THE SAINT’S FEAST DAY
Kavala, Thassos, Greece
July 7, 2009
I went with Fortanee, my beautiful neighbor (who cooks gourmet Greek food that floats off the plate as if it were French), and often invites me to taste it. We walked like two donkeys that move slowly but can go on forever, up past the old mountain village with its steep stone streets, and through huge leafy trees — the kind that soothe blistering torrents of summer heat with their sensual leaves until light rests lightly in the shadowy green.
Step following step over rough worn stones and grass, following the painted markers on trees and walls, up, up, breathing slowly, deeply, until we reached a high meadow where someone had created a paradise years ago. There was an open pasture with an orchard of fruit trees, and then the many tall trees and flowers that surrounded an old house and the little church they build to honor God and one of his saints.
The voices of many people who came from the local villages created a familiar garble of unintelligible sound. They knew each other well, for they gathered at all the little churches on the Saint’s feast days. Many women had prepared food: grape leaves with rice, cooked meat, the many kinds of sweets — and somebody’s home brewed Tsipouro was generously poured. We sat in the cool shade of trees and grape vines and just enjoyed each other: the old women and men, young women and children mingling freely as life is meant to mingle.
They had just finished blessing the church and priceless Icons still housed there. I love these country churches ablaze with candles, fragrant with incense, old faces staring sternly out from much kissed images on crooked walls.
I wandered through the people, taking pictures, meeting smiles with smiles, eyes with eyes until Fortunee introduced me to the owner, an old women who keeps one of the fish stores in town. Her face reminded me of a gentle, whiskered mule. I don’t mean that to demean her. It’s just an observation. There is a different kind of beauty in these people, something made of dirt and generous with both the sadness and joy of souls who have lived a long time twined in the hands of earth elements.
I met the 100-year-old poet with sharp, clear eyes and mind whose humorous poems about life’s simple joys were famous and now being sung by some pop band in Kavala. I couldn’t understand his words, not knowing Greek, but his beautiful spirit blew right through me.
Three old women sat against a wall, cackling occasionally like fat happy hens and leaning on their canes, looking out on us all as matrons should, satisfied that life was good. And the priest laughed with the people, as priests should, for God was laughing as God always laughs about the miracle of Life itself, and the sweetness of people just being simple and natural, enjoying food and drink and spirited conversations in a little paradise of trees and flowers, children and icons, little dogs, memories and dreams.
I spent seven months on the island of Thassos, Greece in 2009. I love Greece! This was a slice of the island life there amongst the Greek country people.