Friday, August 2, 2013
How I made my mind up
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:46 pm
Being able to stand outside at night time without a coat on felt as such a gift after the kind of never-ending winter we had been having in England. As I stood outside the airport in the dark, with the wind on my face and the smell of the Athenian March night all around something within me yawned, stretched, and started to slowly unfurl.
On a long, meandering walk on a chilly Sunday afternoon I took photos of trees, of rooftops, of churches with their crosses, of skylines, of the way the sunlight fell against it all; I came home sunstruck, grumpy, with my head full of colours and and the phrase ‘reaching for the sky’ on my mind.
For my birthday we travelled a short way south, to the seaside, and found ourselves sitting on a little concrete pier as the sun set, as dusk fell, as the lights of the stars in the sky and the boats in the sea came on; and in that space created between the departing day and the approaching night I could feel myself expanding, waiting, listening for something I could not make out yet.
There came a night when life seemed to be made up mostly of suffering, of little else besides it. I lay in bed unable to sleep, unable to do anything but catalogue the disappointments, the missed connections, the uncrossed distances — and I waited, half-patiently, half-gratefully, for the tidal wave of sadness to recede. When it did, late the next night, it left me suddenly, temporarily so awake to the wonder of this world that I was lost for words, breathless and trembling. It hurt almost as much.
Sometimes you simply fall in love. It is as if love is a puddle waiting patiently for you to come around the corner –skipping with joy, perhaps, or walking fast, intent on your feet and yet absent-minded, or, as was the case for me, unfurling, sunstruck, waiting, breathless, trembling– and step into it. One moment you are dry and unaware and the next you find yourself with wet feet and sparkling eyes, suddenly awake to a new world, and nothing will ever be the same.
Unfurling, sunstruck, waiting; breathless and trembling; wet and sparkling and awake; I think I’m going to stay.
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
I’m in love with a windy day
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:30 pm
It’s windy today. Very windy. Crazy windy. I went out on my bike this afternoon –I have a bike now– and I could barely move into the head wind, even on flat land. I had to let go of the handlebars to catch my hat, which didn’t help. I pretty much gave up on cycling after that, and concentrated on drinking coffee instead. The wind was cold –cold but not freezing– and playful, and the sky was brilliant blue. In England at the end of January, this is gift not to be taken lightly, so I sat and gathered wind and sun until I got too cold, and even a while longer.
I walked home a little lighter than I’d been when I left.
Monday, September 12, 2011
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:57 pm
We sat in my classroom on Friday after everybody had left, and we talked about the verses we say with the children. “I say this verse for myself, too,” I said. “A helper of humankind, a server of holy things,” that’s something I can get behind. And you said that so did you: holy things, yes; god, not so much. And I said, talking to myself almost, with the passion I usually bring to these things: but, but — god is an experience. And you paused to think, and agreed: yes, god is an experience.
It was a good moment.
This afternoon I took a small detour so that my walk home would take me down to the river, and I watched the sunlight and the shadows under the trees dance in the wind. There was no other word for it: they danced. I came home about to burst with gratitude — for the golden sunlight, for the wild winds, for September that brings them together, for having been there to witness it, for being here at all.
After that there was nothing to do but sit and read poetry, half-heartedly and absent-mindedly and distractedly, because after all it was that awkward hour between coming home and having dinner, and my attention span for poetry is as short as my understanding of it can be deep. One thing lead to another, and that, in turn, to this:
You are the deep innerness of all things,
the last word that can never be spoken.
Do read the rest of it. It will only take a minute, and it will help you understand what I mean when I say that it is moments like these — like beads on a necklace, beautiful perhaps in their own right but even more so when strung together — that keep me going.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
On attention, and the sunshine
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:44 pm
I had a perfect little moment today –a moment so lovely that everything was right with the world while it lasted– but I have gone and lost is memory. You see, my perfect little moment was followed by a tiny little disappointment, and my heart got a little stuck on that, as it is wont to do, understandably perhaps but stupidly, too, because all I can taste when I look back now is a subtle blend of embarrassment, sadness, and longing, with none of the happy golden overtones of the magic that had preceded it. And I think to myself, once again: spend your attention wisely and well, it is powerful and precious.
