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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Spring Has Sprung....I Hope!

Here in Canada (and many other parts of the world) we've been waiting very impatiently for spring to finally arrive. This winter has been very long, cold and snowy and I thought what better way to think spring than to paint it. Although there are still a few snowbanks around I've decided the tulips must be up somewhere in the world!

15" x 22"

Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal. A time for giving thanks. May you have many things in your life to be grateful for. 

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Exploring The Hills On Crete ~ Part 2

This next adventure took me further inland and higher up the mountain. It was larger than the last village and I noticed as I was driving up the hill that there were ruins below the main road so that was where I was headed. I find it interesting how instead of tearing down the old buildings they just kept building up the mountainside leaving their history in tack.  I do love sketching crumbling old walls and doors!

When I first got out of my car I saw 2 women walk by. I smiled and we said Kalimara. (good morning) Turning now to the left I began my descent in search of the ruins I first saw when approaching the village.

That's when it happened. Another gunshot went off! I couldn't believe it! Surely the people from the last village haven't found their way here!

The light cast delicate patterns through grape vines overhead and bounced between the old crumbling buildings. At every turn there was another beautiful sight to behold. The further down the hill I went, the more ancient the ruins became.  For me, this is inspiration at its finest!

After a short walk I found the perfect door to sketch. It had a single large plank of wood that was at least 30" wide hanging across the entry. The textures were wonderful! There was also a rusty old gate that caught my eye so I settled in and began to sketch.

Another bunch of gunshots sounded and I couldn't help but wonder just what was going on. Some sounded fairly close and others off in the distance. I concentrated on my sketches and tried to forget about it.

After about a half hour a woman walked by. She began speaking in Greek and all I could do was smile and say Kalimara. I showed her my drawings and paints and told her I was an artist from Canada. She smiled and left.  It's times like this when I wished I could speak many languages!

Shortly thereafter a man came along and asked me what I was doing. I explained to him that I was sketching and in broken English he asked me how long I'd be until I was finished. I told him I should be done in about 20 minutes. He then said I must walk back along this narrow road when I was ready to leave.  I nodded and he left me to my paints. Of course I would do as he asked out of respect. I was, after all, a stranger here and I could technically be trespassing.

When I was done sketching I packed up my supplies and started walking up the narrow road as requested. When I turned the last corner I could hear talking and laughter ahead. At first I wasn't sure where it was coming from but then, as I got closer, I noticed there was a group of people sitting in the shade under a canopy of grape vines.

Looking into the courtyard I recognized the man and woman from earlier smiling at me. He jumped up and invited me in to share lunch with them. I was in shock! Who does this?!!

At first I felt I would be intruding but then I realized they were waiting for me. That was why he wanted me to walk back down that particular road. I was overwhelmed and of course accepted their very generous offer.

They seated me at the head of the table, a place of honour, then introduced me to everyone. Sadly I can't recall any of their names but I do remember their relationships.

The first man to my left was my host's brother. To his left was their mother, who I was told had Alzheimer's. 

At the opposite end of the table was my host's son and to my right was his wife (the woman I'd met earlier) and my host holding their young daughter.

They began piling the food on my plate and the wine was poured. They explained each of the delicious dishes to me and also proudly stated the only thing they had to buy was flour; everything else they grew themselves. Incredible! There was yummy lamb stew, spanakopita (which was light flaky filo pastry triangles filled with spinach, onions and feta cheese) and other various vegetables. They also had a delicious humas with lots of yummy garlic. I've never eaten so well!

My host wondered if it was ok to ask me questions. Of course! Anything they wanted to know I would be happy to share!

The first thing they asked was how I felt about living in Canada, if I trusted my government and was happy how they ruled the country. I told them I love living in Canada and was happy for the most part how the government did their jobs. I also stated that no country in the world was without troubles too, not even Canada. There are good and bad people in powerful positions everywhere in the world but one must trust that when voting time came that the good ones were elected.

They also had questions about our healthcare system, safety and education. As I answered each question he translated for the rest of the family. I loved every second of our cultural exchange!

As we were talking I noticed their teenage son carefully reach over and lift a silver strand of hair off of grandma's black sweater, then gently pat her on the shoulder like nothing had happened. He kept on talking and laughing and I couldn't help but feel I've just witnessed something very special.

