Category Archives: Projects

blackbirds

blackbirds

pecking red rowan berries  

sing to themselves

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Read about the Rowans here. In the Wikipedia Rowan entry, mythology and folklore section: “It was said in England that this was the tree on which the Devil hanged his mother.”

This post can also be found here

Forest Fears

Festival of the Trees, issue 55, on the theme of 2011 UN International Year of the Forests, has been published by Jasmine, of Nature’s Whispers. It is an informative, as well as entertaining post, rich in text, visuals, and creative energy. The links are well worth exploring too, covering a plethora of work about nature, trees, forests, gardening, art, and other fascinating topics!

It also includes an alert about the UK coalition government’s plan to sell off many of the best-loved ancient forests and woodlands, and a link to an online petition to save the UK forests.

Jasmine writes:

“In the United Kingdom, the Conservative Party plan on selling ALL of our ancient forests. Once they are gone, they cannot be redeemed. In order to carry out these environmentally unpopular sales, the government is rewriting laws written in The Magna Carta that have protected woodlands and ancient forests since 1215”

 For more information about this issue please see The Guardian here, here and the campaign site here

If you enjoy walking in the forests as much as I do, if you care about the environment and the preservation of woodland, then this is the time to voice your concern and support the petition.

 You can sign the petition online here

My short story and post appear here

twentysix

twentysix,” the second anthology highlighting short stories from a quarter of “52|250 A year of Flash,” is out. The editors of this writing project, Michelle Elvy, John Wentworth Chapin and Walter Bjorkman, challenge writers to produce a short flash of 250 words every week for one year. They provide a different theme each week and the resulting creative work is amazing: wonderful stories, and poems, of high quality from a prolific, creative, friendly, and excellent community of writers.

Each quarter, the editors pick and highlight in an anthology the best of the stories written on each week’s theme. The current edition also includes art work, readings, and reflections by some of the writers on their creating a particular piece and the ways they went about developing their take on the theme.

Beautifully and professionally edited, assembled and illustrated, it is well worth visiting, and reading. As you will see, the editors have put an incredible amount of work into “twentysix.”

I am honored to have two of my short stories included: on theme #25 “A private person” and on theme #26 “A hair raising story.”

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You can read the anthology here

My stories in 52|250 can be read here

New Year

Happy New Year’s Day!

Remember though …

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a river flows

into a new year

every day

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In a sense this micropoem plays on the theme of Heraclitus‘ Fragment 41:  “You cannot step twice into the same river”

Δεν γίνεται να μπει κανείς στο ίδιο νερό του ποταμού που κυλάει δύο φορές.

From today on, though, I, along with others, will be entering the river of stones every single day for a month.

For Heraclitus the appearance of stability is an illusion, “for as you are stepping in [the river], other waters are ever flowing on to you.”  However, consider the possibility of re-entering the river of stones: on the one hand, the river consists of the flowing moments of experience as represented by stones; on the other hand, each time we polish and share a stone, we ourselves change, grow through our attending to and encapsulating the moment of experience.

Happy New Year 2011!

This post also appears here

International Year of Forests

The UN declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests “to raise awareness on sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests.”

Forests are vital to the lives and livelihoods of the people of this planet, to our planet’s existence. Yet, according to UN figures, deforestation continues at the rate of 50.000 square miles per year.

A number of activities have been planned for the year, including high-level panel discussions, film screenings, a United Nations commemorative stamp series, competitions, art and other public events. Look out for them here

While the launch of the Year of Forests will be taking place later, I am posting a short story grown out of the combination of the theme of the Year of Forests with that of “Silence,” a writing prompt set by participants of the “52/250 A Year of Flash.” It was first published there

I copy my short story below:

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The Weeping of the Trees

Last spring, I hiked up Mount Olympus. The valleys surrounding its peaks are covered in black pine, beech, yew and tall conifers. On its slopes, vineyards spread precariously; olive trees anchor deep with their roots. Streams cascade to thirsty plateaus. No wonder the ancient Gods lived there.

I stayed in refuges, drank from the streams and breathed the pine-scented air. Cicadas serenaded me; butterflies I did not know existed covered my arms. Wolves lusted after me.

