Saturday, November 21, 2020

A Delta

The road is carved into the side of the mountain. It veers off the main highway from Margariti Village and hugs the coast of the Ionian Sea, giving a spectacular bird’s eye view of the gulf and the coastline to Parga. Suddenly, the road bends into a bit of brush and comes out atop a winding ridge, leaving behind the seacoast while opening into a perfectly formed delta on the left, a delta whose tentacles fan out from the mountain’s edge in perfect unison. It's filled with a labyrinth of water and low lying brush, an estuary humming with unseen life. From that height, one can follow a line of trees which indicates the River Acheron's pathway as it empties into the sea far across the delta. Sweet water meets salty, a different ecosystem entirely.  It's the town and the beach of Amoudia.

The sea at the shore's edge is shallow for several meters which requires a bit of wading (and waiting) to get to the deeper water. But part of the fun of walking through the shallows and over sandbars is in observing the mixture of people as you become one more ingredient within this village portrait.
Recently, as my husband, Nick, and I were swimming together in the coolness of that blue-green water, a young man pedaled by in an orange pedal boat, a young Nick--the spitting image. Uncanny! And his children. Good Lord! I could barely breathe. They were Nikki and Thomas sitting at the back of the pedal boat, our two little imps, serenely passing us by, their sun bleached hair matted from salt and sea water. I’d dreamed of a moment such as this, just to have a glimpse back in time. To see it all again with fresh eyes, an older woman's knowledge and a wealth of experience. Oh my, and how handsome he was, that young Nick of mine. 
“Look, Nick,” I said to the gray-haired husband treading water beside me, “It’s you as a young man.” I swam away from him and toward the rocky edge of the river jetty where the orange pedal boat seemed to be headed.
What luck to see him and the children, to be given the opportunity to undo what had been done. He pedaled with strength and so quickly. The boat glided further away. I had to warn young Nick, to tell him all the things his overzealous testosterone prevented him from seeing and to warn the children of the bumps ahead. They’d need to be prepared for those years of mine at the university, Nick with a 70-hour work week. Trying to improve our lives . . . though such undertakings had created unimaginable fatigue and an anxious psyche which translated to unkind behavior. A parent’s guilt--the lament of many.  Maybe I could make it better this time. I needed to warn them. But that young Nick had a strength I’d forgotten and the orange pedal boat grew smaller. 
“Nick!” I yelled to him waving my hands to get his attention. “Wait! Come back!”
“What’s wrong with you, Linda?” the gray-haired Nick was beside me, grabbing my arm, which made it impossible to swim and the orange pedal boat grew even smaller as it continued on. 
“It’s you and the kids.” And as I said it, I realized its ridiculousness and my face grew hot as my breath left me. 
“Nick.” It was a whisper.
His brows scrunched down in a question but he said nothing.
I felt embarrassed. “He looked like you and the kids.”
I nodded my head toward the orange pedal boat that was now a small square, docking near the jetty rocks. I couldn’t see what young Nick was doing but I heard the deep hum of his voice as he spoke to the kids. 
Gray-haired Nick waited and then repeated, “who?”
“The guy on the pedal boat.”
“What guy?”
“The one with--” I swallowed. They were gone. And all that remained were the distant rocks with white splashes of surf against the backdrop of a lime green river bank. 
Such strength,” I thought, “youth and strength.” But I said, “Oh, never mind,” taking in a deep gulp of air as I struggled to stay afloat. 
Gray-haired Nick’s forehead remained furrowed as his eyebrows slowly released their tension and he continued to look at me. 
“Okay,” he said quietly, “let’s get back to shore. We’ll go for coffee.”
That was our code for let’s go somewhere and talk
We went to one of our favorite cafes. I suppose we could have walked along the crescent-shaped beach to get there, but instead we packed the car and drove a few minutes on the narrow village-road. 
The cafe is really nothing more than a bit of cement with a tarp overhead and some trees. It is the amiable proprietor and his good fortune of cafe placement that keep us returning. The cafe is on the Acheron River near where it empties into the sea. There are several cafes there, but this particular one is placed right at an opportune bend in the river so that if you are lucky enough to get the corner table, you are actually sitting inside the river and the breeze is unending and soothing.
We parked our car several meters from the cafe. Nick decided to go get a newspaper at the kiosk on the next street while I went to secure our favorite table. As I walked over the little bridge that leads to the cafe, my pace slowed as I realized our table was occupied. There sat young Nick with little Nikki and Thomas.
And young Linda.
I approached their table slowly. All sound had ceased. All movement stopped, except for at the rickety table at the corner of the cafe. They must have seen me gawking but it did not appear so. Their light banter seemed playful. What was Nick saying? The children were riveted to every word.
Ah yes, I remembered now. He had been our story teller. I’d been the writer, but he’d had all the tales. His voice was strong but gentle. The children hung on every word and when he finished, they all laughed. Young Linda was smiling at her groom with a look I vaguely recalled. The children, they couldn’t have been more than three or four years old, were playing some kind of game with unseen props. Young Linda was speaking tenderly to them. Their heads nodded.
Of course! An old woman’s guilt is built upon faulty memories, upon dwindling time and upon lost chances. I was sitting now, at a table so close, I could reach out and touch them, as I desperately wanted to do. To take each child in my arms, embrace them with the longing that poured from every heartbeat that I felt as my chest heaved with memory.
We’d done a fine job, Nick and I. We were human after all, as faulty as every human. We’d had our moment in time to shape the memories we could, not all of them with whimsical fancy but all with the love and satisfaction I felt at that moment. And there was gray-haired Nick coming across the bridge with a newspaper tucked under his arm. His smile as wide as his heart. He looked straight through young Linda and met my eyes.
“Why aren’t you sitting at the corner table?” he asked? “Quick, before someone else comes along.”
Young Linda nodded in agreement, beckoning me with an outstretched arm. I left my table behind and joined the others at the corner table in the bend of the river.

