A Delicious Float

October 23, 2005

I have written briefly about my new, freeing approach to Time and its philosophical implications and whatnot, but I was decidedly less charmed by it on Friday when I missed our hike due to my alarm clock taking an equally whimsical approach to the whole business. This little plastic deal has a very loud tick, and is exceptionally inconsistent about where it places it – often, I would return from the school, with the time fresh in my head from a stint on the computer, only to find that my clock was ahead by four hours, or had stopped entirely. It was kind of funny, actually, to find the little bugger still ticking stoutly away with absolutely no usefulness whatsoever – the second hand was permanently stuck.

At any rate, I found myself wandering the Paralia waterfront on Friday morning, approximately thirty minutes after the group had trooped off. It was kind of exciting, actually. I could paint! I could take my Polaroids out! I could sit on the computer all morning listening to Disney music and answering email while Gabriel and his tutor created Goldberg devices in the courtyard! I picked the last option, only because the opportunity to annoy Gabriel’s tutor Brett by singing all the words to every single Disney song was too good to pass up. And it was too sunny to paint, and too disheartening to wander off on my own.

I finally made it into my studio to work on a reflection study, and by the time I finally managed to finish the underdrawing (using my right hand – that’s the only way I can ever get them done. I don’t know why) I was pretty frustrated. I couldn’t figure out why it was so difficult to stand still and start paintings – two of the three exercises we’d begun I had ended up scrapping as bad jobs. It only occurred to me later, after I’d thrown a tantrum and tried to poke a hole in the canvas with my biggest brush (verdict: didn’t work, because I didn’t stretch the canvas tightly enough. I know now to stretch the canvases tighter for my next tantrum) that the reason I couldn’t stand still long enough to get my paintings started is that I was utterly bored with my subjects. Who on earth can paint a jar for sixteen hours a week? Not Brianna. Maybe Picasso, and even then, he had to really screw up the jar to make it interesting.

So, I swapped out the fruit and the jars and the other assorted still life paraphernalia in favour of painting on of my Polaroid cameras. Much better. Just in case, though, I used a tighter canvas. You never know. I might need to poke a hole in it when I get to the underpainting.

Yesterday, I decided it was a good idea to stay out of the studio. So I had a leisurely breakfast at Katie’s apartment with Kathryn, then Kathryn and I strolled out for a swim. The water was so cold at first, just skin-shrinkingly frigid. Then suddenly, it was as though my skin melted and the water slipped through my pores and I forgot where my skin ended and the water began and I just floated, lying in the sun, fully bouyant in the extra-salty clear viscosity of the water. I’d like to say I got some good exercise out of it, but it was a lot of floating then paddling back in toward shore when the current took me too close to the boats, then more floating. Kathryn did not get the same pleasure out of it that I did, but I have a great deal more insulation than she does, and am both more bouyant and more resistant to the cold. We both thoroughly took advantage of the late sun, though, after a week of clouds and rain, and lolled about dozily without saying a word until I had to leave for a voice lesson. We walked back across the bay together, passing a fisherman stringing his nets and singing wonderful atonal arias as he worked. Each of us smiled, but said nothing. I have been here just long enough that I no longer wonder if such displays are put on for the tourists – it’s late in the season, and the tourists have gone home, and here is a place where people sing while they work.

I was late, so I didn’t stop home for my music, just continued through town past people I know saying “Yiea” and “Hi” and “Yiea sas” and “What’s up” and then arriving late to the music room, winded and thirsty. We warmed up quickly and then began our new technique, which eluded me, then moved on to singing the wordless Conconne we’ve been using as a control exercise. This week, Orfeas wanted to hear each of us singing it individually, and I was nervous. Fundamentally, I am afraid of the sound of my own voice. When it was my turn, I started out automatically, using the form Orfeas had taught me, focusing on breathing and tone and reading the music and paying attention to Orfeas instructions as we moved from measure to measure. But about halfway through, as the music started building a bit, he commanded “Add resonance!” as I hit the D, just as he had been doing for weeks, only I finally felt what he MEANT by that for once, so I added resonance, and suddenly I was singing, full-voice and comfortable, with the vibrato that had been pointedly missing in recent lessons, ignoring the notes on the page because I knew the song and I wanted to SING, not read music. I swayed a little, gesturing as I tightened my abdomen for the higher notes, just singing finally, and it was good. Still needs improvement, but it was good. I sang.

