8′ and very thin pieces of bamboo lie on the ground, propping up rosemary, basil, and thyme plants

The bamboo overhead awning on the terrace, shown above supporting my tender herbs,  came down in September’s hurricane. I haven’t done anything about getting it re-positioned or replaced. No, I’ll leave that to another season, and to an  eye  more seasoned, artistically-speaking,  than mine. 


One thing that’s  never out of season for me, and I don’t care  how many times I’ve a said it:  Melissa Network, the NGO for young women refugees.   The other ESL volunteer is an amazing young woman, an experienced ESL teacher. We’ve taken to teaching beginner students together, but honestly? Her lessons, her props, her manner with our students are all so fine, I sometimes  just stand around soaking in what she does and how she does it —

img_2914Visual description of photo: foreground, on table, an open laptop shows Joan Baez about 10 years ago, sitting in what appears to be a  kitchen, holding her guitar and preparing to sing “We Shall Overcome.”  On the right side of the table are some Melissa students; on the left, several more; this group is purposely edited out of the photo.  The young teacher at the end of the table is standing before a whiteboard, as she finishes her lesson. 

If you look at the laptop, you’ll see one of my own props, Joan Baez. I’ve used her part-Farsi version of “We Shall Overcome” in previous visits,  but believe I’m  only now understanding how to Teach a Text to Beginners. I’d like to say it’s the online ESL course I’m completing, but really? It’s pure Trial and Error and Joan, who explains that  she dedicates the verse in Farsi “to the people of Iran.”  Most of our students in this class speak Farsi (though not all are from Iran). It’s not unusual to hear them wailing a line or two in English or Farsi, as they pick up their books and head out of the classroom. 

By way of follow-up the other day, I tried to get them to name things they were not afraid of. That’s pure American optimism-cum-naivete, and you can see they had no time for that. Sidenote: sometimes the young women  have a poetry workshop (as they did after this class) with a brilliant, MacArthur Grant recipient,  much-published American-married-to-a-Greek poet. I looked at what they said, and I wrote down,  and thought — this has poetry potential. Doesn’t it?


After “We are not Afraid”: Students flipped it before I had a chance to revise the topic, So here’s  what I’m afraid of…

Visual description: Whiteboard, with the words NOT AFRAID OF at the top. As explained above,the students were having none of it. Instead,  they named these things that they are afraid of (in this order…):  centipedes, snakes,dark,  rats, mice, sea, bees, myself, injection, everything.

The Junta and Control, Illusion of…!

A rainy Athens Saturday, but not just any rainy Saturday: it’s the 17th of November, 

the date commemorating the Athens Polytechnic student uprising of 1973.  A few days earlier – 14 November –  a tank had been sent crashing through the iron gate of the Polytechnic just down the street here from my neighborhood, Exarchia –   Though full disclosure:  while still edgy, especially after dark, that piece was written a few years ago; people now speak of Exarchia as “high-rent” and “chic”.

Anyhow, Greeks, at least young ones, seem anxious to use this day for demonstrations in parts of the city, especially after sundown.

Actually,  nearly everything I  know about tonight is word-of-mouth. Busloads of police have arrived in the neighborhood, but a search of the English-language papers here suggests that the biggest fight this week is still the current Church-State Disagreement.

As for me, I believe I have some reading to catch up on, and some post-market cooking to do,  after sundown.

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about Control: First the photos, then the poem!


Happy Place

Ex Sidewalk2
A sidewalk
Exarchia sidewalk
Another sidewalk
Happy Place (Monistiraki)
Happy Place: new spices in an old favorite
Happy Place: the Olive Woman
Another Happy Place: Rain/Saturday Market

Revelation Triolet

Now, you know the illusion of control,

Like the toddler scrambling from his Melissa* mother.

You’ve been clear about your  goal,

Now, you know the illusion of control.

How was it that you  forgot the toll?

You’d been warned, but didn’t bother.

Now, you know the illusion of control,

Like the toddler scrambling from his Melissa mother. 

*A few days a week, I  have the great pleasure of spending time with the women, many of them mothers, of Melissa Network .

Where St Dominic Stayed in Rome —

Near to every Dominican’s heart, especially every SAN RAFAEL Dominican’s heart:

The 5thc. Basilica on the Aventine Hill gives its name to the street: Dominicans have been here for awhile, its ancient, medieval, and later parts commingling (here,in a great, silly look: an ancient bath and a later – 15thc? – fountain)

Inside, I sat for awhile in the well-worn choir stalls, thinking of The Great Ones, Dominicans here and other places I’ve known.

Outside, I found again the great cypress door which contains, among its panels, what is thought to be the earliest-ever depiction of the crucified Christ (somewhere there on the bottom…)

(No photo of the classic 3-naved interior which was, as ever, breathtaking in its sparseness))


In other visits, I’d walked out and seen Dominic’s orange tree; this time, this view, and it was a fine one.