By William Carter

Photographer, Author, Jazz Musician

Unchanging Greece

with 3 comments


greece1Months ago, when Egypt blanketed the western news, our friend Ginny Papadopoulo contributed accounts of real life on the ground in that troubled nation. Now — with the Greek banking crisis grabbing world headlines — Ginny is reinstalled in her modest home on a Greek island, and has sent us this achingly personal memoir of her life there.

Ginny writes: It is hard to believe I wrote this almost twenty years ago. I never gave it to Michael. So much of what I wrote is still here in the villages; people and customs. I am happy I was able to fulfill my dream, even if it is alone.

Images of Greece that Will Never Leave Me

by Ginny Papadopoulo
2/1/97

Lying behind shuttered windows at midday waiting for the heat of the sun to be drawn from my naked body.

The only sounds are the cicadas interrupted chorus, and the solitary cry of the gypsy selling his wares.

A quiet walk through a village street which leads to a square that is covered with a blanket of shade that offers a small table with two chairs, black sweet coffee hotter than the day, and a moment undisturbed by anything but your own thoughts.

Black interior of a church whose door is open to all, and the only light is reflected off the gold that adorns the icon on a far wall. The haze of incense and candle smoke so thick you can cut it.

The colors of Greece are a blinding balance of white upon white, then suddenly a blue door or window holding back fear and superstition. Walls of terra-cotta that balance so beautifully as they cut through a blue sky untouched by a single cloud.

An island. The top of a hill. A building identifiable only by the symmetry of a half buried foundation of ancient marble slabs. An endless view of the sea which conjures up a villa with cool dark rooms that open in every direction to the Aegean Sea. A view so sweeping that the sight of a small fishing boat draws your eye like a magnet, to hold you hypnotized with thoughts of a solitary man pulling in his nets, as he has done forever. A walk around this imaginary home where life is created, and lived for the moment, with such clarity and hope, that the only thing that draws you back to reality is the glint of the sun on a tiny object. A half buried key so ancient it fuels your imagination and hope. The key is kept close as a talisman which will bring you back to finish this dream one day.

The evening sun is setting and the heat of the day is pulled from the earth.  The smell of the sea, smoke and fish drift around you. A calmness pervades, which pulls the tension from your body towards the sinking sun, and another day has escaped before you can lock its memories away for another day and time when all you have are the memories.

Watching the light disappear and night slowly approach holds you in a moment of anticipation. Will this last forever? A fear so deep inside doesn’t let you answer the question.

How to describe the people. One thought. One idea. A thousand thoughts and a thousand ideas. Driving through a mountain village. Men sitting in the doorway of a kafenion, never taking their eyes off you and never revealing their mistrust or suspicion. Women in black and their heads covered, divert their eyes and dart into doorways to stare out, observing your naked arms and flowing hair, as you laugh out loud to break the silence. When eye contact is finally forced by you, two thousand years of culture block any hope of understanding. You drive away sadly wishing you could pull them into the present. Anything to find a common ground for understanding. We are not so different. We love, fear, dream, and hope for the same things.

Every thing about Greece draws me back to the sea. Walking into the water so cold on my legs, and the sun so hot on my back. Watching you swim with strong pure strokes, then walking towards me, and as you rise from the water the hair on your chest is covered with diamonds. I laugh to myself at the pure innocence on your face and the happiness in your eyes. What was it that gave you a moments reprieve from your torment of mistrust and suspicion? Why could I never hold on to those profoundly beautiful moments for more than a blink of my eye. Knowing it is hidden so deeply inside and never to be shared, deepens the grief I feel at my loss.

An ancient key must be two peoples’ dream to become reality.

greece2
Near Hydra, Greece circa 1955

Copyright statement: William Carter papers, © Stanford University Libraries. Click here for a detailed usage guide.

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Written by bywilliamcarter

August 16, 2015 at 12:00 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Beautiful writing…very evocative of time and place. Thanks for posting.

    Like

    donnagae

    August 19, 2015 at 2:47 pm

  2. Bill,
    How masterfully your friend has chronicled. Her words evoke both emotion and thought. Her talents match yours beautifully. Betsy

    Like

    Betsy Nilson

    August 17, 2015 at 11:52 pm

  3. Bill: thanks for sending this piece. Beautiful words and images. Her pain a metaphor for the country’s plight. Her return a testimony to “the more things change, the more…..” Your photography is inspirational, as is your clarinet. d lyon

    Sent from my iPad

    Like

    David Lyon

    August 16, 2015 at 5:10 pm


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