Day 6 & 7 LENT

It’s not just about the food.

The cultural and religious references defining lent have been engrained since my early upbringing. Greek culture like countless others, defines the period of lent as a way to “cleanse” the body, and ultimately the mind by abstaining from any meat, eggs, cheese or animal bi-products for 40 days before the coming of Easter, Pascha, Pasqua, Πἀσχα. All organized religions practice some sort of cleanse, renewal, in order to prepare for spiritual and mental advancement, not many follow what traditions ask of us.

For the 20 plus years I’ve lived outside of Greece, this tradition has taken a new meaning for me. Although the mark of Kathara Deytera (the official beginning of lent) as a jumping off point is lovely to partake in, I left behind the idea of eating Taramosalata and boiled Octopus, and focused more on what behaviors, thought processes, ideas and babits I needed to abstain from and ultimately do away with. It’s not just about quitting animal meat, or losing weight, but revisiting what truly unhealthy habits, we must let go of.

If we are to honestly connect with our bodies and minds in a healthier way, we have to make a concerted effort to let go of habits, behaviors, though processes that cause damage, hold us back, and keep us from our highest potential. It may be hard or easy, but ultimately rewarding to remove personal obstacles to our growth.

For the next 40 days make a choice, stick to it. A new goal, a new habit can replace an old damaging one. Removing sugar is not effective if you’re drinking 4 cups of coffee a day and smoking. A short run or a long walk can replace a cab ride, aiming for a meaningful conversation instead of pointless chatter. Abstaining from meat can be coupled with a holistic approach to food and how you prepare it, healthier food choices overall, healthier body and mind choices in the long run. My 40 day cleanse short list I’ll share with you here.

  1. remove all alcohol, spirits & coffee
  2. short run 3 times a week and weight training
  3. writing every day for this challenge
  4. spend quality time with friends and family
  5. schedule a self care session once a week.
  6. Shorten my time online that’s not work related.

write down your short list for lent. Share this experience with your loved ones, ask them to keep you accountable to your journey. See you on the other side.

27 Day writing Challenge Revived

Two years after a global pandemic – The new normal is anything but.

After taking an extended hiatus from my daily posts during this pandemic, I’ve slowly come back to establishing a forum for reflecting and discussing the issues, thoughts and ideas that have stuck with me for the past two years. I don’t think I’m alone in the creative conundrum that was born out of these times we are all living in. I’ve made small efforts to ignite thoughts that mattered, ideas that stuck, words that felt right. Now, it’s time. Of course the events that have unfolded since March 2020 are so life changing; they significantly impacted every single part of our lives. The world has been turned upside down and inside out, and I’m grateful to be alive at a time like this.

The past two years have been an immense opportunity for self reflection, global awareness, re-evaluation and re-calibration. In other ways a revelation in grasping a renewed sense of purpose. Dealing with the fear of the unknown, trusting our instincts, understanding what works and what doesn’t in our lives; is a lifelong experiment. The images, feelings and thoughts of the events that shaped those first two weeks of March 2020, felt like tectonic plates were shifting under our feet. My then daily posts felt trivial, and unnecessary in the grand scheme of the survival mode we were globally thrust into. My world became my Brooklyn neighborhood. The mental exhaustion of times we are all living through, had stigmatized any real creative juices from flowing. Growing, moving, changing cities (again), packing up my life in New York, and experimenting with a life that’s new, different and strangely familiar; are some of the things that I will be sharing with you all during the next 27 days.

now, the time has come.

There are too many things that have sparked my attention in the past two years that it seems ripe for the picking.

Join me, and welcome to my stories from the Edge (again)

Stay safe, aware, and grateful.

BETWEEn a rock and a hard place

A tale of two cities. in Verse

Street Art by INO – Athens, GR

Metal gods loomed over the skyline, reminding me to be free instead of locked in up in my head. I didn’t know any better. Letting the isolation sink in, it cut to the bone, sapping my very existence. I learned quickly. Pretence isn’t looked upon kindly here. Here you make it because you ate shit for breakfast and it really doesn’t matter what anybody thinks.

