A visit to the future

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(picture not my own)

Step into my parlor said the gypsy to the woman….

Alluring the thought to glimpse into the future, that mix of the mystical superstitions, the “bah humbug” attitude and the fatalistic feeling of all women to see their dreams come true…

She stepped inside, the cliche:  heavy dusty dark velvet curtains, keeping out the sunshine and the harsh realities, creating an atmosphere of a different century, the decor nothing but cheap plastic emblems of magic, an over- powering smell of stale thick sweet smoke in the room.  The old woman beckoned her to sit on an old wooden chair, while she sat in a deep red plush seat opposite the cloth covered table with the Crystal ball.  

The old fortune teller motioned for her hand.

She stretched it across the divide and the woman took it in hers…for a moment she recoiled, her skin was like old parched paper, but she left it resting there. For the time being she studies it with her clouded eyes.  Eyes that come back to her and focus on something she can not really tell, she follows them but sees nothing. 

Outside the world no longer exists. The room is so quiet, except for the ticking of the clock and the odor is making her drowsy, her own eyes begin to get heavy…like a child waiting for it’s mother to begin the promised fairy tale at bedtime…she waits and listens.

She thinks she is wide awake, but the voice comes from far away. Her own hand in the weathered one, etched like by Rembrandt, a picture- she examines an image that appears a long stretched film, people on a bus, a building then an office, a computer screen, phone cables, voices all around, a detached feeling of riding exhausted back, somewhere food and then a bed and then sheets with wage calculations and bills: electricity company logos, water, gas and supermarket receipts, interchanging and merging into a string of numbers with euros
Icons, looming bigger again and again the same image…faces getting older around and the accounts increasing. In between, little windows appear with long lines at a window in some government agency, piles of paper falling from her bag, pleading with the wind not to scatter them and the executor smiling grimly at her incompetence… she can feel herself, slipping, falling into a dark vortex that is picking up speed and sucking everything into its dark pit..in it swirling are a photographs. Everything is out of order. Smiling with cherub cheeks, holding a new born baby in a hospital bed, hands on her hip in a bikini at a shower on the beach, counting pennies at the cash register, a bride in a wedding gown smiling radiantly, peeking into trash cans with a flashlight and poking at the contents with an iron, …bubbles rising from an abyss, teeth that fall from above, hands reaching to catch them, glances in to mirrors, unrecognizable women staring at her from the reflections. Something is moving in her chest…she feels a panic, while a hand settles around her heart! It’s becoming a struggle, she tries to shrug off this foreign grip, choking her, pulling the images into her heart, she wants to put an end to it, fighting the odor in the room…forcing herself to come up and shaking the icy cold hand in her chest…
Suddenly she is staring into a crystal ball! The old woman is saying something about her finances, they are looking good(please, fork out the 6 winning numbers!). She hears, but she does not comprehend, there is a man…she says, I can see him..
Oh God, this is not happening, I should not have…she stumbles out into the street.

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The three Graces: Οι τρεις Χαριτες

 

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The three graces by Nikki de Saint Phalle (photo not my own)

In ancient Greek Mythology, there were three Graces: Aglaia, the Grace of Beauty, Euphrosyne, the Grace of Delight and Thalia, the Grace of Blossom.
These three, I encountered the other morning on the crowded bus to work. I was sitting near the back of the bus, when I heard them talking. Amused by their innocent conversation, I eavesdropped until they got off on their stop.
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They must have been 12 or 13, still very much little girls, who had not started to try and cheat nature into making them “honey-pots” to attract/impress boys. Not a trace of make up, nail polish, little push up bras or showing g-strings. Apparently the geniuses of the marketing and advertisement industry had failed to influence them with the hundreds of ads geared towards them.
The norm being to make little girls early on into consumers of beauty products and accessories that rush them into womanhood, by-passing the years of unspoiled childhood. Thus not only putting them in the spot light of corrupted fantasies and robbing them of their chance to develop a healthy attitude towards their bodies, but also passing on questionable values of status and achievement: Casualties of commercial strategies, they will fill the waiting rooms of Psychologists, psychiatrist, life coaches and contribute to the massive power the pharmaceutical industry has over us all.
Back to the three Graces: Not one of them had a mobile phone glued to the palm of their hands, speed typing with their thumbs while loud music travels the airwaves around the plugs in their ears…they actually were making conversation and chatted about important issues of their lives. They all agreed that boys were disgusting and unrefined. I don’t want him touching my stuff, how gross, his hands on my notebooks! They giggled in unison. How much they liked their teacher, fair, smart and pretty, but even after the whole year still could not pronounce her last name. Then they went on to discuss the advantages of their after school activities, playing an instrument, sports and being outdoors. Yes, they personified beauty, cheer and delight with their pure deliberations.