After that, the soloists convened for a reading of repertoire and I escaped to my apartment to quickly change before meeting at the bus stop for Levkes. I got tarted up a bit, and met up with the kids in the middle of town, sprawling ourselves across a war memorial while we waited. We arrived in Levkes and walked to the sanctuary, to find it brightly lit with a sign posted “Levkes Sanctum – Aegean Center” and inside, John and Stelios and Monique and Jane’s painting and books and furnishing and candles everywhere – inside the marble fixtures, making them glow, flickering on windowsills and on ledges, in niches and on tables. It was glittering and warm and joyful, and we toasted to friendship and to sanctuary and smiled and then promptly left to go eat Greek food. As it should be. Flora’s taverna had prepared mezedes for us, and I FINALLY had spanakopita in Greece, fresh and hot and full of spinach and feta and good olive oil. Jeffery maneuvered the platters from table to table, making sure everyone got a chance at the sausages, or the bits of tomato. Maria and I talked about singing, and about food, and then we all walked back to the sanctuary to say good night and head for the bus.

The next morning, I had a new alarm clock – Kathryn banged on my window to make sure I was up in time for snorkelling. It was unnecessary though – on Sundays, no one sleeps past 8:15 if the church bells can help it. And the Greeks don’t do bells by halves – oh no. They ring for fully five minutes, in a kind of jazzy beat, different every time. They’re incredibly loud and by the time Kathryn made it to my window I was sitting bed blearily contemplating organized religion and its use of sleep-deprivation as a mind-control gambit. I got up and gingerly stepped into the kitchen to make some tea, then packed my stuff and headed to Pounta to meet the boat. We had some time to kill, so I sat for awhile and meditated in the sun with my sweater over my head to protect my skin (John found that funny, but anyone who has freckles knew where I was coming from) until Tassos and Petros arrived with the boat and the snorkeling gear. We pushed off and headed toward the little islands that dot the bay between Paros and Antiparos.

The Aegean is amazingly clear, and with a brilliant white marble floor beneath, it leaves you prime for viewing plants swaying and fish eyeing
you curiously. We sampled sea urchins and found amphorae on the sea-floor and teased each other about how terrible the borrowed wetsuits looked. I found an old bottle with a tight fitting lid, and used it to collect wildflowers and ancient whelks to carry back to the boat. It fit nicely in the borrowed wetsuit and made the trip safely. We didn’t stay in the water long enough to suit me – I lingered outside the boat with my flippers and mask until I noticed everyone else was out of the water. After de-suiting myself, I sat in the sun on the prow and looked out over the waves as the marble passed beneath us. Around us was all the evidence of ancient civilization and the volcanic movements of the earth, and I was thinking abou the color blue and about our imminent lunch.

We pulled up at a dock on Antiparos next to Zombos’ taverna. They had prepared a special lunch for us, having reopened for a day just to feed us. This was a huge Greek feast, with beans and chickpeas and
saganaki and two kinds of octopus and wee little fish that we were expected to eat whole (and hey, I’d already had sea urchin gonads that day, what’s wrong with eating whole fish?) and tzatziki, naturally, and
then galaktoboureko and kaffe ellenikos for dessert. I tried a little of everything, and some things I had a little of twice, until I was so full I found myself contemplating how well I would float to our next destination, Despotiko. We clambered back in the boat, full of food and wine and compliments for the meal. John told us Despotiko is entirely uninhabited “except for a goatherder, and he’s completely mad. I hope we see him!” We didn’t get any details on exactly how mad the goatherder was, but John did say that rumour held that the man had a beautiful daughter that no one ever saw. “On the island?” we asked. “Yes, of course” was the answer. It sounded a little too much like an old folk tale to be true, but I will admit I secretly planned to keep an eye out for the goatherder’s daughter. I was less suspicious about the existence of the goatherder – I could see him from shore before we arrived.

Tassos definitely maneuvered us to a wee, winding stone pier that jutted out from a little island about a mile from the taverna, and the pier led to a ruin that we walked through to get to the path on the other side. The island was flat and littered with the bleached remains of goats, teeth and skulls and droppings and herbs all mixed in profusion along the path. In the distance, I could hear the whine of a tractor.

We approached a fenced area that contained an archaeological dig, a Temple to Apollo that was slowly being unearthed. The dim shapes of buildings could be seen, and the flat stones hummed with vibrancy. We sifted through potsherds and speculated on this bit of glaze or that bit of charcoal and pretended to know the uses of one pile of stones as opposed to another. The afternoon was winding down and the sun was whiter than marble and sinking into the sea. The goats were bleating on the hillsides and I sat still on the ruins, not thinking of anything this time, just feeling the stones beneath my hands and watching the hillsides change colors with the light. We walked in silence back to the boat, and sped away to home across the water. The egrets flitted alongside us, and just as we rounded Antiparos to enter the bay, I caught a whiff of jasmine on the air and held my breath to make it last longer.

4 thoughts on “A Delicious Float”

  1. I know I never comment with more than a resounding “WOW!”…so they are probably not that useful to you. Boring actually…
    But “WOW!”. That’s really all I can say. 🙂

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