Wednesday, July 15, 2009

One Perfect Rose or how we got here...

Well it's not so much to look at, but oh my, does it smell wonderful! It's a huge old rose plant by the front door and I'm sure there is something I should do to it (clipping, trimming, feeding), but I don't want to mess with what nature has accomplished on its own.

So often since we've moved here almost ten years ago, we're asked "How did you ever end up here??" I wrote this one night last month and it sort of summed up the process:

... My eyes are closed and I smell jasmine. Cascades of small white flowers entwined with themselves, wrapped around tall pillars, smell like this. I open my eyes, and I see those white pillars and beyond the steps, the bright green grass that rolls down the hill of of the garden.

Distantly, I hear John's voice telling me that he always meant to put up a covered terrace, "just never got around to it." I hear him say wryly, with with his British accent. He and Grace built this house and put everything they had into completing the bare bones of this lovely villa with few frills. Then they left it alone, this low rambling house, with large rooms and marble floors, and for the next 20 years expected it to take care of itself. It did, but only just.

They imagined the deep tiled pool, the herb garden with the strawberry patch and the huge vegetable garden with asparagus and artichokes and fava beans and peas.. They saw the vines growing heavy on the long archway'd trellis, and tasted the wine they made in their imagination. They picked a green fig from the wild tree and dreamed of picking the cherries, plums, peaches and apples. They tasted the sour wild orange in the tree near the house but imagined the lemons and limes and tiny sweet mandarins of their own citrus orchard.

When they decided to leave and move back to England, they sold me their dreams. I saw this house then as it stands now. I've never done that before with any other place. Fifteen years ago, I convinced my busy type-A husband that "THIS" was the place. He looked at me skeptically, and held "discussions", but eventually we made the leap together.

After they left, after we owned the keys, illusion shimmered and fought with reality and the ridiculous costs of windows, water heaters and well pumps. Now and then I felt confused at what I saw, until I closed my eyes and pictured the way it was supposed to be.

We moved here to live year round, nine years ago. Every day was a surprise, and not always a charming one. But we chipped away at things, bringing home flats of flowers, sheaves of shrubs and young trees from the nursery, planting vines and seeds, pruning old and planting new olive trees, putting in a small orchard of fruit trees.

So many projects were written on paper, then eventually completed became gardens and terraces and bathrooms and kitchens. Our angst with the local workmen caused my husband to expand his portfolio of abilities. He learned to build walls and render them with cement, roof with red clay tiles, lay ceramic tile walls and floors, plaster and do electric and plumbing. He invested himself in the doing.
His sweat made my ideas, the things I imagined, real.

I never forget this is the place I chose. It looked nothing like it looks now when I moved here, I know, but it's exactly how I saw it all those years ago-
how John saw it too, I think, in his mind.

John and Grace are both gone now. They'll never see the house "completed", except of course that they always did.

The now fading red walls of the house against the blue Mediterranean sky, so intense. I feel intense here, and at the same time I feel rested.

I'm standing in the shade, the cool stone tiles are a relief from the hot sun. I am here in Greece, even when I am not here. I have made memories in this place. I have loved my husband and my children, and my children's children in this place, though not the same way I loved them before I came here. I love everything differently since I've come home.

This place will never leave me. Someday, I'm sure, we'll have to make a decision and give it up.

Certainly, it's only a house. It's only a garden

Sometimes a place just finds you, I guess.


  1. I am in tears. John was so sad to leave Corfu. I am sure he would be so very pleased at all you have accomplished there.

  2. Thank you. I didn't mean to make you sad. I wanted to let you know that John passed along his love of the place to us. I doubt we'll leave it until we "have to", either. I know how he felt about Corfu, it meant the world to him. People on the island STILL talk fondly about him...AND remember the parties he used to throw here! And for what it's worth, John and Grace "live on" as we still-to the old timers- live in "John and Grace's" house!

  3. I love reading your blog - so glad I discovered it by chance. I'm delighted the house is owned and cherished by someone who so obviously loves being there.

  4. It is oddly serendipitous that you found this blog, but I guess I have to say I am delighted! You are part of the house's family. Many friends who have visited us (and my children as well) like to "visit" again via the blog.

    [the "i'm briefer on tumblr" link connects to a little blog I keep on Tumblr. it has the odd picture and/or sometimes a quote or link or "whatever" that don't quite fit this blog... tho if I can work something up from those ideas I'll bring them over to this blog.]

  5. What a wonderful post.
    I'm a hard boiled old bat, but it really touched me.

  6. Thank you.
    I often find myself mystified by my attachment to this place, but what can I say?

    I love your blog. (This IS the season to write about houseguests! that was my topic for tomorrow - as another batch arrives on top of the existing one!)

    Thanks for reading it /



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