Here are the links for The Nifi, Your Own Kind, and Among the Zinnias. I hope you'll give one of them a try!

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Rainy-day Parga and Memories

Once in a while it rains in the summer and when it does, it's absolutely glorious! 

    With great drama it rolls in from the sea, never lasting very long, but it cools the heat and it makes a perfect Parga-Sightseeing Day!

    Recently, just after a quick rain, Whitney Houston was singing in Kanaris Square as my husband and I took a seat under an oversized umbrella to escape the last stray drops. The lyrics from hidden speakers evoked a somewhat distorted memory from the Parga-past.

    The small Parga island with its little church stands just meters from the beach and yet as I recall those days past, I see it in my mind's eye as a daunting distance from the mainland.

    Suddenly the sky darkens to a threatening magenta. The umbrellas on the beach are blown from the sand with one giant gust and the beach plastic disappears into an aperture, as signs of the commercial world are erased with the wild spin of backward time. The tiled walkway crumbles into worn cement, the multitudes of people shrink to a few and I walk on the hot sand with my two little children in tow. It’s 1992.

    We’ve just gotten off the bus from Margariti. It dropped us in the heart of Parga near OTE, the telephone company, then backed its tail toward the post office to navigate the tight turn allowing it to exit the square and make its way back to the main road. We’ve had our visit to the bakery, the pastries but a joyous memory of crust flakes on our lips. Our towels are laid out and our big black beach bag is thrown aside as we head for the water. The island is the destination. We’ll walk a bit at the shallow isthmus jutting off the corner of the beach and then swim the rest. It’s an adventure that has been repeated several times.

    But this time is different.

Having made our way to the island and having walked around it a bit, we prepare to return to the mainland. We wade into the water and my daughter, Nikki, steps on something. She writhes with a pain I cannot stop. A poisonous black needle is lodged in her foot. She cannot walk. She cannot swim. I have to leave her there, in pain, and swim with Thomas for help. But from whom? I’m not sure. And the distance from my child seems enormous as I leave her on the island and begin the swim.

She sits on shore watching us. A brave young girl. I swim the backstroke so I can watch her. Thomas follows me. The island gets smaller and the mainland is an eternity away, or so it seemed to me on that day when the sea separated us, a sea teeming with life, its mere existence there to strengthen and sustain. But for the unlucky, to attack and destroy, as that sea urchin had tried.

