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February 28, 2007

"And now a word about navel-gazing"

This is why I love the English Language … So many of our words are just so pretentious. Take today’s word-of-the-day from wordsmith.org:

omphaloskepsis (om-fuh-lo-SKEP-sis) noun Contemplation of one’s navel.

[From Greek omphalos (navel) + skepsis (act of looking, examination).
Ultimately from the Indo-European root spek- (to observe) which is
also the ancestor of suspect, spectrum, bishop (literally, overseer),
despise, espionage, telescope, spectator, and spectacles.]

-Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)

“Readers whose main interest is literary how-to or criticism can look
elsewhere, in places specifically dedicated to those matters. Doing
too much of it here would smack of omphaloskepsis.”
Stanley Schmidt; About Science Fiction; Analog Science Fiction & Fact
(New York); Jun 2001.

Want to annoy your friends with your extended knowledge of the English language? Join A.Word.A.Day

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Thursday Thirteen # 4


All about Spirals

The spiral is the most widely recognized and repeated symbol. across cultures. Jung wrote extensively about spirals, as did Joseph Campbell.

A common design element in the natural world, spirals can symbolize our journey to our higher self or the ebb and flow of energy.

Spirals are a prominent symbol in early Christianity. Take the floor of the Chartres Cathedral in France, for example. It is here that the pilgrim can use the labyrinth as a form of meditative prayer, tracing the spiral by slowly walking or crawling its length.

“Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.” Joseph Campbell

This week, I bring you 13 captivating images of spirals:

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13. 116064309_390bbf107e.jpg

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February 25, 2007

Sunday Evening Diverson - My Life Rated

This Is My Life, Rated
Life: 7.4
Mind: 7.5
Body: 6.4
Spirit: 6.8
Friends/Family: 7.1
Love: 7.3
Finance: 6.9
Take the Rate My Life Quiz

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February 24, 2007

5 Minutes for Mom

I will be writing more about this great website I discovered in the next coming days. But for now, wanted to mention that they have two great contests going on as part of their March Blog Party promotion. Why not take 5 minutes and explore all the goodies on this site.

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List #4


My Unconscious Mutterings for the week of February 25, 2007. Feel free to play along:

  1. Soldier :: Operative
  2. Lipton :: English Breakfast Tea
  3. Reason:: Raison d’être
  4. Terms :: Civil
  5. Positive :: Affirmation
  6. Example :: Given
  7. Legacy :: Meaningful contribution
  8. Solo :: Singular
  9. Instrument :: Proficiency
  10. Later :: Postponed

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I have a framed print from Story People artist Brian Andreas in my office purchased at a Phoenix, Arizona art gallery. It’s called Bittersweet:


February 26 will mark the third month since Mama’s passing.

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February 21, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #3


Presenting, in alphabetical order, thirteen books that have influenced me as a poet/writer:

1. 0676973655.01._SCMZZZZZZZ_.jpgA Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius – Dave Eggers. Is this a memoir? A novel? This Guardian Book review titled A staggeringly post-modern work of literary trickery tries to explain this wondrous feat.

2. By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept – Elizabeth Smart. A semi-autobiographical prose work the novel is concerned with the narrator’s love for a married man (paralleling Smart’s affair with the married George Barker). The simple plot – a woman yearns for a man she has not yet met; meets him, and his wife; falls in love; follows him to Ottawa and New York. The narrator-as-writer includes in her arsenal characters and events from myth, fable, literature, and the Bible.

3. 0771058837.01._SCMZZZZZZZ_.jpgFugitive Pieces – Anne Michaels. This startlingly beautiful novel tells the interlocking stories of two men from different generations whose lives have been transformed by war. Written in richly poetic language, studded with striking images, Fugitive Pieces is a profound meditation upon the nature of loss, love and the healing power of words.

4. Gut Symmetries – Jeannette Winterson. “This is a story of time, universe, love affair and New York. The ship of Fools, a Jew, a diamond, a dream. A working class boy, a baby, a river. “ A strange, wonderful book. For more information go here.