Magical. Yet, I dared not return, fearing the strange sightings and the silence: ghostly shadows appearing through the trees, gathering near water, rushing through the meadows, with a heavy, voluminous silence falling all round. At first, I did not believe my senses. Gradually, I came to expect and even look for the shadows.

Whenever I tried to touch a diaphanous apparition – as if made of smoke – it pulled back, avoiding my hand. I thought I saw it sigh, more as a gesture rather than sound, and glide away.

It was recently that I understood – and felt freed to return. The shadows are the souls of trees haunting the Olympian home of their Gods. Felled unjustly, burned in war, famine, and in ruthless profiteering, or carelessness, they return to plead with them.

Next time you visit Olympus, look for the shadows; seek this silence: If it is not disrupted by a leaf falling, a stream’s gurgle or an animal’s light footstep, know you are listening to the silent weeping of the trees.

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You can find the story in 52/250, together with a number of other excellent stories on the theme of “Silence” here.

She missed many boats

Have you heard the expression “missed the boat?” It is pertinent to
where I live, because there are no cars, no buses to “miss” on my
island. Only boats. There is the boat to the nearest town, and the
ferry-boat to Athens, once a week. No one misses those, as they are
the only contact we have with the outside world. No one, that is,
except Meropi.

After her husband’s boat went down in heavy seas, she never made it on
time to a boat: she missed the boat to her daughter’s wedding, to her
giving birth; to the christening, and then the marriage of her only
grandchild. To the doctor’s office on Naxos, after several days of
suffering the big pressure on her chest.

She was afraid of the sea, you see. A woman born and bred on an
island! Terrified of the Aegean waves crushing on the huge rocks, she
avoided even looking at them. No wonder she missed many boats.

But, no one misses the boat to Hades. So, today Meropi is on time. She
is being carried in her coffin on board, as we speak. The local priest
performed the service already – while, curiously, numerous doves
collected on the belfry – and she is braving the meltemi to reach her
place of rest, on the mainland. I can hear her only goat’s bell
ringing, as if already missing her. God bless her soul; I am not one
for travelling either.

The End

This story appeared on 52/250 A Year of Flash

Ammersee

ammersee december
Ammersee

The lake Ammersee puts in a pre-Christmas snow show; steam included!

In the foothills of the lower Alpine Mountains, the Ammersee, one of several glacial lakes, is a real jewel in all seasons — and a place to collect “stones.”

More pictures here

See also here

Mountain Stream

a stream of stones
Stream of Stones

While waiting …

Near the small town of Benediktbeuern, there is a stream called Lainbach, flowing down the Benediktenwand mountain. Through sheer force and persistence, it has carved a ravine for itself and made stones of the huge rocks that lined its path.

It is a nice walk, especially during hot summer days. I pick polished, flat stones from its banks and add to the stacked-stone sculptures that hikers create in its shallow parts. A reminder of the Tibetan stacked stone sculptures (Buddha’s stones)  and the stones used in meditation.
See also here

Language/Place #2

The second edition of the Language/Place blog carnival, hosted by the writer and Journalist Nicolette Wong of Mediatations in an Emergency  is online. Visit it  here.  

This is what Nicolette  Wong says in her introduction to the second edition:

 “It unfolds between directions, detours and codes to arrive at fictive domains that are made real by the yearning for souls adrift. The journey continues, looking into private places and eccentricities, to trace slipping boundaries and the sense of one’s ever shifting homes.” 

Dorothee Lang, the originator of this project, who also hosted the first edition, wrote in her  “virtualnotes,”

“The idea of “> Language > Place” is to create a collaborate virtual journey through different places, in different formats, and with different languages included.”

My short story “Postcards” is included in edition #2, together with writings of more than twenty writers from all over the world. I can’t wait to read what they have to say.

16 December 2010

A Stream of Stones

What is NaSmaStoMo?

A new and exciting “international project to encourage people to engage with the world through writing a short observational piece every day during January.” The project was created by Fiona Robyn of Planting Words and A River of Stones.

This is what is called a ‘challenge,’ and it is one for both writers and ‘non-writers.’

Why?

“Because choosing something to write about every day will help you to connect with yourselves, with others, and with the world. It will help you to love everything you see – the light and the dark, the happy and the sad, the beautiful and the ugly,” Fiona writes.

