Bodies That Matter

by Becky on August 3, 2017

in Right Life, Travel

Agkali-27As Ms. D and I sat on the rocks where the famous thermal waters gush from the earth in Aidipsos, a town on the northwest coast of Evia, we noted how utterly unconcerned the people around us seemed to be about their bodies. “Blithe abandon” is what I’d call it. “Blithe” because: you’re on a Greek island where steaming hot mineral water pours into the ocean as if from a spigot. And “abandon” because, well, who CARES whether you look like an American Ninja Warrior? (The answer is, exactly nobody cares; they’re all too busy relaxing or swimming or chatting up their friends who are also relaxing/swimming.) Come on, you’re not going to feel positively loopy about the prospect of lounging right in the sweet spot where the heat from that beautiful water meets the cool of the sea? Who cares what you look like in your bathing suit, right??

So, Ms. D and I, we soaked in the hot coolness. Or maybe it was the cool heat. And we had this long conversation about Americans’ preoccupation with what they view as their bodies’ deficiencies. I remarked that I’d personally heard Brené Brown give the women at the Mom 2.0 Conference a set-down for never putting their bathing suits on. “What kind of message are you sending your daughters!?” she wanted to know. And she’s right.

Ms. D and I also talked about how received notions about beauty virtually cripple us from the time we’re young. Years ago, for example, when I subscribed to Seventeen magazine, I’d spend whole summer days pouring over those pages and those pictures, comparing myself to the young women I saw there. Consciously or not, I always found myself deficient by comparison. Geez, what a waste of time! And what a perfect recipe for a lame self-story that featured me as not-so-perfect instead of Me as Bloom-in-progress. Indeed, our preoccupation with unrealistic (and these days, airbrushed) standards of beauty keeps us focused on what we view as our lack–at the expense of learning to flex our wisdom muscles or especially our kindness muscles more consistently.

But the Greeks and the other Europeans who’d come to “take the waters” that afternoon with Ms. D and me? Didn’t matter the size, the shape, the age: everyone was suited up for the bathe, and absolutely NO one seemed to care whether their proportions were acceptable to anyone else.Agkali-25b

Man, it was inspiring.

There was a little trio of women perched on the rocks near us. I’m guessing they were somewhere in their sixties. One of them had on a bikini. Moreover, she’d taken the time to apply bright, fire-engine-red lipstick before getting wet. Why she felt she needed red lips while stretched out in that steamy water, I don’t know, but I’m still smiling as I think about her. One of her companions had on what appeared to be all her best gold jewelry. Rings, bracelets, earrings–the whole, gold shebang. I love that she wanted to sparkle while she soaked. Oh, those gals laughed and laughed and laughed together. I found myself itching to know what was so funny. But more than that, I wholeheartedly admired their blithe abandon.

Look, bodies matter because they offer mobility, flexibility, strength, and moment-by-moment collisions with our senses.  But let’s not mistake our flesh for ourselves.  And let’s not misread opportunities to get in the water as opportunities to be shamed for all our perceived body flaws.  If the Greeks’ blithe abandon taught me anything that afternoon at Aidipsos, it’s that the business of really feeling the water with your friends works better when you let go of the need to feel a certain way in your suit.

But hey, I’m good at preaching. Let’s see if I can walk my talk next time I hit the beach with the Eleven O’Clock Kids!

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Greece’s Tiny Churches

by Becky on July 26, 2017

in Traditions, Travel

Agkali-16I’ve been awed and delighted by the very small churches that dot the Greek islands. Ms. D and I spent part of our Sunday doing our own quiet kind of worship, if you can call it that.Agkali-10The little churches we stepped into were empty, except for the occasional candle lit by the hand of someone who stayed just long enough to utter a silent blessing.Agkali-08Just big enough to seat a smallish family, Evia’s tiny churches remind you that sometimes it’s just you and God.Agkali-12And your traveling companion, of course.

Honestly, though. If there’s a space that feels precisely like the visible expression of my own heart when I worship, it’s a tiny church.Agkali-14Totally compact yet exquisitely fitted out with every necessary reminder that the Divine waits just beyond the door, a Tiny Church is my kind of place.Agkali-11

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Saturday Night at the Remetzo

by Becky on July 24, 2017

in Food, Travel

Agkali-05Some nights, you’ve got to step out. Because your favorite cafe serves waffles with vanilla ice cream.

And because–why not?

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Athens-05One. I drove away from Athens.

For me, July 21st is often a fraught day. Nineteen years ago on that day, my mother died.

So it was with a quiet heart that, on the 20th, Ms. D and I rented a car and headed north, bound for a more remote spot, the island of Evia. After a couple of hours, we found ourselves on a winding mountain road, zipping through hairpin turns which delivered us eventually into lush lowlands dotted with farms and vegetable stands tended by smiling local farmers. We bought jars of local honey and bags of fresh oregano. We loaded up on onions, peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers–ingredients for a classic Greek salad. The sun had kissed the hillsides, turning them amber. And man, what a noisy riot the cicadas were making!Agkali-03Two. I pointed the car toward Agia Anna, on the northeast coast of Evia.

We arrived late in the afternoon, and the sight of the coast pretty much took my breath away. Nothing quite prepares you for that!Agkali-02Three. We joined friends at their villa–old friends for Ms. D, new friends for me. Being greeted like I was a long lost cousin did my heart good.

And I couldn’t help but notice the lavender beds. When our host Mario urged me to take home as much as I wanted, I had to be grateful that I’d slipped a pair of very good scissors into my suitcase at the last minute.Agkali-01

Four. I marked the next day, July 21st, without a word to anyone, even Ms. D, who knew my mother well. At precisely 4 p.m., the hour Lynn Simms Piatt stepped into what poetess Mary Oliver calls “the cottage of darkness,” I was standing with my feet in the Aegean, scouring the area around my feet for beach glass.

I like to think my mother pointed out the only light aqua piece currently in my collection.

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Glimpses of the Divine

by Becky on July 21, 2017

in Travel

Athens-01On a morning hike through the Acropolis, you begin to appreciate the divine forms stone can take.
Athens-03Ms. D, she’s a rather divine form herself, don’t you think? Standing there whole and healthy in front of the temple of Athena Nike. But then: survivors of the Big C–they all look that way to us, don’t they? Divine in the realest sense?

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A few years ago (okay, more than a few, actually), I met my friend Ms. D.  I’d give her a flower fairy name, but I’m not sure there’s a fairy splendid enough to represent Ms. D’s unique combination of beauty, brains, and heart.

But sometimes, friends get breast cancer.

Triple positive–that was her diagnosis.  Then followed the lumpectomy, the chemotherapy, the radiation.  That was six years ago.  She survived with a combination of excellent medical attention and a regular practice of imagining herself swallowing liquid sunlight. She’s been well now for five years, a cause for celebration. And her husband, name of Mr. J, a PRINCE of a guy, decided that the two of us needed to do something grand to mark the anniversary of her remission.

So he bought us tickets to Greece.

And thus we got on a plane yesterday. Landed in Athens today.  In a couple of days, we’ll head to the more remote island of Evia, where the tourists are few and the food and the ocean are said to be fine.  Who would have thought, all those years ago, that in 2017, we’d be winging our way to the Greek islands to greet the sun, hike through ruins, thread our way through street markets, and wade out into the Aegean together?

Surviving has its perks, doesn’t it?

Thank you, Ms. D, for living. Thank you, Mr. J, for allowing me to discover Greece with your wife. And thank you Eleven O’Clock Crew, for holding down the fort while I’m gone.

Tomorrow:  the Acropolis.

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