“What the FUCK are you looking at!”, she shouts as you quickly avert your gaze, as she hits you with daggers of anger and fear. Imagine how hard you have to become in order to survive this grind and still plant trees of love and understanding, but now they’re rebranding Gotham City into a Monopoly Game. Property moguls eating up land faster than pacman ever could.

You once stood tall, but now.

Game Over. Move over lady this isn’t for you any more. Dark alleyways, dimly lit, covered in the wheat paste dreams of momentary and permanent art gods. The grunting sounds of kitchens working to feed a city that never slept. But now silence. As you hear the footsteps in front of you disappear.

Kindness comes from places you hardly expect. Even though they say no one cares, you get the stare of recognition of common pain. She knows what you’re dealing with as you fight back tears on a Brooklyn bound F train. Get off a stop early to collect yourself and, put on your dark glasses so others don’t see you strain. Suck it up, pull it together. There will be good days and bad days but this place makes a Human out of you with a capital H.

You walk up second avenue, conjuring up images in your head about how you got here in the first place. Will you triumph over your fears, or cower in self defence? Condensed dreams in a flash, sweep by you, bringing you to an intense euphoria as you realize it’s all about to end.

Walk a block up.

Freeman’s Alley – LES

Those moments of quaint rarity and clarity bubble up into the Manhattan Skyline. Right across the way, under the PepsiCo Sign, sublime afternoons overlooking the Hudson, moments of chaotic oneness, undone through the blaring sirens of cop cars. Bars overflowing with lonely boys trying to get your attention. “Hey pretty, wanna grab a drink with me?”

Nah I’m good.

LIC- Queens

I remember how I once stood, alone wondering how this would all turn out.

Fade to black.

Sirens, lure me onto ancient lands that are far more about fiction than fact. The dream is intact even though we are packed in like rats. 5 Million souls and counting, and everyone is in your damn business.

Monastiraki, Athens by night

A village, A rock, An ancient ideal now lost in the cement crevices of the mind. We are strangers here. Nomads. Others. Coming and going and finding our way out of the darkness. Slowly trying to prove to every passerby to look up at the skies, instead we limit ourselves to what’s available, attainable and nothing more.

That isn’t my game.

I came here to create change. No matter what. Lingering in the dimly lit passageways of my fatherland now lost in its ugliness and disrepair. People here stare at you as if trying to find the answer to their own insecurities and grief. Knee deep in regrets they never knew they had, they stand tall against the creeping fear mongering and laundering of hope.

I smile gently urging you to invite me to your ceremony. My tears shed in apotheosis of a dream long deferred, but no more. The allure of Athenian mysteries becomes clear, a litany of a city long demolished & rebuild on repeat.

I stand still for a moment to take it all in. The clouds of doubt have dispersed once again, to reveal the softness within.

Welcome.

New York Stories part 2

How to keep true to a city and leave it behind.

Manhattan Bridge May 2021

I’ve decided the let go of New York. My time in the City that helped me grow as a person, a woman and a writer, has now come to a close. I’ve not let go of her yet, and even when I eventually physically leave the city, I will never leave her. She’s been my companion through truly hard times, and through beautifully joyous ones. The stories of the past nine years are coming back to me as I gather them, life morsels, savoured through every memory created in this vast metropolis.

The stories I will continue to tell, are built upon this city of metal, false hope, real struggle and immense courage. She continues to evolve, as I have. The observer and the observed once again merged. Now more strongly than ever before; I look at her slowly disappearing from my rear view mirror as I move decidedly and quietly to the next leg of this writing journey.

She will always be with me, I’ll take her wherever I go In the only way I can, through my writing, my poetry, my spoken word and my commitment. I’m devoted to her in ways I never thought possible and although leaving her may be a foolish errand, New York will push me no matter how tired I am, to build something worthwhile, and something that’s truly mine.