5. 0676975658.01._SCMZZZZZZZ_.jpgMiddlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides. When this book first came out, I read an interview with the author, who stated that this novel of epic proportions took 9 years to complete. Like Midnight’s Children, this novel contains a daunting array of historical facts seamlessly blended into the story about Cal and his/her journey. Through the main character’s story, I learned a great deal about the great Ford Motor Company plant in Detroit called River Rouge, about the burning of Smyrna by Turkish troops in 1922 (and the burning of Detroit by angry African-Americans in 1967), about the Nation of Islam, and finally, about genetic anomalies and hermaphroditism.

6. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie. I first encountered this book in my second year post-colonial English class at university. Rushdie is a master story-teller, fusing history with myth. At the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, the date on which India proclaimed itself independent from Great Britain, 1,001 children are born with supernatural powers. Two are switched at birth, the illegitimate son of a poor Hindu woman and the offspring of wealthy Muslims. Rushdie follows them through 30 years of partition, violence and Indira Gandhi’s iron-fisted rule.

7. 0374199779.01._SCMZZZZZZZ_.jpgMilosz’s ABC’s – Czeslaw Milosz . I am intrigued that an entire Polish genre of A B C books exist. This book was written by Milosz when he was 89. It’s a quirky memoir/meditation, consisting of short, associatively shaped prose entries - arranged in alphabetical order. I read a couple of entries whenever I need inspiration. Under A, for example, you’ll find entries on: Adamites (nudists), Admiration, After all and Alchemy.

8. Obasan – Joy Kogawa. Winning both the Books in Canada First Novel Award and the Canadian Authors’ Association Book of the Year Award, Obasan was the first novel to deal with the Canadian internment of its Japanese citizens during and after World War II. The autobiographical work tells the story of a schoolteacher, Naomi, remembering the struggle to grow up as a third generation Japanese Canadian amid the hysteria of World War II.

9. Running in the Family – Michael Ondaatje. This memoir is largely constructed through second-hand stories and these stories are filtered by memory and gossip. Funny, poignant and heart-breaking.

10. The Colussos of Marousi.jpgThe Colossus of Maroussi– Henry Miller ~ The book is a love letter to Greece, both a travelogue and a character study. After living in Paris for several years, Greece seemed to Miller a place where he felt the most intensely alive, peaceful, and balanced.

11. The Liar’s Club – Mary Karr This memoir, published in 1995, describes a childhood that many people would wish to avoid. Her mother’s alcoholism and addiction to diet pills lead to many strange episodes. Mary’s father is a rough-and-ready, quarrelsome native Texan with Native-American blood who excels as a teller of tall tales. Beautifully written and very accessible.

12. To the Lighthouse – Virginia Woolf . Mrs. Ramsay is a housewife and hostess; her husband is a cold, analytical philosopher; drawn in their wake are, among others, a struggling young painter named Lily Briscoe and their little son James, whose dearest wish is to take a boat ride to a nearby lighthouse.

Quickly, as if she were recalled by something over there, she turned to her canvas. There it was—her picture. Yes, with all its greens and blues, its lines running up and across, its attempt at something. It would be hung in the attics, she thought; it would be destroyed. But what did that matter? she asked herself, taking up her brush again. She looked at the steps; they were empty; she looked at her canvas; it was blurred. With a sudden intensity, as if she saw it clear for a second, she drew a line there, in the centre. It was done; it was finished. Yes, she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigue, I have had my vision.

13. The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts – Maxine Hong Kingston. As a first-generation Chinese American, the author struggles to reconcile her Chinese cultural heritage with her emerging sense of herself as an American. A clever blend of fantasy, childhood memories, folklore, and family history, Kingston’s work, first published in 1975, transcends genres. I am forever indebted to my modern American Literature professor, Peter Quartermain, for sharing this amazing book. And, one of the reasons I became a writer is due to Maxine Hong Kingston.

