Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Keats’ Ode to a Grecian Urn: Faces of Mykonos, Greece

“Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of silence and slow time.” -Keats
“What leaf-fring’d legend haunts about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both.” -Keats
“Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweater; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on.” -Keats
“Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave.” -Keats
“Bold lover, never, never canst thou kiss.” -Keats
“She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!” -Keats
"Ah, happy, happy boughs! That cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu.” -Keats
“For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above.” -Keats

“And little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be.” -Keats

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty, -that is all.” -Keats

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Chasing Windmills in Mykonos, Greece

Sailing deeper into the Aegean, we head back to Greece to Mykonos Island, chasing windmills by the dazzling sea.
My girls play on the little sandy beach while I sip on a cold bottle from the cooler and chat up a one-legged priest about swimming to Delos, the birthplace of Apollo, some 40 km away.
The city is painted in striking white with blue or red trim and there are bells that ring at noon calling city folk to prayer.
In the distant horizon, the islands are said to be giants crushed into the sea by Hercules on one of his 12 labors.
The streets are purposefully crisscrossed to confuse invading pirates, and we rummage small shops taking turns on daddy’s shoulders.
There are busted up windmills on the hills, I put the girls down and race up stairs to find them, charge them, sack them, and raise my own flag… but they are abandoned and alone.
Then at last... what is this air I breathe but little wings that carry me onward.
Rebekah is so funny, I burry her in sand and watch Kinu jogging away after a scrambling crab.
Little legs tired from the sun and the surf, I carry both up the final hill. Not much of a charge, but what’s a father to do?
I close my eyes. This is it. This is my life as a dream.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Jim Hawkins and the Pirates of Treasure Island

“One more step, Mr. Hands, and I’ll blow your brains out.” - Jim Hawkins

In Bodrum we lay out by the Turkish Sea and watched the clipper ships pass for parts unknown. The water was so crystal clear, it actually sparkled like champagne, and we dove deep and came up with shards of smooth glass and colorful little pebbles we laid out on the wooden table in the shade.
“Dead me don’t bite, you know?” -Israel Hands

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no seafarer. I’m no man adrift on the waves of his own mind, I’m grounded as a father and teacher. I understand very well what my life is about and what I want and can have. I’m no pearl diver or treasure seeker, but that wasn’t always the case.
“I have only one thing to say to you, sir.. if you keep on drinking rum, the world will soon be quite of a very dirty scoundrel!” -Long John Silver

As a boy, one of my favorite books was Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. I mean, it might as well be THE book for a boy. What more does a boy need than to lose himself in page after page of pirate’s tales and tavern yarns.
“Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest. Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!” -Pirates singing aboard the Hispaniola

Treasure Island is narrated in first and third person by the resilient young Jim Hawkins (who along with Scout Finch, Nathaniel Hawkeye, and Robin Locksley, is one of my absolute most favorite characters in all of literature ). Hawkins’ parents are the owners of the Admiral Benbow Inn, and who have taken a sickly old lodger, named Billy Bones, on as a helper until one day a shabby looking fellow named Pew gives Bones a white piece of paper with a black dot, and he dies the very next night of apoplexy. Upon searching Bones’ room, Hawkins finds well… you guessed it, a treasure map wrapped in an oilskin.
“Pieces of eight. Pieces of eight.” -Cap’t Flint, Long John Silver’s parrot

This leads him to the irrepressible Dr. Livesey and his squire Trelaway, who immediately decide they must hire a vessel to take them to the island. They travel to Bristol where they encounter a disheveled and beaten-down, one-legged old dog, John Silver at the Spy Glass Tavern (yes, I love that name). He helps them raise a crew and the Hispaniola sets sail into the Caribbean Sea.
“I was no sooner certain of this than I began to feel sick, faint, and terrified.” -Jim Hawkins

Of course, little do they know that this one legged man is actually, Long John Silver, a ravenous scalawag who sets off a mutiny as soon as the Hispaniola hoists anchor because he is also in search of the treasure. Naturally, Jim Hawkins hears of this while hiding in, what else, an apple barrel.
“If ever a seaman wanted drugs, it’s me.” -Billy Bones

As soon as they land on Captain Flint’s island, the mutiny begins, and Jim escapes the gunfire, only to run into the half-mad cast-away, and surprising cheese-lover, Ben Gunn, who has been stranded on the island for three years protecting the treasure.
“Now, that bird… is maybe two hundred years old, Hawkins…” -Long John Silver

