NEAR MOUNT ATHOS
barbara maloutas

ARSANAS ~ port

The awning of my balcony blocks the sun off the gulf in front of Amolianni, an island opposite Mount Athos. The sun’s lowering throws the thin sliver of land into shadow. In a book of monastery treasures, I study an image of Adam and Eve. They are fully clothed, but it is clear who they are: companions, she with her hand outstretched to him. The folds upon folds of their clothing hang concretely in front of a casual X-shape of wood that floats on a sea of churning water. There, two clearly pierced feet are about to step lightly upon it. Evidently, they too are saved.

TRAGOS ~ goat

This is as close as a female will ever get to the peninsula of Mount Athos—five hundred meters from the coast by diesel engine. So the monks have written in a document that is three meters long. They’ve excluded boys with no beard, as well. And eunuchs. In the twelfth century there were scandals on Athos, when the nomadic Vlachs roamed the area, their women disguised as men. The Patriarch of Athos expelled three hundred families with their herds, all the animals except for one pair of bulls, left in the Great Lavramonastery. The monks have written all this on the skin of a goat. This is how the document called tragos got its name. Sometimes women are called katsikis, a word that is used when speaking of goat’s milk as well.

PYRGOS ~ tower

A Russian man grills sausages in a small open space in front of the tower of Ouranopoli. During the occupation after WWII, a British woman who lived in the tower strung a wire clothesline on one of the top floors. She was part of a Quaker group that began working with the Greek refugees who fled the burning of Smyrna. While their houses were being built, the workers slept in the tower. Twenty years later, using a clothesline as an antenna, she sent messages to the Greek resistance. The Germans didn’t recognize the antenna.  There is no mention of this anecdote in the exhibition inside the tower, I heard it from a Greek of German decent. The Russian, who works efficiently, using a wheelbarrow to transport the grill, has a plastic bag to dispose of wetted charcoal and cleans up everything in the area with a broom. The police let him sell until midnight ,although he probably has no license. Perhaps they eat for free. Restored to house the exhibition, the tower sings day and night, filled with the nests of swallows.

 

Barbara Maloutas’ published books include the whole Marie, (Ahsahta Press), In a Combination of Practices (New Issues Press), Coffee Hazilly (Beard of Bees), Practices (New Michigan Press/Diagram) and Her Not Blessed (Les Figues Press). Her work has appeared in many journals. She coordinates the lab works at Otis College of Art and Design.