What I do remember, however –what even my fickle heart could not misplace– is the sunshine, the first truly warm sunshine of the year. I was nearly drunk on it, giddy with joy and relief and gratitude, for all winters are long, and I had held my breath for most of Monday, too. And so I sat there, silly, giggling, and grateful, for this life that I have come across and for this job that I have chosen, because although it breaks my heart at regular intervals and it makes me pull my hair out twice as often, it does allow for afternoons spent soaking up the sun and it has, ever so beautifully, filled my life with so much love that wouldn’t otherwise have been there.
Friday, March 11, 2011
Remember the magic
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:22 pm
‘Remember the magic,’ I said, and then I disappeared.
I ran off to Greece, where August was a very different experience. Turning leaves and chilly winds where nowhere to be found. Instead there were flowering bugambilias and sweltering days, and although the nights came earlier there, too, autumn seemed to exist in a different universe. But in spite of the abundance of watermelon, or the sand on my toes, or the salt on my skin, or the stars in the sky that greeted me as I lay on the beach at night something wasn’t quite right. I was glad for the plane ride back, and for the rain that fell in London.
And London, oh, London was beautiful — the river mostly, but also the rain. We argued, and I cried, in the rain at that too, and it felt a little like that day from five years ago; except that this time we managed to find our own way out of it, which, I think, is the least we can do after five years. The rain stopped just in time for the sun to come out for a sunset, and for a moment or two the sky was pink and orange and reflected, upside-down, in puddles, and I was happy to be alive.
September came next, the most mixed-up English September I can remember, with sun and rain alternating as if it was spring and not autumn that was on its way. One afternoon early on I stood in the golden sunlight arranging all the desks the school owns by height, giddy with the pointlessness, the silliness and the urgency of what I was doing, and praying that come Monday it would all turn out okay. (It did.) On another afternoon I had a conversation so honest it was almost unreal in a corner of Exeter that is so ugly it is almost beautiful, and I walked away, once again, overwhelmed by the unlikeliness of this life and of its contradictions.
On a third afternoon the rain felt softly on the puddles in the park, each drop calling forth a perfect temporary circle, and I walked through it –an entirely unremarkable park– as it if it was enchanted forest, because the stars and my heart were aligned just right and everything was alive with magic. I thought of Kyra, who once said that the writing, it only happens when we write; of Ian; and of my own words of wisdom; and I concluded that the remembering, it only happens when we remember. And I vowed to came back and to write this down –for you, for me– and to try harder.
It would be nice to be able to say that October was, as a result, filled with magic –it would make for a nice ending– but it would be a lie. October passed me by. There were moments –the first truly cold day, a warm coat and a new favourite hat, all different kinds of fallen leaves against London pavements– but little that made a strong enough impression to have stayed behind. November seemed like it would go the same way, but then something happened. I left the house to get a haircut, I think, and I discovered the most exquisite autumn fog, and I thought to myself, in an echo of something I have thought before, that Exeter looked like a poem about autumn. And in that moment, just like that, I loved this world again.
PS Am I back? Dare I say that this will be continued?
Monday, August 9, 2010
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 11:29 pm
And then I blinked, and it was August.
In this crazy country, where summer is at its height when it begins and at its worst when you need it most, August feels positively autumnal. Just to prove this point, the tree across the street has decided to start turning red. The days, too, are suddenly noticeably shorter. I cannot escape the feeling that summer is over, and that before long my holidays will be too. September, with its rush of busyness and inspiration, with its demand for focus and action, with its need for hard work and early nights, suddenly seems just round the corner.
I’m not ready, I tell the tree as I stand by the window. I’m not ready, I tell the darkness as it falls, a little earlier than it did yesterday. I’m not ready, I tell the books I need to read and the plans I need to make and all the things I need to think of. I’m not ready. I need more summer, more idleness, more dreaminess and purposelessness, more time to drift and to just be. I’m not ready.
The tree doesn’t say anything, and neither does the night. The books stare silently. And as I stare back, I know this in my heart: just as surely as I will never be ready, I am as ready as I will ever be.
Monday, June 21, 2010
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:48 pm
Summer used to be about watermelon and aubergines; blazing hot days; soft, warm nights that stretched on for ever; crickets that were the soundtrack flickering stars; praying for rain; the sea and the sand.