A bit dramatic? Yes, but the memory evokes a litany of past parenting endeavors and life's hardships. I wanted to find that devil and crush it between the stones. I continued to swim, hours, days, months. Swim, stroke, breathe.Watching my little girl grow further as the water separated us. And yet, as I sat on the shore sipping my cappuccino almost thirty years later, the island seemed to be very close as though one only needed to take a few large strides to arrive there.

Memories. They are sometimes altered with age and colored by time. The "good ol' days" are not always as good as we remember -- though we cannot help but long for them. What we have for sure, though, is here and now--wherever you may be.

Now, Parga's manicured walkways are aligned with a multitude of cafes, their colorful facades like ready family members, awaiting our arrival. A trolley bell rings and along the road a snaking red train filled with passengers pulls close to our table. Part of the newer charm. Much has added to Parga's character over the years, and after a rain, or on a rare cloudy day, Parga is a perfect place for sight seeing. It's a virtual art gallery with treats beyond one's imagination. An opportunity to forge new memories.

Back in 1983, Parga saved my marriage, kind of. It was only a one-year-old marriage. But Parga made my Magariti village life, bearable to a degree that I was able to open up and better understand the stranger I had married. Here is an excerpt from the book, The Nifi, that shows my first glimpse of Parga. 

As time crept forward and the Margariti villagers came to get a look at the American, I did my best to sit, smile, nod and listen to the buzz of incomprehensible conversation. When I would say anything to Nick, all movement would stop as the ever-captive audience would become entranced in the gibberish between us. So—naturally, when a bug was trapped within one of my muffled yawns and I felt it flit about my palate, given the choice of a hacking spit with no hope of explaining my behavior or an unnoticed swallow, I chose the latter. It just seemed more tolerable to me.
“I want to go home!” Tears streamed down my face. I tried to sob as quietly as possible, enclosed in the small room, the sisters-in-law on the other side of the door. We’d been there less than a week. 
“Okay, We’ll go home.”
Nick was being pulled between the two worlds, wanting to live them both.  But it was the sea that had the final say.
We rode the bus to the seaside village of Parga. From the bus window, as we teetered on the mountain edge with each hairpin turn, I saw the hypnotic blueness of the Ionian Sea for the first time. The mountainside continued down into the shimmering turquoise, revealing rocky edges of underwater cliffs as if they were only inches from the surface. And patches of changing shades of blue slowly became black as they descended into the depths.
It was love at first sight. If all else had been pushing me to leave, run, get out as fast as I could, this one sight ensnared my heart and I knew I would stay. I had grown up on Long Island and had a variety of seaside fun at my disposal: the wild Atlantic Ocean, the calm salty bays, and the east end with the lush Hamptons on the south shore and quaint beaches of the north.
But they were completely ruined for me that day.
The untouched beauty was enough to hold me there that summer, but the warmth of that crystal water as I submerged myself into Parga's welcoming embrace, was the seductive siren that continued to call me back over the years. That coastline, in the northern region of Greece known as Epirus, offered pristine beaches that were often deserted. At that time, and for many years afterwards, that particular area was the poorest and least visited by tourists, which was the reason for my simultaneous misery and joy. That day, I bathed in the warmth of the Ionian and I was renewed.

Here are the links for The Nifi, Your Own Kind, and Among the Zinnias. I hope you'll give one of them a try!

Monday, June 29, 2020

Closed Borders

Kostas, the Roofer has been on my mind lately. He sometimes emerges in my thoughts as I think about the Covid19 border closings.

By all rights Kostas should be known as Kostas, the Baker, having been denied his true profession through the actions of a few men who gathered one night to draw lines on a map. And thus change the trajectory of Kostas's life along with a few thousand others.

Back in the 1940s, when Kostas was a child, his family home was located in a place called Northern Epirus in Greece and the family bakery was in the port of Igoumenitsa. The house and the bakery were not terribly far from each other. Travel between them was somewhat like commuting from today's suburbs to a nearby city. The bakery was a successful business, one that would be passed down to Kostas as he came of age -- as was the Greek custom on the countryside and still is today in many cases.

