Today was different…different at least than what I am used to. It’s my second day here on my little Greek island of Paros.
The circumstances surrounding me leaving Greece almost a year ago and returning at the same time of year make it a comical return. It feels like I have run into a really good daydream. Believe me, I’ve had some really good daydreams over the past year, but I think you get the idea. It’s all so surreal. When I stepped off the boat, everything seemed so familiar, and it hasn’t stopped feeling that way since. I knew exactly where to go to my apartment, where to go for school, where to go for food (bougatsas and souvlakis). The island was exactly as I left it, in most ways.
When I arrived at the school, I realized that the people that I had shared my adventure with last year were all gone, save one, and the next adventure will have to be shared by others, many others. My small but close group of friends last year consisted of 9-10 very good friends. We all went everywhere together, and thought almost exactly the same. It was an odd thing, and at the time, we all were convinced that some cosmic reason had pulled us all together. This time, there is a group of 26 students, not separated into cliquey groups, but not so closely thinking that they all know and do the same actions together automatically. So, while the surroundings are the same, the people are different, which makes for a very surreal dream at this point until I get to know everyone and move on from that point.
So many amazing things have happened over the last day. I have been planning to months to eat a souvlaki and a bougatsa as soon as I got off the boat. I did that yesterday afternoon, and it was just amazing. The weather yesterday was just amazing, but the sirocco started last night, and man is it blowing.
I went on a hike today with my new group into the hills of Paros. It was amazing. We took a bus to the town of Lefkes and then took off from there. Lefkes is one of those towns that belongs in a tourist book, but hasn’t made it there, so it still has its amazing charm. It seems so empty and so full at the same time, and you rerealize every second that you are in Greece. The houses are whitewashed and the doors are all painted that amazing blue color. The flagstones on the ground are painted on, and the old Greek men sit at the taverna or the barber talking about the latest gossip before a full day.
From Lefkes we set out on the road and went to a big valley. It was amazing. Walking around the island with John Pack is an experience that I swear should have only been reserved for the Angels in Heaven. He knows so much and has so much passion for the combination of nature, art and students that it makes every moment spent outside with him completely worth it. We looked at flowers I haven’t seen in a year, plants I’m not familiar with and the amazing sirocco wind pulling the clouds quickly overhead at a low elevation. John found me some Oregano growing on the side of the hill, picked it, handed it to me and said, “Welcome home.” It was one of the best gifts I could have been given. It, as well as many more I found today, are sitting on my table drying. I am waiting for the perfect piece of meat to roast them with (likely to happen after the Pascha meat ban).
On the hike I found a field of Lupin just blooming. It blew me away. Though I wasn’t much in the picture-taking mood, I fell behind the group and just sat in the field and snapped away. That field is one of my seven wonders of the world. Hopefully what I caught in my camera is representational of what happened with me sitting there. Lupin has got this glow about it’s downy leaves and it’s many violet shades that make you feel like you are in a field created only for a king. If I were a king I would make Lupin my royal flower and protect it nationally.
Also on the hike I got to see the “Sanctum” that the school acquired recently. It is a small building in Lefkes that has been designed to be a place to go and relax, think, become inspired and get away from it all. It is definitely quite an amazing place, and I have plans to use it in the future.
Everything seems so familiar to me again here. The same bird that woke me up last year every morning is again outside my window reminding me that his sweet song still exists and still is beautiful. The church bells go off at the top of the hour in uneven patterns that make them impossible to count. The goats on the hillside are living out their last days before Pascha starts next week. The wild flowers are in full bloom. The Greeks are still driving the wrong way down one-way streets and yelling kalimera (good morning) as you stroll by. I keep telling John that it’s like I fell asleep and woke up a year ago. He agrees that it’s good to be back.
All I can say at this point is that I admire what they do here in this place. It’s not all about art technique and how to paint. Though that is something you get out of this place (and in a much better way than anywhere else) it’s about beauty and looking at the world in a different way. The reason that I was so excited to come back here was because of the experience that I had here last year. That experience took me out of the life that I was living a little unhappily and put me in a place that made it so natural to be who I was as an artist that I wouldn’t be able to betray that in the future. It really gave me the strength to go home and start producing and surviving on my own as a photographer. I come back here with that courage, and I know that it will be cowardly compared to how I will leave here again. I’ve learned in the last day not to ever stop reinventing life. Never to stop being willing to live in quality and not in quantity. The reason I chose to be an artist was because I have an ability to step outside of life for just a while and turn it around. Though I may not have in words right now exactly how this works, I will soon, and it will be inspirational to me again. My outlook has been refreshed, and I must remind myself that it is important for me to not lose that again in the future.
John tells me that I must eat my fill of oranges because as soon as the crop disappears, they stop selling them here on the island. Those oranges are amazing, and in the last 24 hours, I have consumed 5 of them (and thinking of a 6th here as soon as I’m done). I’ve never had a more amazing fruit, and I can see how little kids use to get oranges in their stocking at Christmas. I’d be happy with that as well as long as it came from Greece!
My bougatsa for the day is waiting, and I’m ready to consume it. I hope that my writing has allowed you to get some glimpse of how amazing it is here, and be understanding of me if I talk nonstop about Greece. J