Now it is about blueberries and broad beans; changeable weather; always carrying a cardigan; evenings that linger on for ever; praying for sun; the green hills and the river.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
I always thought of you as being one of us
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:56 pm
I was going to write about early spring, I really was — about sunshine that arrived on the first of March and stayed for three weeks, about freezing nights and warm afternoons, about pink blossom against brilliant blue skies, about the light that woke me earlier every morning, about the excitement of it all, the contradictions in the weather, the smell of daffodils, the promise in the air. I was going to –I even took a photo— but of course I didn’t get round to it in time and now it is too late because spring proper arrived today.
Not on a warm breeze, not on a sunny morning and not in April like I had expected it to but on the unexpectedly warm and gentle rain of a cloudy afternoon in March. Oh, it won’t last; the best seasons rarely do in England; but I wonder sometimes if that doesn’t make it all the more precious. A few minutes of breathing in that unmistakeable smell of spring while watching my class in a gardening lesson were enough for me to be undone with love and longing, washed over by waves of sadness — the love and longing that run through my life like a thread of meaning, the sadness that is as timeless as it is time-specific, a blessed release after winter’s long inwardness and always, always bittersweet.
All this to remind me of my old maxim, that you can spend a winter (or a lifetime) preparing (or praying) for something and the best things will still come round unexpectedly and catch you by surprise.
Ah, the beauty of the way that we are living.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Fragments of another season
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 12:43 am
The funny thing is that I still think of myself as a writer. Because I think of writing nearly every day. Because I think of this blog –of the handful of people who read it and the things I want to put into words and the chemistry that occasionally arises between them– and my heart beats a little faster in gratitude. Because I remember the day that I called it ‘a very nice wall indeed’ and I smile proudly. My little corner of the world.
And so I went to Derbyshire and on the way there I saw the sun setting over fields, between trees and factories, through the mist Ã¢â‚¬â€ and it looked so perfectly round and orange-and-pink, a sight ever so unusual and wintery, that for a moment I just had to hold my breath and be thankful for the six-hour train journey from Exmouth to Derby, without which I wouldn’t have found myself there in that moment in time.
And then I spent two weeks walking through Shipley Country Park, one-and-a-half mile either way, twice a day, always early in the morning and often late in the afternoon, and it was mostly a chore, except for the morning when there was frost on the ground and (what looked like) frozen airplane trails in the sky, or the night when we saw the night sky reflected on the waters of the reservoir and for a moment it looked like it was raining stars. And there was also a long conversation under a tree, and Ilkeston market on a windy Saturday, roast parsnips and sweet potatoes, and a ten-year-old that held my heart like no child has done before Ã¢â‚¬â€ a child that felt ferociously, inexplicably mine, and who said “I want you to stay forever and ever” on my last day. Which still breaks my heart when I think about it.
And yet, I left; of course; gladly even. The words ‘Tiverton Parkway’ on the departures board in Derby station on yet another Saturday morning made my heart rejoice, just because Tiverton happens to be on the right side of the Somerset-Devon border, and Devon feels, strangely, inexplicably like home in a way nothing has before. Back in Devon the rain fell softly as I walked through the big park and the big trees in the opposite direction this time, and I got to sit in the middle of somebody’s kitchen while they were cooking and chatting to me which, really, is not far from my idea of heaven.
And then I went for a walk on the beach and I picked up three shells and I came home to put one on my bedside table, one on a bookshelf, and one in my coat pocket, where they proceeded to spend the following month looking and feeling utterly at home. And the sun shone on some days while heavy clouds weighted down on others, and there was even a day when the wind blew and the sea shone in a metallic blue, and the sky was so grey it made the yellow leaves on the pavement look positively bright. And despite the horribleness of the weather and the sleeplessness of the nights before I bounced down the street in the wind and the rain, almost singing that “we’re everything brighter than even the sun/ we’re everything righter than books could plan”, because there was something that glistened and shone inside me too, something like happiness.
And there came rainy days too, and sad days, empty days, and days full of tears; days of feeling lost in the world and wondering what went wrong and whether I will ever get my happiness back; days when I didn’t even notice the weather. But then the term ended and with this a fine mist descended over Exmouth, turning it into a poem about winter. And on Friday night, two days ago, I stood on the edge of Exeter’s Cathedral Green, and said “I’m glad, too,” to somebody at the other end of an invisible phoneline, and then I looked up, at the Cathedral shining in the light and in the mist, and two things happened: Exeter seemed like the most exciting place in the world, and winter started.
