Kirios Kostas is a farmer, a builder, and a basket maker who lives in the village of Lefkes. We visited him at his ‘studio,’ a small building in his field that has been decorated with decades of found objects arranged into little vignettes. He made us each a bouquet of flowers, and was artful about every one: mine had lots of red geraniums, roses, rosemary, lavender and one little runner from his grape vine. He is a rare person who sees infinite creative potential where others see trash and junk.
Yesterday, I went up to my classmate Monique‘s ceramics studio, which is on a mountaintop near Lefkes, to hang out while she worked. It is hard to describe Yria with words: so many tiny visual feasts tucked into every corner! It was a photographer’s paradise.
The story goes that Isamu Noguchi always dreamed of traveling to the ancient marble quarry on Paros to select a stone for one of his sculptures, and at 82, he finally made the journey. It was my teacher, John Pack, who led him through the passages which he knows backwards and forwards, some of which were opened as early as 5000 BC, and to a deposit of the finest white stone. Sadly, Noguchi died later that year before his piece was extracted, but it made for one hell of a tale as we stood at the bottom of the quarry shaft today.
With a luminosity unlike stone from anywhere else in the world, Parian marble is generally the only kind of marble that museums will note alongside their artifacts, and from it were hewn (historians believe) many heavy-hitting names of the ancient world: the Venus de Milo, the Elgin Marbles, and the roof tiles of the Parthenon. They say that light can penetrate it to a thickness of 4-6 centimeters, but today, after meditating in total darkness for a few minutes, John held a chunk about 20 centimeters at it’s longest, and 12 centimeters at its widest over his LED flashlight, and the entire thing glowed. Imagine, then, standing inside the Parthenon, who’s roof tiles were about 3 cm thick. The light must have been incredible.
Paros is made of marble. It lies hidden in her bowels and where she dips down to meet the water, fragments rest among the flotsam like a ring of nail clippings in the bathroom sink. She might lend the soft flesh of her hips to the toil of men, who plant and sow their crops across her body, but beneath that, she is solid and unchanging, for her skeleton is made of stone. In the cradle of her womb, man has been both lost and saved. She has power that she does not understand.
Paros is strong. She bleeds from the cuts and scratches where the organ harvesters have been, gaping wounds marked by the chisels of a thousand lovers. She dutifully kept her heart beating for each of them.
Her breath is hot and white. Dust like condensation travels from her lungs to mine. It is in my eyes, my ears, my nose, my mouth, and I am anointed. Eventually I will crumble under all this weight, and then I’ll be returned, but Paros will always Be.