However, in 1946 the winners of the second world war split their bounty and a line was drawn overnight, absconding a piece of Greek land that instantly became Albanian land under a communist government.

The borders were immediately sealed.

Kostas's father had decided to stay in the bakery to work a little extra that night, while his wife returned home with the children. In the morning she awoke to find she was a single parent living in the communist country of Albania. The quality of life in communist Albania was far from that which the family had been accustomed to, with their modest lifestyle in Greece. They suffered greatly.

And Kostas never saw his father again.

Forty-four years later, the Albanian border opened -- along with the fall of other communist countries in Eastern Europe. The "Albanians" mostly disregarded the legal avenues of immigrating to Greece and poured over the border looking for a better life. My mother-in-law, Chevi, was known to have harbored some of those transients as told in the blog post, The Rebel. Some of them had not known much of their heritage in Greece, while others had heard stories from parents and grandparents of days gone by. For Kostas, the ability to see Igoumenitsa again was a dream he'd hoped for since the day the borders were sealed.

"I'm going home," he told his wife. Now an older man with married children and grandchildren, he became part of that exodus. He settled in Igoumentitsa alone at first.

His children were Albanian. They were among those who only knew Greece from their father's stories. Kostas's plan was to work and send provisions or cash back to them as they were unable to make the trip legally, for only he had the required Greek citizenship papers.

Kostas is the roofer who worked on our Margariti house, and basically saved us from the devious Roofer of Senitsa. Kostas is the one with the straw hat in the photo.

Here is an excerpt from The Nifi featuring Kostas's role in our life:

. . . The circumstance was bearable only because we had expected The Roofer From Senitsa to begin construction soon and when it was done, we'd be able to move back into the rooms of the little house. But he didn't show up and time passed. Nick sought him out and talked to him again, and he promised to begin within a few days, but a few days turned to weeks and then we questioned whether The Roofer From Senitsa would ever begin.
"Don't worry," he reassured us, "I'll work on it when you've left and you'll have a perfect roof when you come back."
That's when Nick realized what was happening and with a few choice words, he told The Roofer From Senitsa what he could do to himself, and fired him. But I was baffled.
"What's going on?"
Nick explained. "This guy is waiting for us to leave so he can do the job when we go home—when no one’s here to see what he’s doing. He wants the money and then he’ll probably use fewer beams, probably not the quality I want. Without me or my brother here to watch how he's building it, he could pretty much do whatever he wants."
Eftihia told her brothers of a quality roofer she knew in Igoumenitsa, but he didn't drive. He would need a ride back and forth every day.
There were only eleven days left and although The Igoumenitsa Roofer had a son-in-law who worked with him, two single workers would not be able to finish in that time. Nick and Fotis would have to help. Eventually, we would all help by carrying the roof tiles up the ladder, handing the workers tools, and bringing them water.
The work was started early every morning. Chevi would cook a large midday meal which we all would stop to eat, but no one would take a siesta—including the neighbors, though they had no choice in the matter—and after ten days, the roof was finished, one day before our departure. Chevi, in keeping with the old traditions, insisted on affixing a wooden cross to the roof with a clean towel hanging from one end and some apples from the other. This was to show that the final step in making the structure a true home—the completion of the roof—had been accomplished. The cross, a symbol of a Christian home, was something of importance to a woman who rarely visited her church but was ingrained with memories of a time when one's religion determined survival. The towel was a message to all who viewed it that this was a family who respected its workers, thus providing a towel for their use, and the apples symbolized a fruitful future for the inhabitants of the home.
The year of the roof left us exhausted, and it was time to go back to a schedule more grueling than any in the past. The bitter taste of that summer kept me away for several years, while Nick took some off-season visits to see his mother and to install windows and screens in the house.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

A Man named Malaka.

It wasn't until--with great confidence--I spoke to this man using what I thought was his name, that I realized the naughty Greek word was not actually anyone's name.

