Connections to internet were sporadic in the Sporades. Skopelos Island is lush and green, a surprise of beehives, goats can drink salt water, some pine trees can grow in salt water, plums, olives, flowers and fish, and few darker forces such as weasels that suck blood, like vampires. And dragons sleeping. And quite a few snakes. Also, some interesting weather. Those sirens? They sing here.
The Storm: We woke up one night from fitful sleep. The loudest thunder, and lightning, and rain in waterfall fashion kept us awake. This epic event of angry gods and waking dragons, was devastating, and all things, including cars, trucks and motorbikes, most of the supermarket and all of a favorite restaurant were swept into the sea in a raging wall of water. If it had been the high season, with people out in town, things would have been much worse. A lot of livestock was washed away. We witnessed Greek people at a time of great stress, and their ethics and dignity is a life lesson we will never forget. The next day, melons, tomatoes, produce of all sorts, washed back onto the beach. The sun came out.
The man we rented our apartment from is the president of a civic organization. He runs a center which is the social heart of town for the Greek men. He, Christos, took on the task of feeding the army three delicious meals each day. He did this because there is no money for the government to provide food for the army. At his own expense, on top of all his other work, Christos fed the crews because they had to be fed, and because that is the kind of people Christos, and his wife Elainie, are.
Elainie demonstrating her famous cheese pie. She made some for my last day. She widely considered the expert.
At the Foundation we all got back into work after a day or two processing the event. But it affected everything and everyone. Still though the water cleared for our afternoon swims, and nature as it does, began to repair herself.
The Living Situation: The directors of these beautiful studios perched on top of the hill provided every support. Accommodations are blissfully simple, with little terraces over the town and the port. Food in Skopelos does not have to call itself organic, farm to table, or artisan. Honey, yogurt, local meats, greens, a vast supply of seasonal vegetables and fruits, and of course fishes and calamari, are all part of daily fare. Visiting a beekeeper, we understand that everything is done to keep chemistry out of food. Life is relaxed, wine is served by the pitcher, but much is accomplished in a day. As day turns into night, and eateries and bars stay open late. And still . . . much is accomplished. Because life is vertical, we are in pretty good shape from going up and down from town to studios.
The Work Situation: Residencies require flexibility and adaptability. Artists need to give and take a little. It isn't the private home studio some of us are used to. But these things are all part of the experience. I find that I lose concentration during work time if someone wants to socialize. And I like to socialize, and to share ideas during social time. But when the time frame for working is short, let's just say diplomacy is needed, and it seems possible that this might not be my strong suit!
Now: I have been home for three days, and wake up thinking I am there and planning the next phase of work, being directed by invisible forces. It is the space of art where I seek to live life.
The Deal: The directors of the Skopelos Foundation often take work from residents into their fine collection, which will be toured at some point. I was asked to do one thing before they will choose a piece. They are going to hold me to it. They asked me to show the pieces together first in a good venue. Time to work on that end of things. Also not my strong suit.