photo by Stratos Kalafatis 

Everything comes back to the Archipelago. Everything returns, winging over it, spinning round in dreamless sleeps, haunted by nostalgia. Why this nostalgia? Without knowing the past or the ghosts of those standing next to me, I sense the moment they feel its chill. Nostalgia is felt, is created, makes flesh of its own stuff.

I hear this stuff: enclosed islandsquares, like stages in theatres, from whose mouths adolescents suddenly rush forth into the world; swimming all day long, skin tanned and polished, canvas shoes; transient afternoons, unbearably sweet in the early evenings, the twilights unbearably mauve, spread out in the harbour under the little lights, gazes meeting on the quay, people, gazes, touches, the scent of hair, freshly-washed shirts, traces of white flesh untouched by the sun’s caresses, youths, girls, fractured blues from hoarse-voiced cassette-players. People, people, gazes, images long melted into air, now return, fragrant, and deceptive. The stuff of nostalgia.

The borderland of the stuff, the passage between the luscious, single-boned Past to the multi-valent spineless Present, the protean image of Pirandello, on the beach in Sicily, as recorded on film by the Tavianis in ‘Kaos’. The mare nostrum awaits, invites; people arrive, breathless, on the sands; they rush to the ceremony of salt water. The ceremony.

Avdeliotis shows the same ceremony in the fundamental ‘Tree we Wounded’. Amongst them I see my grandfather, my grandfather from Chios, from Syros, from Romania, from Piraeus, I see the Island, drenched in light, a viper on the oleander, straw hats and caps, open shirts and drill trousers. They stand, cease sweating on the edge, the sea deep, cold, chilling, invites; the sand like rice; the fallow fields tremble, ash-coloured. A sign. They rush into the salt water, into the ceremony.

Stuff of nostalgia: what we remember, what we lived, what we think we remember, what we need so much that we relive it again and again. continuum. A fabrication? It doesn’t matter. Indiferrent

There it is, somehow we palp the traces, the roots of our origin in the Archipelago, a damp womb; cool salt water, dry walls, infinite sky above and around, the Meltemi blows, the surrounding isles are azure shadows, every island alone, yet all together. We all have roots in the Archipelago, either because we were born there, or we grew up there, or because it was there that we first sensed our adult, love-stricken, free, alone self. In the Archipelago we felt our stuff, our substance and the measure of it, the thirst of the flesh and its satisfaction; in the islands we first understood the relationship of small to large, near to far, ephemeral to eternal; on the naked islands we wondered ‘why do people choose to live here?’ as we lay naked on a dazzling white beach. In that chamber of our origin, fabricated and yet so vivid, we felt the thrill of our own existence, our skin throbbing when dawn caught us still awake in erotic surrender. A night like that in the islands, a night with shooting stars, stamps the body for ever. It becomes our origin. That is the night for which we will always yearn with nostalgia.

This deep-hidden astonishment returns less and less often, as the years settle upon us like dust; a flash, nights of the Persides, nights when the noise of the tourists abates for a little, allowing the memory to rush back through the cane-fences. One happy moment, sometime between July and September, a breeze arises, stirring numbed bodies. In the softness of a lane, looking across at vineyards and olive groves, whitewashed paving stones gleaming in the dusk, a lane which reminds you of the Stay. On the hastily built balcony of a cheap room, amid lemon groves, facing the town. All night long in the courtyard by the sea, between the worldly and the divine, on one hand the continuous fireworks, on the other the metaphysical lights of the temple, on one hand the body, and on the other fear of it.

A flash, the shade of our flesh, here: the Archipelago of our origin. The stuff of nostalgia.