Walk back in time to a brief moment in the early 1980s. Sit at the end of the counter on one of those round red swivel stools and watch my 20-year-old self on her first day working as a waitress at The Expressway Diner on Long Island. The predominant language is Greek, so listen carefully, keep a watchful eye and sometimes you'll understand the body language but never the actual words. . .

Within the first few hours someone had mentioned something about the cooks all basically having the same few names, which turned out to be sort of true (Gus, Nick, George, you get the idea). But with my own excellent hearing and my ability to quietly observe, I had determined that there was one small man behind the gargantuan dishwashing machine who obviously had a different name. His was Malaka.

So during the mad rush of lunchtime that first day, desperate to get his attention so he'd bring more coffee cups to the counter, I shouted , "Hey, Malaka!" and it was at that moment, with the roar of laughter from the other Greeks in the kitchen that I suspected it was not his name. My suspicion was verified milliseconds later when Andrea, the Greek-speaking waitress who was training me, said with eyes as wide as saucers and a jagged line of dismay across her brow, "Never use that word!"

This memory flooded back to me recently when I read a humorous post using the same naughty word in a Facebook Group called, The Greek Chain,  It's a Facebook Group I highly recommend if you want to have fun while learning the Greek language. I enjoy it tremendously!

Here are the links for The Nifi, Your Own Kind, and Among the Zinnias. I hope you'll give one of them a try!

Monday, April 20, 2020

2-Place Illness

The Covid-19 virus has us quarantined, worried, and emotionally frazzled. But longing for another place, a location steeped in memories, keeps insanity at bay and brings hope. It's a fickle life, that which is divided into a love of two places. When you're in one, you long for the other and thus, you're never satisfied. Maybe I'm alone in this overthought philosophy but I suspect there are many others who are pining for a favorite place right now.

For this grecophile, that place is Epirus!  "Epirus again?!" I hear you. "Enough, Linda!"

Well, I'm sorry, I can't help it. Epirus is a place of creativity, stunning topography, unconventional wisdom, unending curiosity and a place where ordinary food tastes extraordinary!

What place are you dreaming of?

Here are the links for The Nifi, Your Own Kind, and Among the Zinnias. I hope you'll give one of them a try!

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Magical Margariti Museum

Choices made in years past sometimes take an eternity to show their fruit. It's not a bad idea to revisit that past in order to remember the truth about our present state. Thus, I bring you the Margariti Museum, an absolute masterpiece! It holds a warm place in my heart and in my family's past because it is the house Nick and I were going to purchase back in 1993. The museum was a far better idea, though I sigh when I think this fairytale  view of the village from the second floor might have been mine.

The Culture Administrator of Margariti, Mr. Mparatsas, met us at the gate with his wife and son. They were kind enough to be our tour guides. For me, it was one more highlight of my Margariti life and I thank them with all my heart for their patience and kindness.

Our journey begins at the gate of this typical Old Margariti house which has been restored and preserved with funds from Greek philanthropist, Stavros Niarhos. It is the villagers, however, who have made it most authentic by donating original items from their own homes. The archway above the gate is adorned with the signature flower  that is seen throughout ancient Greek architecture.

Walking into the gated courtyard, we're met with a tiled  overhang that covers the cooking area where an old style domed oven, or fourno, would have been. The entrance to the house has a beautiful wooden door. And walking through that door is an experience like no other.

Friday, March 27, 2020

24 Hours in the Mountains of Epirus

They stand at attention one after the other as far as the eye can see, the mountains in the village of Vitsa. You and I are alone on a balcony, a balcony that fits a tiny round table and two chairs and nothing else, characteristic of the architecture in this area of Epirus. The only sound seems to be the far off tinkle of animal bells--probably goats, judging from the climb of these steep inclines. The beauty is obvious, but it’s the un-noise that has me mesmerized. The sound of nothing.