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February 17, 2007

List #3

Another word meme from Unconscious Mutterings

  1. Threshold :: Resistance
  2. Jason :: Argonauts
  3. Suspicion :: Insecurity
  4. Tender :: Buttons
  5. Tempted :: Weak
  6. Crimson :: Lips
  7. Repulsive :: Angry
  8. Bulldog :: Belligerent
  9. Garage :: Band
  10. Racket :: Noise

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Thought for the Day

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February 15, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #2


Presenting, in alphabetical order, thirteen of my favourite films :

1. Amélie ~ An imaginative and exhilarating love letter to the romantic in all of us.




3. Chinese Ghost Story ~ A supernatural-action genre complete with ghosts, humour, romance and amazing special effects.

4.Chocolat ~ What happens to a small rural French town when a woman decides to open up a chocolate shop during lent?

5. Europa Europa ~ This complex film is set between 1938 and 1945. Based on the memoirs of Solomon Perel who survived the war through a chain of extraordinary events.


6. Kung Fu Hustle~ Mind boggling special effects, deadpan physical humour and the gleeful mayhem of action movies. Stephen Chow at his best.

7. Like Water for Chocolate~ Based on the best-selling book. In Tita’s kitchen, ordinary spices become a recipe for passion.

like water for chocolate.jpg

8. Mediterraneo~ Won the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award in 1992. During World War II, an Italian platoon arrives on a small Greek island.

9. My Life as a Dog ~ Young Ingemar survives all of life’s knocks by comparing himself to those who are worse off—such as Laika, the little Russian space dog who was rocketed to his death and had nothing to say in the matter. Based on the autobiographical novel by Reidar Jonsson.

10. Rembetiko ~ Based on a true story, this film chronicles 40 years of a popular singers life, starting with the singer’s birth in Smyrna, Turkey in 1917. The history of modern Greece runs parallel to the story.

11. The Pillow Book ~ This film is divided into 10 (book like) chapters. Visually hypnotic. Peter Greenaway at his best.

the pillow book.jpg

12. Wedding in Galilee ~ A Palestinian seeks Israeli permission to waive curfew to give his son a fine wedding. The military governor’s condition is that he and his officers attend. The groom berates his father for agreeing. Women ritually prepare the bride; men prepare the groom. Guests gather. The Arab youths plot violence.

wedding in galilee.jpg

13. Zorba the Greek ~ Basil, a young English writer of Greek ancestry, meets an older, free-spirited Greek peasant named Zorba (Anthony Quinn) on the island of Crete. “A man needs a little madness or else … he never dares to cut the rope and be free.”

zorba the greek.jpg

* A special thank you goes to Novelist in Training for designing such great TT banners.

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Yet another diversion

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Her Noble Excellency Christine the Imaginary of Leper St George
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

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February 14, 2007

On the Passage of Time

Events in our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves they find their own order the continuous thread of revelation.
~ Eudora Welty

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February 13, 2007

3 Poems


I dream silent songs
and weep lost years
for seas that did not bloom

O child of mine
soundless you still sleep
liquid, in my heart

the day of your passing
thrones wept

O child of mine
for artificial fire
each night
I pray

I am pressed and flow liquid

I am pressed
and flow liquid
in his olive skin.

His hands chalices
cup my breasts
His heart a poppied river
carries me.

Words fall
wingless and I realize -
I am rooted
in his earth.


With eyes downcast,
I glance at you
and grin.

In the background,
an abandoned chapel,
guarded by an old lock
the colour of Byzantium.

Through a broken window
eyes of Saints watch
our liturgy.

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February 11, 2007

Another diversion

Your Dominant Intelligence is Linguistic Intelligence
You are excellent with words and language. You explain yourself well.
An elegant speaker, you can converse well with anyone on the fly.
You are also good at remembering information and convicing someone of your point of view.
A master of creative phrasing and unique words, you enjoy expanding your vocabulary.

You would make a fantastic poet, journalist, writer, teacher, lawyer, politician, or translator.

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List #2

Your turn to play - visit Unconscious Mutterings.