Biggie in Brooklyn

Leaving is never easy. She may not forgive me. I hope she will. My love for her is eternal. She knows me like few cities do. She’s seen me break down in tears in public like all New Yorkers have because let’s be honest it’s a right of passage. You cry yucky tears on the train home from work next to a complete stranger and no one will bother you; Not because they don’t care, but because crying in the subway at 6:00pm on a Tuesday beckons you to the reality that is this city. She’s a bitch but she cares.

I’ll cary her, as she carried me though these tough, enigmatic, wonderfully tragic years of transformation. I will return to her doorstep from time to time, for coffee, a bagel some good conversations and a slap in the face to remind me to stay true to my convictions.

Thank you baby it’s been real. F*ck I love you.

Easter at a distance

Quarantine Culinary Connections Through Cultural Expressions

Easter is a thing. In Greece it’s a big thing. I can’t describe it in any other way; but as the most important religious holiday of the year. Christmas has nothing on Easter. Christmas is an American construct, Greek Easter is a religious and pagan ritual. Most Greeks just stick to the copious food and wine of the obligatory break to the 40 day long lent, that follows the days of distance from meat (aka Apokries) between February and April. Easter is a time of celebration and rejoicing following a time of renewal, rest, and (νηστεία- lent) that certainly dates back to the ancient Hellenic rituals cleaning before the coming of spring. It is a culmination of a journey from one pagan/christian holiday to another.

Easter is a huge thing in the Greek community of any major American City. Among Greeks Easter or Pascha is a unifier. We all celebrate it in small and big ways. I’ve never intentionally set foot in a church, I’m not religious and I’m largely a vegetarian and hardly drink but like so many others absolutely love Easter. Greek Easter is defined by three things meat wine and red eggs; plus a dash of spirit (yes the holy one). During this time of quarantine and self isolation, I wanted to find a way to bring the tradition of Easter Sunday lunch which turns into dinner, story telling, music playing and drinking into this time of quarantine and isolation. This year has been incredibly different, difficult and eye opening.

Easter is a time of gathering. Not just to “receive the holy light”, not only to gather in a church and listen to the midnight sermon, not just to eat the thick, hot aromatic leek, liver and entrails soup (served at the stroke of midnight on Sunday, but to be together with dear friends and lovers, family and people you care about. It’s about community, conversation, deep embraces and kisses on the cheek with the slight aftertaste of wine, salt and lamb grease. Easter is about flavors, music, and a promise of a bountiful summer. This year despite that aching feeling of isolation and lack of human interaction; didn’t feel any different. These things can still be shared, despite the distance.

I woke up this past Sunday morning with a strange joy I’ve not felt in a long time, because of Easter. Yes I the atheist vegetarian needed, wanted this connection with ritual, tradition and belief, plus lamb and potatoes in the oven (aka Αρνί με πατάτες στο φούρνο). This dish is synonymous, in its many different renditions with traditional Easter Day fare. Lamb on a spit or in the oven if you live in a city, is Easter on a plate. This time of quarantine has given me a chance to explore things that I’ve needed and wanted to understand better for myself, through the lens of forced separation from my community.

before

Easter is about family. The one you are born into and the one that you acquire along the way. We gather and share in this tradition, with those we love and cherish the most.

Easter is inclusive. Regardless of religion or belief, people gather to be together and share food and copious wine (I must stress this) with anyone who wants to be included.

after

Easter is about being close, about sharing stories into the late afternoon, before you take one last swig of wine, watching the sun quickly vanish into the horizon. While savoring the last morsel of potato covered in lamb grease that you will probably heat up again next week, you lick your fingers and taste just one last rush of thyme, rosemary and garlic; you promise yourself that next year, your embraces will linger a little longer, your stories will be that much more rich and the tradition regardless of our belief is there to bring us just a little closer.

Χρόνια πολλά….

More tomorrow from the quarantine diaries.

Quarantine Diaries: A strange quiet in the Air

How do we learn to navigate this ever changing new reality.