This idea reminds me of the concept of ‘mindfulness’ in Buddhist meditation and its attention to the present moment. It also brings to mind Haiku, capturing a moment of insightful openness to the world by an individual human being. A haiku moment from a mindful being. I have recently become fascinated by this aspect, as well as other possibilities, of haiku and have been trying my hand at it. (For Zen and the Haiku moment see here )

In this sense, writing down our observation of a moment of stillness in our daily lives, wherever we are, is an act of meditative awareness, of fully inhabiting our selves in the present and creating a mark, a polished stone.

I am going to be writing my daily stones, and collecting them in my ‘A Stream of Stones’ in this website and elsewhere.

For more information on the A River of Stones project, please see here

Why not join the fun and the mindfulness yourself?

Sharpen your pen, polish your keyboard, cream your hands, and then, stop, look and listen!

15 December 2010

Where home is

He scours streets, bus and tube stations for newspapers. Two years since he arrived in London and he is still amazed at how many newspapers lie discarded around. Although he cannot decipher the writing, they are ideal for keeping warm.

He stuffs them inside his pullover and feels like a king: he needs for nothing. He is warm and fed: the city overflows with leftovers. He beds down whenever he is tired, wherever he finds a warm doorway from where he can look at the sky.

He loves summer best. At night, sneaking into Finsbury Park, he heads for his favourite bench, near the lake. It is cool and the sky is full of stars. Not as spectacular as the sky in his village, in the floodplains of the Mesopotamian Iraqi marshes, where the stars shine like diamonds on black velvet, but it works.

It illuminates the memories that follow him like his shadow: the rice fields and the boat he made himself from reeds, the water buffalo; his father, punting through narrow channels. The Garden of Eden.

Then he counts the stars, looks for patterns, for directions; for a sign that it is safe to return home. His heart, filled with nostalgia, trembles like a bird. Often though, he counts his blessings: here, among the floods of people filling the channels of this city, he can blend in and feel safer than in the marshes of his homeland – till it is time to return.

The End

Hot from my computer keyboard, this new short story written for the 52/250 A Year of Flash project, was first posted on their website. A story about a war-savaged, homeless man sleeping rough in Finsbury Park, North London, and the cruel strands of present-day displacement and identity.

10 December 2010 

Where is your home?

Marshes in Iraq, photo here and  here 

For photos of Finsbury Park I took myself, see here

 

http://52250flash.wordpress.com/2010/12/08/where-home-is-by-stella-pierides/

Postcards

Drawing his knees to his chest, he felt the rock with his hand. The air stunk of campfire. A suffocating fog was rising from the rugged hills below.

Alerted by a stir in the scrub, he made out a wounded bird beside him, limping. A pigeon. The bird looked him in the eye as if trying to pass on a message, then scampered away.

After years of war, first against the Italians, then the Germans, now their fellow Greeks, even the fertile valleys in the Grammos mountain range below had been exhausted. The fighters had eaten everything that could be eaten, even the homing pigeons that they used as messengers when they had to maintain radio silence. Hunger drives men mad.

His eyes searched for the bird, absurdly worrying that it might be shot.

His hand caressed his breast pocket, where he kept his postcards to his wife. Poor Eirini, he thought. She didn’t even know he was still alive; still fighting.

He had been “writing” to her without words since they retreated to the top. The silence, the isolation and above all the awareness of approaching defeat robbed him of words. He drew on the rough paper the hills, the scrub, rocks that looked as if made by God, scree; the few cypresses, plane trees, and pines he remembered from his village. Recently, the faces of men who died in his arms.

One day, he thought, his postcards to his wife would be found – these drawings would be his last words to her.

———-

I am fond of this short story, as it touches on themes from my forthcoming novel, Alexandrias 40: In the Shade of the Lemon Tree. 

A version of this short sotry appeared in 52/250 A Year of Flash, on the 26th of November 2010.

Lemon Tree Magic

lemon tree
Lemon Tree Magic

This month’s theme of the Festival of the Trees is “The Magic of Faerie Trees.”  Hosted by Salix of Windy Willow, it is an interesting if bewitching topic. If you are into magic and fairies, fine. If you are not, what can you say about mystery or magic in a tree?