  1. The best thing :: my baby daughter EM
  2. Hold :: heart
  3. Rapture :: epiphany
  4. Cover :: Tupperware
  5. Restrictive :: clothing
  6. Baker :: Le Patisserie
  7. Author :: creative
  8. Pill :: halucogen
  9. Months :: moons
  10. Valentine’s Day :: harlequin romance

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The Spirit of God

I have inherited the mixed media collage I created for my parents some 12 years ago.

It is titled “The Spirit of God.” It is not an icon in the traditional sense, although, in the top right hand corner of the collage, I have painted a stylized sun, and in its center placed an icon of Christ.View image It is the first image one sees upon entering a Greek Church. “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life.” (John 1:5)

It is this image and these words, which are deeply embedded on the Greek psyche. I created it in homage to my parent’s bond, their strong Christian beliefs and their effortless ability to blend both their Greek and Canadian identities.

The entire icon is framed in deep forest green to offset the delicately painted purple maple leaves that dominate the left-hand corner of the painting. In the foreground, I have reproduced images of the two of them, taken in the late 1950’s, when they first came to Vancouver from Montreal. They are both younger than I am now.

My father is handsome, proud, in the way many Greek men are handsome. He is wearing a cream wool blazer, an off-white dress shirt and a narrow brown tie. His gold tie clip has a small maple leaf imprinted on it. My mother is wearing a Jackie O. type dress - white satin with great peonies and poppies scattered throughout. The single strand of pearls around her neck gives her an aristocratic look. Her lustrous black hair, high cheekbones and almond-shaped brown eyes create an exotic look. It is easy to see why my father’s family thought she was not fully Greek.

Behind them I have arranged passages from an old religious text called “Marriage and the Christian Home.” It is a book my parents purchased for me when I first began dating. The beauty a husband should seek in his wife is beauty of soul the book intones.

• Born February 10, 1925 - Eva would have turned 82.
• Born February 11, 1929 - Nick would have turned 78.

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Snapshot of Mama at 11

When my mother was a little girl of eleven, my grandfather became ill rather suddenly and passed away, leaving my grandmother a widow with five mouths to feed. My mother, although not the eldest, was deemed the most capable, and as such was pulled out of grammar school to help support her family.

My grandmother washed clothes while my mother worked for a British man, his wife and their two children. It was a huge household with a groundskeeper, a chauffeur and six maids. It was 1936 and Greece was kept under the watchful eye of Britain as trouble was brewing in the rest of Europe.

My mother was given three separate uniforms to wear depending on the time of day. In the morning, she wore white. Her main task was to help the older girls make the beds and keep the two younger children out of trouble by playing with them in the nursery.

In the afternoon, she changed into her gray uniform. Each day in the spring and through the end of summer she was given the task of filling about twenty different silver vases, of various shapes and sizes, with the flowers and greenery that thrived in the garden. She was given this task mainly to occupy her time. For the time being, my mother was too small to take on the more demanding domestic chores like mopping floors and carrying the large heavy buckets of water from the well to the main house.

It was there, in that enclosed garden, that she befriended a small white dog. Soon, she was sneaking it food and teaching it tricks. The dog became so tame and trusting that it followed her everywhere. And the mistress of the house, who came to love my mother as one of her own children, broke down and allowed her to bring her beloved pet into the house. The small white dog followed my mom as she went through the house completing her chores. And each night, this once-stray dog, now her beloved companion, slept at the foot of her tiny bed, keeping my mother’s feet warm in the winter.

During one of the weekly formal dinners, my mother now dressed, like a movie extra, in a black and white uniform, was serving guests in the dining room. All the while her faithful companion was between her feet, and my mother had to be extra cautious not to step on the dog’s tail, or worse, trip, and make a mess on the freshly polished marble floors.

At some point during the evening, my mother felt something wet around her ankles. The bright anklets of sudden blood were the richest, most intense hue of black-red my mother had ever seen. Using one of the pristine white serving towels, she tried to wipe her legs, but the blood had dried and her scrubbing left a pink cast. To her horror she noticed that throughout the entire dinner she had been leaving drops and patches of blood on the kitchen tiles, in the hallway and on the freshly polished marble floors. When she finally had the chance to break away and clean herself up, she discovered that it was not her body that betrayed her, but her little white companion’s. After that evening, the dog was not allowed back in the house.