Saturday, November 3, 2007
The 26th of October and the weather in Thessaloniki
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 4:55 pm
Friday was one of those few days of the year I spend wishing I were in Thessaloniki. (There are a few more, mostly in the week preceding Easter.) You might not know that, but Thessaloniki is my hometown; and Friday was the day the Greek Orthodox church celebrates the memory of Saint Demetrius. And you probably don’t know that, but Saint Demetrius happens to be the patron saint of Thessaloniki as well as the saint associated with my name. Which means that the 26th of October is not only my nameday, but a holiday where I come from, too. In a way, the whole of the city is celebrating along with me — even if it is only for the fact that they don’t have to go to work for a day. But it is not only that, not really. There are banners on the streetlights, chrysanthemums in the centre’s flower beds, phonecalls for wishes across the city, and the occasional old lady walking down the street dressed in her Sunday best, carrying sweets wrapped in shiny paper.
And the weather. There’s also the weather. If you think of the year as having four seasons, the last week of October is unremarkable; but if you think of it mostly consisting of two, summer and winter, this is as good a time as any to admit that summer is well and truly behind you — just as Easter is the perfect time to celebrate finally having got rid of it. And the weather in Thessaloniki seems to know that, because it usually takes this chance to bring the winter down from Russia, all bitterly cold northern winds, tumbling the sparse city leaves and rubbish on street corners, and occasional foggy days on the seafront that take the edges of things away and make them melt into each other — the city and the sea, too.
Really, these are the things that make me say Thessaloniki is the sort of city that looks northwards more than anything else — that it belonged to the Balkans before it even thought of belonging to Greece, that it still does for that matter. Little old sleepy Exmouth’s sea winds seemed almost gentle in comparison, the town almost Mediterranean at this time of year as I walked down Rolle Street, among the fallen leaves and the blooming flowers, under blue skies and fluffy grey clouds.
This was going to be the first part of a longer post, but I never got round to finishing it and now it is too late. By the way I would like to say thank you to everyone who sent me wishes for my nameday, especially sunbeam. Oh, and another thing. Any resemblance between this post and Wednesday’s XKCD is entirely and utterly coincidental. Stop sniggering at the back, William.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Staring at the sky
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:48 pm
It seems so long ago now since I took this photo, and the weather was like this. Tonight it’s pissing down with rain again in Exmouth.
Friday, February 2, 2007
That’s sorted then
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 2:39 pm
It’s a beautiful, sunny afternoon; it’s been a week of good moment after good moment at school; I’m happy. And I would quite like to me be out there with my camera, drinking coffee, thinking of my friends, having things fall into place in my head and feeling ready to take over the world. But, on the other hand, it is also the beginning of a weekend and I haven’t had a proper night’s sleep in over ten days now, and I would love to have a nap too. I was going to agonise over that –because I really want a nap but I would also really worry I was missing out on better things– but the weather has decided it for me. In the time it took me to have lunch and write this big grey clouds took over the sky.
Thursday, November 2, 2006
The best thing about England is the weather
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:03 pm
Nobody had warned me about it. Really. They all talked about rain and the wind and the humidity, and did I mention the rain? Somebody said it rained every day for a month after they moved to Exeter. It wasn’t the most exhilarating of concepts. I was prepared for a lot of greyness, for being miserable and missing the sunshine and do you know what I got instead? I got the loveliest autumn of my life. Not that it doesn’t rain, it does, and sometimes, like last week (and the week before, and part of the week before that too) it rains a lot; but when it doesn’t the air is crisp, the sunshine bright and the colours on the leaves brighter. The sea glistens and the chill in the air makes me feel alive in places I had forgotten I owned. I thought only spring could do this to me; and yet the realisation that autumn can do it too feels more like remembering than like a discovery. For years I’ve said that we used to get autumn in Greece when I was young (back when we had four seasons instead of the two and a half
we they seem to get now) without really knowing what I meant, but now I do. Autumn used to be like that, sharp and beautiful and distinct. And, somewhere in the back of my mind, I remembered that.
I nearly cried tonight, walking home from university in the last light of the day. There was a fine mist in the air and the way the shapes of the houses seemed so clearly defined against it and the sky made my my over-tired, over-excited and vaguely frustrated soul turn somersaults in delight and amazement. Somehow, it felt like a miracle. A quiet, understated, yet utterly remarkable miracle.