Language of Living

October 12, 2005

Already the days blend together as they do at the beginning of seasons – I crave hot drinks and yet spend my days in bright, chilly sun wearing sandals. Today I had a figure drawing class, then ate hot oatmeal and coffee for lunch while I read fairy tales. Today John showed us his photographs, but first he read us one of his journal entries from the time he spent on the Navajo reservation – an entry written just a week or two after I was born. The photographs were astounding, and I left early to walk to a music lesson, all the way seeing whole new images unfolding before me – the striations of geranium leaves in the afternoon, the negative space of cats twirled on paving stones.

Singing was hard work today – Monteverdi requires discipline. I always intend to write an article about these lessons, how they are given in a mixture of English, Dutch, Greek, German and French, how half of us are native English speakers, half Greek, one or two German, how we make faces at each other on the high notes and drink tea during the break, teasing each other by trying to convince ourselves that the water deposits in the kettle are asbestos. The room is high-ceilinged and old, with wobbly windows and creaking wood floors (the first I’ve seen on the island), and a room downstairs that contains nothing but a dressmaker’s form on a rickety table in weird perspective, standing on an ancient checkered floor before a window hung with a tattered lace curtain. It is so Edward Gorey picturesque that I make a point of visiting it every time I enter. Our voices echo out into the marble street in the afternoon, and ricochet up the alleyways until they fade in the labyrinthine spaces between buildings, endless scales endlessly folding on one another.

We goad each other into purchasing fruit and chocolate after each lesson, but today I stayed late and washed the cups, and skipped the reading of Sappho at the school for the more prosaic pursuit of picking up flour and milk at the grocer and walking home early to make lentil stew. I read fairy tales while the stew simmers and Django Reinhardt plays softly in the background. Princesses burst from pomegranates and kings hide in forests and I am wearing a sweater and a new barrette I purchased today at a little store where the woman slipped easily into Greek after deciding I was one of the art students, and therefore a resident and countryman rather than a tourist. I bought honey-scented incense from her and burnt it while I kneaded dough for English muffins on my marble counters. I set the stew aside and skipped dinner in exchange for crosswords and wine at Spiti with the kids. I walked along the waterfront at twilight when the buildings started to scatter their light across the water, tossing reflections like coins for wishes in the little bay. John read us a journal entry today before he showed us his photographs, and at the end as he wept silently at the memory of people he loved a long time before this, before this marble school and these marble streets, mine was the only voice to break the stillness and say “Thank you.”

  • CATEGORY: Greece

4 thoughts on “Language of Living”

  1. o, wow. mesmerizing. you’ve woven a spell so fragile and lovely that I’m reluctant to break it with a crude little missive like this. wow, Brianna. Just wow.

    O, and please… for me, take a photo of the Edward Gorey-esque dress makers form. how betwitching.

  2. I have a negative cat that I will smilingly twirl up and parcel post right to you, for your very own. Do you accept? Just think of the artistic possibilities! (of incessant interruption).

    Also, someone should look after Scott, I think he may be epileptic.

  3. i didn’t know one could make english muffins.

    (least of all while is greece. don’t you have to make grecian muffin while in greece? quick, someone give this girl a spanikopita recipie.)

    but really, don’t they just come in the package in the little tray? i had a whole wheat english muffin this morning for breakfast. i would like to make english muffins.

    come to think of it,i’d also like to make spanikopita.

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