Nature barely makes herself known with the bird songs so muted it’s as if they’re whispering. The distant rumbling of a car as it makes its way along the winding road alerts my ears. And yet at home, in New York, the hum of the highway--no not hum, because that conjures up a pleasant un-annoying rhythm. Rather, it’s the bang and rumble of voluminous lives passing at top-speed-- that is a constant jar to the senses. Yet, here a small intermittent motor sound as it passes between trees and makes its way up the mountain, jolts us from the quiet and I think of times long passed.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Igoumenitsa's Irony

When the serpent in the Corfu Channel made its way to Igoumenitsa Bay one cool autumn day back in the late 1950s, it terrorized some unsuspecting shepherds. One of the local children of that time, my husband, Nick, remembers the story well, or perhaps his memory comes from the repetition of the story over the years. 

The shepherds were from the Metsovo area. They had bought cheap land at the bay as a means for bringing their sheep to lower land in the cold mountain months, many of them leaving the mountains for the first time. They were people of some very high peaks and had little to no experience with the sea. So, when they heard the moan of the creature long before they saw it, they rode their horses with the speed of light through the mountain trails to Margariti Village where they had friends and relatives. They were there to escape, to warn, and to prepare for defense.

It's in Margariti where they learned the truth and I'd venture to say it was not told to them in a patient understanding way or the story would not have outlived them, as it has.

The moan was, of course, a ship, one that was unable to dock near land because at that time there were only a few small fisherman wharfs aligning the tiny sea port. Thus, the ship's steam horn alerted potential passengers of its arrival so those people could get in the assigned dingy and be rowed or motored out to the ship. The name of the ship was "The Seagull," and it came at regular one-month intervals. This was something the locals knew and something the shepherds learned that day. Ignorant shepherds? I think not. From that family, rose the entrepreneurs who started the Corfu / Igoumenitsa ferry service. 

Here are the links for The Nifi, Your Own Kind, and Among the Zinnias. I hope you'll give one of them a try!

Sunday, March 1, 2020

My Life as a 3-minute Topless Sunbather

In the 1980s, Valtos Beach in Parga, Greece, was a bit of a trek down a dirt path on the other side of the castle. But it was always worth it.

In those days, a woman wearing a bathing suit top seemed most out of place. The topless sunbathers were abundant on both sides of the castle and I envied them.

Such freedom!

I was visiting Margariti that summer, alone with my small children. Our routine was somewhat predictable as the village offered so little for a non-Greek speaking bride. Each morning we'd take the bus to the heart of Parga, stop at the bakery for a sweet or two, and then spend most of the day at Krioniri Beach between the sand and the island, frolicking or whatever one could do with two high energy children. Eventually, after our lunch, we'd make our way to Valtos Beach to rest, possibly to encourage a bit of siesta so mama could have a break.

On one very sultry evening, as I was feeling a bit weighed down by the drudgery of motherhood, I thought it would be a wonderful sensation to swim in that warm salty sea without my bathing suit top. It seemed so simple and so natural. A therapeutic moment. We were alone on the beach so it was safe enough for a puritanical, uptight, American. Even alone, however, the courage did not arrive until I was completely submerged in the water, as both children played in the sand on the beach. Both oblivious to my intentions. I took off my top and threw the wet garment onto the sand.

It was glorious!

Until I heard the putter of a small boat and saw what looked like a fisherman coming to shore. He could not have gotten closer without drowning me. He gave me and my bobbing neon-white breasts a nod as he jumped ashore and pulled his small boat to safety. Then, he stood on the shore, his hands on his hips, an oversized mustache encased around a smoking cigarette. And waited.

I did not want to get out of the water but what about my kids? They were standing on the shore now, calling, "Let's go, mommy!" Any hope of emerging unnoticed was lost.

So with all the courage of a hunted rabbit, I walked toward them. As the water released me, their little perplexed eyes squinted. They scrunched their eyebrows,  pointing their fingers, mouths agape. And screamed.

Here are the links for The Nifi, Your Own Kind, and Among the Zinnias. I hope you'll give one of them a try!

Sunday, February 23, 2020

This Spinning World

Author, Jim Potts, channels his Greek life in places such as Corfu, the Zagori Mountains, and the city of Athens as he spins some very entertaining tales in, This Spinning World, 43 Stories from Far and Wide, published in September of 2019.