On the other hand, how is it that the olive tree is capable of living thousands of years? Is there magic involved? With its strong roots surviving underground, even when the trunk looks dead, the olive tree can make a claim to magic – though less so to mystery, if the strong roots explain its longevity! Then there is its outstanding beauty: its silvery foliage, almost like a whispering cloud, fused with its ragged, gnarled, twisted trunk, providing a unique image. This tree has so many associations for me that I decided to find a space for it in my second novel, When the Colours Sing.  An olive tree in pre-alpine Bavaria! We’ll see how this strand is going to develop. But first things first.

There is the lemon tree (for which I made space in my first novel, Alexandrias 40: In the Shade of the Lemon Tree) to talk about. Glossy foliage, waxy, white-purple flowers, divine fragrance, fruit to grace any table, book or poem!

Lemon trees are said to have originated in Asia and spread in the Mediterranean regions after Alexander the Great’s soldiers brought them back from India. They are treasured trees in the Mediterranean lands. They are as important as olive trees and vines. They are vital to the health and well-being of the people living in those lands, as they have numerous medicinal, hygienic, cooking and culinary uses. From the abundant vitamin C, to the taste-enhancing addition to salads, soups, and various dishes, to decorative and aesthetic uses, to the perfume industry, lemons are most versatile.

In Northern Europe and America, there are additional associations which emphasize the lemon’s bitter taste, as in the expression “when life gives you lemons,” or the “lemon car,” referring to a defective, multi-flaw car. In a painting by Paolo Morando, The Virgin and Child, Saint John the Baptists and an Angel, Christ as a child is being offered a lemon, an act frequently associated with learning a variety of tastes and therefore being weaned off baby food.

In this sense, the lemon bridges opposites in taste (bitter-sweet), between cultural perceptions, and generations (weaning the baby off baby food). Is that a clue for interpreting the Italian, unknown artist’s painting Man and Wife, in the National Gallery of London, which has a lemon tree as a background?  

Readers’ Digest lists 34 uses for the lemon. In Alexandrias 40: In the Shade of the Lemon Tree,  there is a whole number of other uses – some surprising ones – for the lemon.  But please note: try them at your own risk!

(Forthcoming:  Alexandrias 40: In the Shade of the Lemon Tree: www.voxhumana-books.com)

18 November 2010

> Language > Place

The first edition of the Language/Place blog carnival is out. Why not visit here.  

I quote from “virtualnotes,” where this particular blog carnival originated:

“The idea of “> Language > Place” is to create a collaborate virtual journey through different places, in different formats, and with different languages included – the main language is english, yet the idea is that every post also includes snippets or terms of other languages, and refers to a specific place, country, region or city.”

For more information and how to join this monthly event, here

Oh, yes, and I took part too!

15 November 2010

Festival of the Trees

Olive
Olive

The Festival of the Trees is “a periodical collection of links to blog posts and other online sites, hosted each month on a different blog.” Bloggers, poets, writers with an interest in arboreal matters post related material on their own blogs and submit the links to the host of each month’s co-coordinator. This month’s host was Arati, of the Bangalore-based blog Trees, Plants and More.

My own contribution to this month’s Festival of the Trees, I wrote some time ago. In “If Trees, then Olive Trees,” I use the olive tree, a precious, almost sacred tree in the Mediterranean, western Asia, and northern Africa countries; a symbol of peace and hope, connecting to the “olive branch,” and the sighting of land after the biblical flood.

Short, gnarled and twisted, the olive tree even looks appropriately old. It is said to live for hundreds of years, as its roots are capable of regeneration even if the trunk above ground is destroyed. Radiocarbon dating has confirmed 2000 year old trees in several countries! A tree known to be situated in the grounds of Plato’s Academy, in Athens, lived till the 1970s. An olive believed to have been planted by Peisistratus, the tyrant of Athens in the 6th century BC, is still to be found in Athens. Even older trees have been found in Israel and Arab lands, dating from 3000 and 4000 years ago. The trees of the Garden of Gethsemane are said to be dating from the time of Jesus.

In literature too, we know of several millenary trees: Homer featured olive trees in his poetry. Remember Odysseus bed?

My own poem is about putting down roots, both literally and metaphorically. You can read it here.

My novel “Alexandrias 40: In the Shade of the Lemon Tree” is also set around a tree, and it includes a number of surprising uses for its fruit. Not long now till the book is out. Watch this space.

For instructions on how to submit to the next Festival of Trees here.