I would have loved to listen a while longer, such adorable unpretentious bright lights..
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Funny thing was that a few days later early in the morning at the neighborhood hairdressers, I encountered them again…just like the fast forward button in life, there they were, now way beyond the zenith of their lives. Outside of the grip of any kind of purchasing agenda, if you overlook the fact that they probably see their doctors and pharmacists more than their own off spring/grandkids. Three grey haired old ladies – friends, who happened to run into each other at the beauty parlor. Having survived their spouses by any number of years, familiar with the harshness of solitude and the betrayal of their own bodies, they exchanged jokes and egged on by the provocative comments of the coiffeuse, they were laughing merrily. Poking fun at their disabilities and that last bit of remaining vanity, getting ready to attend the afternoon gathering at their church. They talked of their pastor, like teenagers talk about their lovers….Beauty said to Cheer: And since you are not coming to the church meeting today, why are you getting all dolled up, you got a date or something?? They all giggle in unison at the thought. Cheer answers gingerly: It’s my husband’s birthday and I don’t want him to see me like this! Delight interrupts: Oh dear, you silly…he’s dead. Wagging a finger in her direction and giggling: Onset of Alzheimer’s, perhaps, you can add that to your long list of ailments! ? They all giggle again and before Cheer can answer the beautician puts in: Oh my God, the senior citizens playgroup…Cheer then says: He always loved it when I went to have my hair done! So, I am doing it for him! This elicits another round of laughter as they try to envision the probability of him looking down. The discussion moves on to the various at home services they receive for their medical problems and the surgeries they have coming up with following stays at rehab…between them they have just about everything you can possibly imagine, but are optimistic that all is well and are already planning upcoming vacations with their church.
When one after the other gets done and takes her wheeled walkers out into the morning sunshine, it is quiet again.
I would have loved to listen longer, such gracious heartening lights…
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The magic hour

The magic hour

And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.

Roald Dahl, 1916 – 1990, British novelist, short story writer and screenwriter of Norwegian descent

Like a light at the end of the tunnel

Like a light at the end of the tunnel

Barter

Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children’s faces looking up
Holding wonder like a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit’s still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.

Sara Teasdale, 1884 – 1933, American lyrical poet

Reach for the sky

Reach for the sky

The Brain—is wider than the Sky—
For—put them side by side—
The one the other will contain
With ease—and You—beside—

The Brain is deeper than the sea—
For—hold them—Blue to Blue—
The one the other will absorb—
As Sponges—Buckets—do—

The Brain is just the weight of God—
For—Heft them—Pound for Pound—
And they will differ—if they do—
As Syllable from Sound—

Emily Dickinson, 1830 – 1886, American poet

The long road home

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(painting by kind permission of WILD)

For weeks now I have been walking the reverse roads of my childhood.  The road I take walking to work is actually the road I used when I went to school.  Only in reverse! Instead of walking up to my school, I walk to my “job” and never get home. 

My place of work is de facto just a few hundred meters from my old home here.  I left this town with my parents 37 years ago.  Nine months ago, I came back here.  With my own kids and the one parent left, my dad is buried up high on a hill with the view over my/our  old homes there, straight down into the beautiful Saronic Gulf (I am glad you did not have to see all this)!

Every morning walking down the beautifully tree covered sidewalk towards work, I think about what it was like then, as a teenager.  I also think about what it ‘s like now, sometimes the two are confused and the closer I get to work, the more dread I feel.  Maybe it was all a sign, that I should have paid attention to.

Too much of the past, the neighborhood along the side of the road has drastically changed of course.  There used to be huge tulip fields, right where the company is located.  As a child I often nicked a few tulips there for my mom.  Looking out the third floor window of our offices(I can’t bear to look out) – I can just make out the street corner, through the trees that have grown into giants, where my brother(named after the saint of travelers – how ironic) crossed the street, and was run over by a speeding drunk driver in broad day light.  41 years ago…he never saw his 11th birthday and my dad got fined in court when that idiot was sentenced.  9 months without a license and some measly fine to the city.  My dad shouted into the court room:   If I ever see your sorry ass walking on the street, I am heading straight for you, if that is all a death of a child is worth.

I believe my dad  paid more than that sorry son of a b, who got stopped by the police just a couple of months later-driving without a license and drunk again!

Those were terrible times, and I remember them well,  too well sometimes, when I think back to seeing my brothers’ face in the white child coffin, a sleeping angel…not to mention the anguish it caused my parents and the long years it took them to come to terms with their loss.

I often wonder what life would have been like, if on that day, it would have been his friend who had gotten run over by the car…not that I wished it on him..but like picturing that things would have been different with an older brother around. Maybe things would have been otherwise altogether,  maybe we would have never left and that is just something I cannot conceive my life like.  To have lived here all my life and not have had all those wonderful, exciting and sometimes difficult and toward the end downright rotten times…after all, those years shaped and formed me, in fact even my brothers death must have played a major part in who I am today.  

These are the things that go through my mind walking down that childhood road.  Not always happy thoughts but I always remind myself that things could be a lot worse.  There is always worse and so I am thankful for what I have, no matter that others have more or better, it’s wrong to orient yourself by the greener grass on the other side of the fence.

It means that I have to work harder and tend better, water and nurture more, what little of the green I have on my side.

4 weeks left in the neighborhood tomorrow!

It runs like a river runs to the sea

It runs like a river runs to the sea

And all the voices, all the goals, all the yearnings, all the sorrows, all the pleasures, all the good and evil, all of them together was the world. All of them together was the stream of events, the music of life(Siddhartha)

Herman Hesse, 1877 – 1962 German-born, Swiss poet, novelist, and painter