The moon is coming up behind the mountains as we unpack the car. I have just arrived on the island of Skopelos from Athens, Greece for an artist’s residency. My boat has been met by the very hospitable people who are making this possible, including the owners of the pension where I have a little apartment. I can hardly make polite conversation for staring at the sight of the moon, caught in a little crease between two mountains, because it is tomato red. Blood red. A red glaze over an orange fire. It’s the second day after the so-called Super Moon, so it’s huge in addition to being crazy red. As it ascends slowly over the course of the next ten minutes, with me watching from my little balcony, it goes to orange, then orange-yellow, then yellow and finally white. I’m pretty sure that’s some kind of very good omen.
My room is simple, but with a view I will probably never forget, or top. That white moon is soon reflected in the sea on the left. On the right the little hill town descends to a semi-circular bay, lit, and also reflected. The moonlight creates soft undulating patterns on the water that look like silk. The village is quiet, and opposite it a small range of mountains sits in complete darkness– no inhabitants.
I’ve got the Brazilian jazz going, and have uncorked a bottle of wine, and unpacked some cheese. The jazz gives the scene a sense of eternity, like some classic 40’s romantic movie. This is one of those picture book moments life sometimes presents us with. I’m wondering how to freeze it or trap it in amber without yielding up its liveliness. I want it to enter me and never leave. How do I trap it inside myself? How do we give the beautiful things we see and experience permanent residence in our souls?
The next morning I wake up to roosters crowing and the smell of woodsmoke. I’m lying in bed remembering the lyrics to a favorite Tom Waits song. The song describes a number of simple moments in a life that are poignant, precious and ordinary, and says of each “I’m gonna take it with me when I go”.
At 7:30 the sun appears over the hill across from my bed and the bell of a Greek Orthodox church chimes. It is a kind of split tone. Ten minutes later a second chime begins in another part of the village that is distinctly two tones. After a little while a third set of bells that is altogether different chimes. The light is soft and the village goes quiet again.
I wake up my mouth with the most perfect orange I’ve eaten in a long time– sweet as a flower, and bright as the Greek sun. Now the split-tone bell chimes over and over in a pattern–123, 123, with another bell soloing between. It’s like a chant. The sun is high enough now to throw spangles of yellow light onto the water. Now three bells, a bit dissonant begin in random chaos– loud and impassioned, but slowly, from the chaos a pattern begins to emerge. In my mind’s eye I can see the black robed priests making these sounds in concert, pulling hard on some long rope, and arriving at some ecstatic place where sound sometimes lives.