We are weathering an unpredictable storm. Massive life shirts in a matter of days. Every week that passes there is a new norm we must contend with. A quiet space we never had has suddenly been created along with a new rhythm to our lives. Everything and everyone we want so deeply to connect with has been kept away from us. Our loved ones out of reach, our moments of human connection so deeply skewed, distorted and altered beyond any previous experience or recognition. Technology brings us close, when at the same time it keeps us apart. This unending conundrum of how do we stay connected when we aren’t allowed.

This time of forced quiet and self-reflection is deeply needed. If we take this time apart from our daily lives, we can discover something far more important that we have not quite acknowledged. Quiet Time. I live in a pretty noisy neighborhood. Not as noisy as some parts of New York but like any densely populated part of the city; my neighborhood can be very busy. People come and go, cars drive by with loud radios playing and now the whole neighborhood is empty. The cars that used to honk at 7.30 in the morning are no longer there. The line that used to form in front of the cafe down the street is no longer there. No one is going to brunch, no one is hanging out till 2 am in front of a bar. The city is at a standstill. A held breath, waiting to exhale.

It’s a full moon. And I’m sitting in front of my window gazing in awe at this urban sky that for once seems clearer and more serene. More than any other time in the seven years I’ve lived in New York, this city is . Yet I feel an unease that can’t be explained. I associate New York with as much noise as possible and now the silence has given me a moment to really ponder what is important and what is frivolous.

As I grapple with the waves of fear, insecurity, calm, anger, calm, reassurance and back again. The silence allows for the thoughts to dissipate and looking up at the sky that surrounds us all, I’m comforted by the fact that we’re all in this. For how long? Predictions aren’t my game; but whatever the length of this pause, I hope we learn something useful for the next chapter of our lives.

Be Safe, Be Well, enjoy the silence.

Day 0. Soup For the Soul

Communities built, sustained, and healed on the sharing of a bowl of soup

This is a little bit of a departure from the hunkering down of previous daily posts. I needed to revisit a post I had been planning on sharing for some time but tonight is as good a time as any to talk about how communities sustain and protect each other not only in times of joy but also in times of need. During these very uncertain times, some of the communities I’ve been and continue to be a part of, and who have sheltered me over the years here in New York; are coming together to support, connect and sustain each other when isolation and a global health crisis has brought us to a very poigniant reconing.

I’ve been living in New York for seven years now. More than I ever expected to last and fewer than most would accept for a person calling themselves a New Yorker, so in this eternal grey area of half existence I have picked my communities from very different parts of this city. Many of these communities have opened their hearts to embrace, assist, accompany and comfort during this very challenging and stressful time. Without them I’m sure we would all go a bit mad. I have only placed a small pebble in this vast web of support but we all have something to offer and contribute during these trying times.

This post has been hard to communicate since a feeling of helplessness has overtaken many of us during these past few weeks. We are all in a state of being and not being. Existing and not existing. Communities of all forms are even more important now and thankfully more and more of them are becoming a resource and a virtual meeting place for those who might need it. Yoga and meditation has become my guide in very uncharted waters, as more centers are using their vast network to become a compass in a very uncertain storm.

Yoga classes, lectures, live streaming, meditation and dance sessions and my own practice has been a life saving line and connection to the community that has in the past and even more now been a savior and peace of mind. Daily meditation sessions, breathwork, movement and walks, keep the body and mind connected. Now more than ever my old Ashtanga family is coming together to share, inspire and support. Without that I am sure my capacity to deal with the extra stress and feeling of uncertainty would inevitably become that much harder.

There are countless other resources out there that are being created on a daily basis. Art, dance, theater, music. These things matter, now more than ever. They are vital for all of us to become closer, kinder, and more productive. Writing on this blog daily brings me closer to those who might be feeling exactly as I am and I’m determined more than ever to keep going. Reaching out, connecting in these times of isolation ( self or otherwise) is key to weathering this dark storm. If you need to move move, if you need to breathe breathe if you need to read read. And if you need comfort, there is always a community available to you, no matter where you might be.