I originally was led to this author when I read, The Ionian Islands and Epirus: A Cultural History, a book I absolutely love and continue to reference frequently. So when I realized he had this new one,  I thought I'd give it a try. I was not disappointed. This is an author who has had a very interesting and diverse life that includes a career in international cultural relations that has taken him all over the world. And that experience is etched in his stories. As I spun through This Spinning World, I laughed and cried and turned the pages. There is something for everyone.

It's that Greek connection that originally attracted me to the stories but actually Edward, the main character in the story, "January," is my new BFF. Edward seems to be my kindred-spirit-of-declining-years. "After 60 years, close to his contractual age of retirement, he had finally come face to face with the overpowering sense of the Absurd." To see oneself and one's thoughts so clearly laid out in print, no matter how disturbing, is very cathartic. To know that aging and its mind blowing realizations have a commonality to them, is to smile while reading lines such as, "His horizons felt as limited as the Stockholm skyline in snow." Yes, Edward, I understand. But take heart, Edward works everything out and thus, the reader does too. That is the beauty of these stories. They are human and relatable while being thought provoking and engaging.

Most of Mr. Potts' books are on Amazon:  Amazon UK

He also has a more recent work, Reading the Signs (a collection of 111 poems) and for these newer books, handles the ordering.

This Spinning World: ISBN 978-1-912788-02-6
Reading the Signs: ISBN 978-1-912788-06-4

I leave you with some imagery from the collection in Reading the Signs:

Plaka, 2003

Watching the tourists
come traipsing down from the Acropolis
I don't think they look
like their lives have been changed.
They're glad to flop down
in a shady taverna
with a plateful of squid, in Plaka.
There are always more marbles.
the fruits of the sea.

Excerpt from Dry Stone Hideaway 
(Vitsa, 1983)

Before I came I'd had the dream,
A cobbled path, a kalderim,
leading down the mountainside
to a high-arched bridge, an ice-cold stream.

The village houses, split mountain rock, 
flagstone slabs to slate the roofs, 
the cistern in the high-walled yard.
Water pure, of melted snow, the shaft well-made, 
made long ago, eggshell-coated, calcium-sealed.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Ammoudia: Then and Now

In 1988, Ammoudia, in Epirus Greece, had only a few riverside cafes along the mouth of the Acheron River. The surrounding delta where fresh water meets the salty sea was mostly marshland. There were no hotels, houses or cafes along the fanned-out sand.

To the older generation, most of them gone now, Ammoudia is known as Splanza, named after an Italian general who inhabited the area during one of the wars. So, until the area was opened up by the 1990's infrastructure improvements and the influx of tourists, I only knew the place as Splanza.

At that time, the tables were arranged beside the river and we could sit with our feet in its soft sandy dirt. The branches of the river trees sheltered us from the sun as we enjoyed the quiet splash of the water that drifted by. After we had eaten, we would wade into the river and wash our hands.

That was the year my parents came to Greece to see who it was that I had married and to meet his extended family. My father always had an appreciation for good food and the fresh fish of Ammoudia helped to soften the blow of my elopement to the young Greek immigrant I'd met back in New York.

Fish in Greece is usually served whole, bones and all, but that is not something that we non-Greeks had been accustomed to, especially back then. So, at first it took some adjustment in attitude, but eventually we figured it out. We were always sure of its freshness when we saw it pulled from the river and brought to the frying pan. I haven’t yet found fish quite as tasty. And to that list of tasty food, you can add the fresh fruit and vegetables that reached our plates hours (sometimes minutes) after they’d been picked.

Nowadays in that same space, you will find rows of cafes with cement walkways that go right up to the water's edge and drop off into the river, creating docks for the small boats that will take you for a tour of the river or of the surrounding coastline. Or if you prefer, a day trip to one of the nearby islands. There is also the opportunity to walk to the end of the man-made jetty to fish or pick fresh capers. Or stand atop the boulders and experience the incredible view of the mountains, the Ionian Sea and the Acheron River, all in one glance.  

Here are the links for The Nifi, Your Own Kind and Among the Zinnias. I hope you'll give one of them a try!