My favorite scene in the book is when Jim swims his way back onto the ship, only to be chased up the mast by the murderous Israel Hands (what great character names this book has!). With knife in his hand, young Jim Hawkins loads a pistol and aims it right between the pirate’s eyes, shooting him dead just as Hands is about to kill him with the blade.
“Doctors is all swabs… and that doctor there, why, what do he know about seafaring men?” -Billy Bones

Jim then runs the Hispaniola aground, and returns to Dr. Livesey, only to be taken hostage by Long John Silver, who actually saves Jim from being killed by the other pirates in a rare display of sincerity.
“All the crew respected and even obeyed Silver. He had a way of talking to each and doing everybody some particular service. To me, he was unwearidely kind…” -Jim Hawkins

A final fight ensues, with Silver losing, only to escape in a small dingy with much of the treasure and his trusted parrot, rowing out to sea. Jim’s finals thoughts are hoping that Long John makes is safely away, back to his negress wife (how cool is that?). What a great, great book!

Naves, Apses, and Flying Buttresses at the Bodrum Castle, Turkey

In a mood for some Gothic architectural terms…? I thought so!
We rummage through the Turkish port city of Bodrum and assail upwards toward the brilliant Gothic castle known as, the Bodrum Castle (Bodrum Kalesi).
Gothic Architecture is a style of building, usually dark and dank churches and castles that flourished during the high and late medieval period, 12th century France, and is often called “The French Style” (nothing like kissing). Eventually, it evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by the splendor of the Renaissance. You know it because of the pointed arches, ribbed vaults (for his and her pleasure) and…. Everybody’s favorite architectural dare devil, the flying buttress.
The Knight’s Hospitaller (faction of Knights Templar) constructed this beauty in 1402 as the Castle of St. Peter.
Construction workers were guaranteed a reservation in heaven by a papal decree in 1409.
The chapel was basically the first thing these knights built, around 1406, and consists of two awesome vocabulary words: Nave and Apse.
In Romanesque and Gothic Christian abbeys, cathedral basilicas, and church architecture, the ‘nave’ (no not knave… as in ‘unhand that maiden you swarthy knave…) is the central approach to the high alter or main body of the building. Cool!
An ‘apse’ is a large semicircular recess (no, not that…) in a church, arched with a dome roof, that continues into the alter.
Oh, sorry…my bad… the chapel was reconstructed in Gothic style by the Spanish Knights in 1519-20. Their names are carved into the cornerstones of the church (I like carving my name in stuff too).
The construction of the three-storied English tower was finished in 1413 and can only be accessed through a drawbridge… (sweet!) The western fa├žade shows an antique carved relief of a lion, which also gives it the name ‘The Lion Tower,’ and bares the coat of arms of King Henry IV of England… (that’s not the Lionhearted King, that’s Richard, this is Shakespeare’s Prince Hal’s father…).
Eventually the chapel was turned into a mosque and a minaret was added (who doesn’t love them some minarets?). The minaret was destroyed in 1915 World War I by… the French (probably still pissed that nobody but black-eye liner and sad music listening teenagers use the word ‘Goth’ anymore), and in 1997 it was reconstructed to its original shape.
Cheers, Bordum Kalesi…you, in a word, rock!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sailing into Bodrum, Turkey

We arrive on calm seas into the ancient city of Bodrum, Turkey with its castles and winding streets that stretch into the hills and the blue sky.
Into the markets we stumble, strumming little guitars and picking up trinkets of beads and necklaces for our loved ones back home.
The sunlight is bright, but the Turks have little alleys of quiet and solitidue. We sip coffee here and cold milk for for the girls.
At times, I believe we are surrounded by pirates and scalawags...
The world has divided itself into these things: lanes and streets, wide roads that traverse and paths that bisect. We are a people who cut and split, label and mark and define by work.
We perform the same routines each day, living the same moments over and over again. We do our best, we try not to be overwhelmed, but help what we can help, fight for what we want, give up only at the last final drop.
I don't know... is it so bad to just follow the sunshine every day, to live for what is around the next bend? Is that even a philosophy one can hang their hat on?
How easy we unravel sometimes, all of our truth, all of our meaning, all of our hope, just gone, abandonded. So, we sail on. We keep moving to find it again, or hope it finds us.
I have a great deal of faith in it finding me.
I won't kid you, it looks lovely, doesn't it? But the work I've put in to get here, the stretch of days laying back behind me full of toil and hardship, nights of pacing, staring at walls in the room full of madness. I deserve a little sunshine, we all do.