As I sit in my kitchen with a piping hot bowl of homemade vegetable soup, I can’t help but wonder how we build who we are when we find ourselves in between places, and in great uncertainty, things we have otherwise have taken for granted, just cement a community in the simplest ways.

In trying times like these, we are called to build families, connective tissue and communities in ways that are never clear cut, but always necessary for survival and healing.

Till tomorrow… stay strong.

Day 20 & 21 Springtime Poetry

Committing to the daily writing and posting challenge this year, more than any other year, has been of utmost importance. A sense of continuity for myself but also for you few but lovely loyal readers out there. It will probably continue to post thoughts, stories, poems, as I will not stop on the 27th of March; which was the original deadline for this daily posting challenge. Until then here’s a small catch up on the slightly interrupted flow.

This past week has undoubtedly been a strange, stressful and unexpected for us all. I’ve been remiss the last two posts so I am making a delayed submission with some extras before proceeding as scheduled with day 22.

March 20 marks the official day of spring. March 21 we celebrate world poetry day and in light of those two very special occasions I sat down and leafed through my favorites; to pick a poem that I love dearly and want to share with you all. Spring is when in Greece we dawn our march bracelets and count down the weeks and months till summertime approaches. March is known as a complicated month; unpredictable; precocious; unstable, and this time it’s reached a spectrum of unpredictability and fear of the unknown that has gripped me as I am sure many of you out there. Despite that I can’t not write and share and communicate that this is not just about fear. I took a walk in the park near my home today for what may be the last time before New York completely shuts down all non essential travel. There is a peaceful and eerie quiet in the streets. There are less people out than would have been on a sunny day but I captured some moments on my walk around the block and meditated on what I’m truly grateful for. What I felt more strongly than ever is the need to keep going.

March 20, 2020

We must encourage art and writing and story telling to continue and hold a place for creativity to flourish even through we’re all faced with these incredibly uncertain times. A daytime breeze is still beautiful, a walk in sun is healing, a beautiful song uplifting and a poem re-connects us all. I’ll keep posting and do hope to hear back from some of you wherever you might be.

Till tomorrow: A poem by one of my favorites E.E Cummings

Day 12 & 13- Isolation

It’s midnight. Friday the 13th 2020. Doomsday looming in both my homes. The bombardment and monopoly of the 24hr news cycle focused on a pandemic taking over the planet. Athens is already under lockdown from the spread Coronavirus Covid- 19, and New York City is not that far behind. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that I would be experiencing something like this, my parents isolated far from New York and me wondering what the next few days will bring. Fighting hysterical posts on the one end and dismissive political figures on the other; there needs to be a mind and body triage to keep me going.

Two things that have always comforted me in good times and bad, are books and music. Both have been companions and my shield. I love diving into a good book and music, well music has been my salvation over the years, so a virus outbreak calls for some serious tunes and reads. It seems that very soon I will have to rely heavily on both for solace in what have already been very trying times. As an homage to two of my favourite pass times; I’m invoking the ever amazing BBC radio program Dessert Island Discs to make a virus lockdown mix. Music no matter how bad things get will always soothe the weary mind and heart. So with our further delay my dear readers… Here is :

My Desert Island Disks and Books for the threat of a citywide virus outbreak lockdown.

1. Here Comes The Sun — The Beatles

Why this song : Because it’s one of the first songs I ever remember hearing as a child in our Kifissia ( northern suburb of Athens) apartment when I was probably around 4-5 years old. It played on the Techniques turn table my dad had at the time, and I remember my mum wearing her very 70s glasses at the time and looking stunning. I still remember the look of the apple turning around and around 37-38 years later. It makes me tear up every time I hear it.

2. Wish you were here — Pink Floyd

Why this song: It’s epic. Plain and simple. Pink Floyd were and are some of the most prolific musicians I’ve ever come across. My first ever concert was the Pig Tour concert in 1987 at the Olympic stadium in Arhens and I remember like it was yesterday.