Apparently they had a cousin move to Canada from their village 12 years ago and every year he writes to tell them they should move to Canada because life was so much better. My host was the head of the family and made decisions for them all and he was wondering if he was making the right one for them by staying in Greece.

I said why would you leave here? You have everything you need to be happy. You have a family who love you, a good home, all the food you need and a good job. (he's a police officer) They really take care of each other and respect each other and I know for a fact this doesn't happen everywhere in the world, not even Canada.

As I said these words you could see the weight of the world lifted from his shoulders. He was so relieved and happy to know he was making the right decision for his family.

When we were done eating, their little girl was climbing all over me playing with my hat and having fun. I do love children!
I was introduced to the village priest and later met his 2 sons. He also spoke English and we talked for a while. Everyone was so friendly!

How wonderful it was to sit there in that beautiful courtyard with new friends sharing a delicious lunch and learning about each other's cultures! For me this is the best thing about travelling.

When the priest left another man stopped by. He was their friend and had just come in from a successful rabbit hunt as today was the season opener. So that's why I heard so many gunshots!!  Me and my crazy imagination!!

I'll be leaving soon on my next great adventure. I depart for Greece, Spain and Portugal later this month and will be posting more stories about my travels here in the coming weeks.

Thank you for being a part of my Artistic Journey!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Exploring The Hills On Crete ~ Part 1

More stories from my time exploring Crete, September 2013.....

While staying at a B & B in the small village of Xerocampos, I mentioned to the owners that I loved to explore old ruins and small hilltop villages to gather ideas for my paintings. They recommended a few for me so I packed my car and headed up into the hills.

A narrow dusty road brought me to my first village. It was very small and almost abandoned. As I pulled the car to the edge of the single lane road I noticed an elderly man watching me from behind a vine-covered gate. He obviously wasn’t accustomed to seeing many tourists here and I wanted to let him know what I was doing.

My knowledge of the Greek language is next to nil so I showed him my sketchbook and paints to help explain my intent. He nodded and waved his approval so off I went up, up, up, the narrow alleyways. Around the first corner a big dog came at me growling and barking wildly. Thank goodness he was tied up! I considered leaving right then but I thought I’d try to make it to the old church up on the top of this hill.

About 15 minutes into my hike I heard several gunshots but since I was almost to the church I decided to push on. Surely the villagers weren’t trying to scare me off!! Still, I did have an eerie feeling as I continued on.

I passed many abandoned houses with overgrown grape ivy, beautiful old doors and rusting iron gates.

One particular house had something extra special about it. The light filtered through overhead vines that covered a small terrace creating a magical atmosphere. A beautiful old wooden door with peeling layers of blue paint told me it had been abandoned for some time.Though it's now in ruins, I feel it is still a very special place. The open door was my unspoken invitation to explore further.

As my eyes adjusted to the dim interior light, the first thing I noticed was a plate rack on the wall. Broken ceramic pieces littered the floor and on a woven chair seat I noticed a dust covered woman's leather shoe.

It was a small open space and from what I could tell it had been vacant for several years. Some old torn bits of fabric littered the mantle and a few old rusty olive oil cans lay in the corner. I could see this space had been well cared for at one time but is now a forgotten jewel. 

What happened to the old woman? Where was her family? Was hers a hard life or one full of joy? I would like to have met her.

In another home close by I came across this abandoned loom. I imagined the beautiful textiles created here after countless hours sliding the shuttle back and forth. I was walking in a living museum and felt I have become a part of her history. The stories in my mind now have a place in what happened here so many years ago.

Another gunshot went off.  I was beginning to feel like I was in a movie and I was the crazy woman who wouldn't make the right choice and leave. Ok, now you know that I have a wild imagination! The sign of a true artist I'm told!

I finally made it to the small church. I went inside and found many beautifully painted wooden panels that are still in remarkably good condition. I can see this place has been well cared for.

Silver Icons were draped across the main panel. These silver pieces are used for prayer requests and the different symbols represent what it was the person was praying for. I love learning about different cultures and traditions.

This hand carved angel was painted on a thick wooden plank.

Another gunshot went off and I decided it was time to head back down the hill. Of course I took many more pictures along the way!

The dog and the old man were there to "greet me" again. I smiled and waved as I pulled away relieved to be leaving the sound of gunshot behind but also very glad I stopped to explore this small village.

I'll share more about my next hilltop adventure and reveal the answers to the gunshot mystery in my next post.

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