Conversations about Remembering

There is a story about a believer who spoke to God. He had walked many times on the beach, through good and bad times. He looked back on the pair of footprints that traversed the sand. God had accompanied him.But he saw stretches of sand with only one set of footprints. He asked God: “Why is it than in the stormy times of my life you abandoned me?”

God answered. “My son, you do not remember. In those times I carried you. Those are my footprints”.

So why do I tell this story? Because I do not remember much. I probably do not remember more than I remember. But it is interesting, because not remembering can be far richer than remembering. It can uncover your heart and mind in layers that do not hurt.

I am not talking about not remembering after drinking too much. That is a few hours that one regrets. I am talking about not remembering the texture of life, the gesture that made a difference, the few words that touched you to keep you going another day. All those are forgotten. In some way I pay homage to them by writing, by keeping contact with family and friends and by making pictures.

I remember filling books with poetry and then burning them, because the words were too close to my soul. Now I wish I had them to help me remember.

I remember making black and white pictures of the church on Analipsi in the snow only because the pictures hang in the house in Kakouri. I remember one stretch of treacherous ice John and I had to cover and being breathless tired on the last stretch to the peak, but I do not remember taking those pictures. I must have had one of my Olympus cameras, but was it the OM-1 or OM-2? What film did is use? I used to buy it in bulk and load it in the darkroom, but I cannot remember developing it. I cannot remember the ghost image appearing in the tray as the exposed Ilford paper gained life. I cannot remember how the pictures got to Greece, if I took them or if my father did? Where they were framed escapes me. I have no idea.

But the pictures hang in the entrance hall of the Patriko. I have no copies of them in Durban, even though I usually photograph everything in that house to help my memory. Even though that entrance hall is my favourite room in the whole world, as it used to be a stable, and evokes a sense of security in me with memories.

It is a cool room with kitchen smells of bread and fruit and cheese. The straw cut below the almond trees outside smell meets the wet stone sweet basil smell of the courtyard and brings you to the village. Along with the tinkling of the voluminous bell on the sheep leading the herd with the shepherd behind making guttural Balkan sounds as he drives them past with a smell of their own.

Not remembering always helps one to remember.

Gina's sketch of the Patriko that my father used on his business cards

Converations from Tripolis

I have walked from Tripolis to Kakouri. One third of the distance might include the outskirts of Tripolis, until you reach the provincial road to Levidi that crosses your path perpendicularly. After this the road narrows. There is a small church on cement stilts opposite on the right. The road narrows and has a shiny tar surface, spotted with sheep droppings that have been flattened into black discs on the grey road.

After that you pass a place called Xania, which is halfway between town and village. It is a collection of a few houses, stables and chairs on the side of the road that used to welcome villagers on the way back from the market at Tripolis in the days when they too used to walk to peddle their wares. They would have had hard earned cash in the scarves around their necks, some of which could be spent on a coffee or cooled water with cherry preserve.

After this on the right you can see Analipsi, the mountain above Kakouri. It is covered on an oak bush called pournari for the lower two thirds. The peak is at about 1800 meters, and is rock and screed. Just above the junction of the pournari there is a small plateau facing Tripolis and if you lock closely you can see the white walls and red tiles of a tiny church called Analipsi, The Resurrection.

After Xania, below Analipsi, is a small round hill called Kortsouli, with the ancient city of Mantinea at its feet. The road to Old Man Simbonis’ farm runs along the outer boundary wall of great stone blocks that are 2500 years old, and everyone referred to his farm as Kortsouli. An everyday term used easily that encompassed a whole civilization of proud farmers and warriors.

After Kortsouli, also on the right, is a taller round hill, with another church, this time Agio Ilia. This is hidden amongst the pines on the crest. This saint’s churches are always on the top of mountains or hills, closer to the sun, after which he is named.

The road curves slightly, left here, right there, but there is no altitude change from Tripolis to Kakouri, until you enter the village which straddles the foothills of Analipsi. From Agio Ilia you enter an avenue of plane trees, their white fluff ball blossoms covering the road like snow in late summer. A few of the trees are missing, like a tooth missing in the gnarled mouth of a villager. In the missing tree’s place is a small iconostasio, in remembrance of the young person who died driving too fast on this quiet road. If the tragedy was recent, or if they were really loved, there is a fresh bunch of flowers lying inside with the burning olive oil wick.

As the avenue ends you enter the village, with Simbonis’ house on the right and the old Manelis house on the left. My grandmother grew up as a Manelis there. In front, in the elbow of the fork, is a bigger iconostasio for The Ascension, and on the right is the now disused village spring, where we used to fill our large glass wicker covered bottles for house water when we first arrived in the village.

If you follow the left fork, towards Levidi, at the first intersection 150 meters further on is our house, the Patriko, on the left opposite corner.

The Iconostasio Analipsi in the elbow of the fork of the road as you enter Kakouri