As my mother grew older, her workload increased, and she no longer had the opportunity to spend hours outdoors collecting flowers and playing with her beloved pet. There came a time when she lost track of her adopted dog.

Soon enough, it was spring. And my mother was anxiously awaiting the Anastasi/Resurrection service for Greek Easter. For my mother this marked the one time of year she got to spend with her family. It was my mother, while waiting to be picked up by my grandmother, who discovered her former companion.

Seeing her small white dog, bruised, broken and with a distended belly, was enough to prevent my mother from attending the special liturgy that evening. Desperately, she tried to nurse her beloved pet back to health. The same small white dog, who used to sleep at her feet, died in my mother’s arms.

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February 10, 2007

An afternoon diversion

You are The Star

Hope, expectation, Bright promises.

The Star is one of the great cards of faith, dreams realised

The Star is a card that looks to the future. It does not predict any immediate or powerful change, but it does predict hope and healing. This card suggests clarity of vision, spiritual insight. And, most importantly, that unexpected help will be coming, with water to quench your thirst, with a guiding light to the future. They might say you’re a dreamer, but you’re not the only one.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

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After the Funeral

My mother’s voice
is a scissor
in my eye.

Words spill out of her mouth
like snakes.

We have only each other, now
even stones
have different names.

I wrote this poem in August 2001 upon arriving at my father’s house in Athens. Our first two weeks were spent cleaning, reordering and giving away most of the things he had accumulated over the years. It was then that I realized that with my father’s death, many of my mother’s dreams died as well. It was during those intense six weeks in Greece, that my mother and I began to heal and develop a common language.

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Saturday Morning

Woke up today with a sore throat, stuffed up nose and a foggy head. I will spend today in bed. I don’t really mind days like today - having a head cold is an inconvenience more than anything. On the plus side, being under the weather gives me permission to spend the entire day in my pajamas, reading.

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February 8, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #1

Chicken-Scratch - An introduction:

1. The first chapter published from my novel in progress is called “A Lesson in Calligraphy.” In it Magda reflects back on her father, George, teaching her to write Greek when she was a little girl. ~ Want to learn to write beautifully? Pay attention to what a chicken scratches.

When it came to naming my writing blog, the name Chicken-Scratch seemed a natural fit.

2. August 2005 — soon after the birth of our beautiful daughter, we had to find a nick-name for her. Greek custom dictates that a baby be officially named at his/her baptism. We began calling EM Kotopoulo (chicken). My beloved Mama was called chicken by her mother (my yia-yia) as a term of endearment.

We are carrying on the tradition.

3. I am a founding member of Little Chick Press. As part of the Hatch Collective, I am developing an online magazine for new and emerging writers called Egg.

See a pattern developing here?

4. Chicken :: Egg

5. Chicken Scratch :: Writing

6. Egg :: Creativity and (re)birth

7. Chicken-Scratch is divided into chapter and category sections. Travel - go here if you want to read about our trip to Greece and Italy last spring. 13 Things is where you’ll find all my Thursday Thirteen postings. Ephemera - is the catch-all category for postings that don’t fit into any of the 5 main chapters.

8. 33% less fat: this chapter deals with my quest to reach my ideal weight. There are no postings yet. Enough said.

9. Farewell Anatolia: this chapter is all about my beloved Mama. My mother’s family lived in Asia Minor (Turkey) until 1920, in a coastal town called Smyrna (now called Ismir).

10. How to be good: I borrowed this title from Nick Hornby (High Fidelity). Here is where I explore my faith.

11. Songs, psalms and stories: here is where I post my poems and longer, lyric prose pieces.

12. The olive grove: this chapter is about my beloved Dad and my experiences in Greece. As a first generation Greek-Canadian, I often find myself living/thinking between two worlds.

