Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Time of Gifts

Due to unforeseen happiness, I have forgotten to mark the passage of not only my father's birthday - but Patrick Leigh Fermor's name day (Michali to his Greek compatriots).  November 8 is somewhat a sacred day to me because of these two men.  My father being the underlying theme behind most of my creative work (and his death the defining influence on my life); or at least the source inspiration and deeper connection to an ancient culture that calls me back to the only place that has ever felt solid and real to me: Greece.

Greece has always been a specter lurking in the corners of my mind.  A place I am supposed to go, supposed to long for, supposed to make pilgramage to.  The motherland.  Home.  My whole life has been built around a place I can scarcely afford to visit.  My father ran from it as a teenager to escape things that I have only vague notions of diluted through my mother.  He left this world when I was 17, unfortunately I was too young to ask the kind of questions you only ask as an adult.  He remains a mystery.  All memories I have of him confirm this.
Anger and unresolved sadness kept me for many years from confronting this PLACE (Greece) because my father had died there out of sight.  Returning to Greece is the final acceptance of death and so I have not returned.  
I travelled much in the years following his death, went to Europe several times, but never back to Greece.  Sometime around the age of 24, shortly before my ill-fated marriage, I discovered the writing of Patrick Leigh Fermor.
How?  I cannot remember.  Most likely I was picking up books with interesting covers and found "A Time of Gifts".  I won't go into detail describing his work, but suffice it to say he was the very last of his kind: adventurer-scholar.  The world he lived in no longer exists.  I became infatuated with this individual, and learned as much as I could about him.  His journey on foot from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople, his time in Crete, sabbaticals at monasteries throughout Europe and wanderings around the Caribbean.  PLF settled with his wife in the Mani, a particularly harsh and isolated part of the Peloponnese.  
Eventually I came to PLF's books about Greece: Mani and Roumeli. What can I say about these?  There is no more beautiful or devoted a description, an offering of words, to Greece and the death throws of Greek folk culture.  His descriptions of the miroloyia moved me to tears, and he showed me parts of my own self I never knew were there. 
Thus started my journey to where I am now, my inner creative journey, my fascination with rural Greek death customs; my father's death, the death of my marriage, the death and beginnings of everything.  An Englishman gave me back myself, gave me my culture, gave me the freedom and permission to mourn and weep openly.  To celebrate the absolute, to enjoy the beautiful.  He showed me the way home.

Patrick Leigh Fermor died on June 10, 2011 at the age of 96.   I cried for many days.  A trip was planned for November of that year, where I would finally return home and when I would visit PLF's home on November 8, his name day, my father's birthday, when the doors of his beautiful home were open to anyone who wanted to visit.  I wanted to tell him what he had done for me, what I was creating and working on and how much he had inspired me and how much I related to his life.  Even now as I write this, I am crying.  Not for that missed opportunity, but because Patrick Leigh Fermor was a gift to this world, an actual hero, a true artist.  

So thank you Paddy, for taking me home again.