3. Personal Jesus —- Depeche Mode

Why this song: My love for Depeche mode and especially this song was born during my London days in the early 2000s, and it’s so telling of the era and the tone it was recorded in. The false prophets and the lost souls in invokes and the idea of a personal savior that never was.

4. Tiny Dancer — Elton John

Why this song : It reminds me of my first and last College boyfriend and who I was at the time. I was for all intents and purposes a dancer, living, breathing that art form in all its glory and whenever I hear this song, I relive my young self in upstate New York and my long gone college days. My passion for this guy who broke my heart and how he knew how to speak through song what he could never voice in his own words.

5. Dionisis Savopoulos — O Karagiozis

Why this song : The love goes deep here with this artist and this song specifically because it describes a whole generation of Greek entertainment, the idea of the pauper fool who despite his squalor always manages to get by. The long lost art of theater of shadows that kept generations of Greeks ( mostly lower and middle class greek families) entertained. This artist who’s the Greek version of Lucio Dalla, part story teller, part folk artist, he raised me with his music more than any other Greek artist I can recall ( and there are many)

6. Koupes — Marina Sati

why this song: Marina Sati to me exemplifies all that is wonderful about the new Greek music scene. A multicultural, multiethnic strong voice. A woman who exemplifies all that I love about the newer generation of Greek musicians. This song is absolutely gorgeous, beautiful vocals, great musicians. It takes me to a place I love visiting in my mind. A sunlit beach with no care in the world.

7. Vivaldi —- The Four Seasons

There are many exceptional classical pieces of music, but for me Vivaldi although often over played and considered not as sophisticated as other classical composers, is one I go to often. Especially the four seasons. It seems apropos to our understanding of nature and how it makes us feel.

8. Faithless —- Insomnia

This is the ULTIMATE dance till your bones come loose club song of the late 90s early 2000s. I get high only from its rhythm and it’s beat. My body feels so good letting its rhythm take my mind off all that’s troubling me. It takes me back to my years studying in London and my hope at the time. I absolutely love this track.

Ok one last one which is cheating the basic premise of the 8 tracks to take to the desert island but this last track is probably my ultimate piece of music I will listen to on my desert island and brings up the most beautiful memories I have of my time in London.

With a bang

Keith Jarrett — Köln Concert Part I

My list of books for keeping sane in insane times will be up tomorrow night. Till then..

Stay safe everyone.

Day 9- The Body Politic

What are we losing by allowing others to decide how we exist?

We push our bodies to the limit because someone said it’s good for us. Eating, drinking, exercising in ways that are determined by others. Experts, scientists, doctors, all there to give their two cents on what and how we should be. We end up blindly following rules, dogma, routines and health fads with no consideration or self exploration.

Are our bodies really our own? And if so, how are we allowing others to dictate, decide and decode them?

The mere act of self reliance, self discovery and self care is becoming a political and revolutionary act. Taking agency over our health, and our wellbeing is a statement of defiance and solidarity.

Especially as a woman in this moment in time, I’m increasingly being dictated to, and told how and in what ways my body and its functions are still a political and social bargaining chip. Instead of moving towards body independence, we are still being told how to be; what to weigh, what to wear, how to heal and how to express and impress our corporal identity.

Human bodies are a commodity, a major political agenda, and a currency that is far beyond just health and wellness. Multi billion dollar industries are built on re-defining, re-arranging and re-telling of the human form, and for women especially it has become essential that we buy into the idea that EVERYTHING we are starts and ends with our face and our body parts. We are not a sum of our parts, we are just parts.

The human body is under constant attack, surveillance, and scrutiny. We belong to someone else from the day we are born to the day we die. Especially the day we die. We have to ask for permission to exist and we can’t decide for ourselves if we wish to cease to exist.

How can we create change in the world if we can’t claim ownership over our own bodies? How can we claim to be free thinkers, doers and beings if we are told to ask for advice and permission from others on how to exist ?

How can we create personal body freedom?

Till the next episode… Rest, reflect and recharge.

Featured image by : Alexandros Koromilas