13. I did a google search for “chicken-scratch” earlier this week and discovered that: it’s a form of embroidery (usually on gingham fabric) AND a kind of dance music (also known as waila).

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February 7, 2007

On Writing

“Because for writers, the act of writing is an end in itself. Writers must write continually to write well.”

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February 6, 2007

Introducing Penelope

We live with an independent orange Tabby named Alistair who, since the birth of our little chicken, spends most of his time outdoors. Alistair is not yet comfortable with being a family cat. He prefers his solitary existence. Alistair is fickle. There are times when he wants to be groomed, stroked, adored. It is then that he prefers Dev over everyone else - which leaves the rest of us (read me) yearning for the same special affection.

And so, it’s with great glee that I introduce Penelope, my precious pink pig. Granted she’s virtual, but she’s all mine.

adopt your own virtual pet!

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February 5, 2007

A List

A list to post before going to bed on an uneventful February night.

  1. Plaster :: cast
  2. Cabbage :: soup
  3. Jazz :: appreciation
  4. Darts :: daggers
  5. Poke :: with a stick
  6. Bribe :: double agent
  7. Whale :: Jonah
  8. Receipt :: of payment
  9. Answer :: inaudible
  10. Dentist :: an ordinary smile

Visit Unconscious Mutterings.

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February 4, 2007

I am

My Unkymood Punkymood (Unkymoods)

The weather outside: rainy

The emotional climate in our household: peaceful, warm, and inviting.

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February 3, 2007

Happy Birthday Gertrude

Today marks the birthday of one of my most admired American poets, Gertrude Stein (1874 -1946). I discovered Stein in my second year of university. I loved her writing, use of language and sense of humour. Tender Buttons (1914) remains one of my favourite books of prose:


Dining is west.


It is a winning cake.

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Seraphim Electric

red seraphim.jpg

I came across a small American hydro-electric company on the Columbia River Watershed named after the highest order of Angels in my research. I am thankful to the company for posting such beautiful images. If I lived in Washington state, I would truly consider using them as my service provider. Take a moment to check them out: www.seraphimelectric.com.

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February 2, 2007

August 2001 - Athens

I dream of Angels.

They arrive stark-naked; their wings folded up against their ribs and they walk like birds standing up, but with great ease, as if they’re equally familiar with walking and flying; they don’t seem at all disconcerted – they watch out not to step in muddy places; they window-shop outside trendy boutiques and consider buying blue jeans; they peer in dimly lit kafenia, savour the aroma of fresh-ground coffee. They don’t stay long. The “krak, krak, krak” of the tavli boards, the non-stop chatter and the persistent cloud of cigarette smoke grates on them.

It seems my Angels are visible only to some people. Children call out in joyful enchantment: Two Angels, Two Angels. Young couples zipping by on motorcycles can see them perfectly. In my father’s neighbourhood, the grocer, the baker, the butcher, the woman, Angeliki, who wanders the streets selling lottery tickets and lives in upstairs apartment, can’t see them.

These two Angels adjust their pace according to the rhythms of modern Greek life. Observing the hairstyles of young men, they realize their own hair is much too long, so when they finally arrive at 19 Perikleous Street, they ask for scissors and a trim. I watch these iridescent insects fold their massive wings and hunch their shoulders to pass through the low door of the guesthouse where I sleep.

A clear bell like voice calls out “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.”

I look down at my hands and see that I am holding two morsels of bread.

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On the Presentation of Our Lord at the Temple

Since Mama’s passing, Dev and I have been attending church services infrequently. Normally, we’d be in attendance participating in the Divine Liturgy and staying for the luncheon afterwards. Today, we were conspicuously absent. I have felt my connection to all things Greek become more tenuous …

My father was the storyteller, my mother the historian — the keeper of family secrets and traditions. And I wonder now, with her passing, how many of the traditions I will keep?


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February 1, 2007

A Dedicated Reader

According to the following quiz, I am considered a dedicated reader … Now if I could wave my wand become a dedicated writer

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Book Snob
Literate Good Citizen
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

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