Saturday, 12 October 2013

October 8 – Wind and stones

(Photo: internet (

I have only learned about stone or rock balancing this summer. I have obviously ocassionally seen little towers of stones on the beach, but hadn’t realised that groups of people actually spend hours piling up stones, creating small sculptures of little men or women, towers that you barely believe can keep their balance.

Masters in stone balancing, like Adrian Gray, wait for days without wind in order that their creations are not blown to earth right from the start, but real stone art works need to be resistant to wind and even typhoons (see the pagodas at a buddhist monastery in Korea).

Last summer here on Lesvos, several people kept busy juggling stones, even though the persistant North wind kept on blowing. My house is in the north of the island, which seems to be this winds playground and more than once I was furious with Boreas, the God of the Northern wind who spoilt many a summer’s evening with his continuous whistling. I become very restless from the wind. When the glasses on the table can’t be trusted to stay standing and the paper napkins fly off to serve as a Christmas decoration in the bushes - having a dinner outside is no longer fun.

I was so glad when in September the Meltemi finally settled and we could enjoy some really warm Greek summer nights. Last year the long hot summer went on endlessly until November when the warm sea still invited you to have a swim and the heat waves ceded into very pleasant warm days. But no two years are the same. Last week a majestic stormfront visited the island, with gigantic light shows and rain. The north wind brought temperature drops of more than ten degrees to the island.

I have never been so cold at the beginning of October: the woodstove was turned on and I only felt warm in bed under my winter duvet. I pitied the tourists who came to warm themselves in the sun but had to wear all their clothes and still felt cold, even out of the wind. What a mean prank from the weather!

The cold is gone now and the mercury is slowly rising, but the real warm summer will not come back this year: kalo ftinopero! (a happy autumn).

Yesterday I went to visit a friend in Sigri. If you don’t love the wind, then the one place you should not go is Sigri, where the whole year round, even during the heat waves, a fresh wind blows. For those who don’t like great heat – or windsurfers – lovely Sigri must be Valhalla. So I was surprised to find no wind at all at the back part of the village and on the lovely sandy beach it was so hot that I sat in the sun to rid myself of the winter cold that already invaded my body in the previous days: what a treat! Perhaps over optimistically, we decided to visit a beach in the direction of Skala Eressos. It was a splendid sandy area, but the wind had plenty of access to it so our clothes were kept on, although it offered us a good chance to have a long walk along the beach.

Along the road the bare landscape spread out widely and endlessly and far off, above the sparkling sea, the highest mountaintops of the neighbouring island of Chios magically towered high above us. I can look at this landscape for hours, over the rolling, folding hills that are scattered with rocks and probably still hide an enormous treasure of petrified trees.

I noticed some piles of stones towering above the bent backs of the rolling hills.
Stone balancing? I remember that I had seen them before and wondered if they might be road-markings in the event of snow cover. But now that I know about stone balancing I wonder if the farmers here also spend time in meditative stone stacking.
In ancient Greece – about the 6th century BC – it was common that when a farmer took a loan on his land, the dept was marked by some piled-up stones. Perhaps the higher the dept, the higher the tower. I imagine that if you took a big loan, you would have needed a stone balancing artist to mark this deal. But I don’t think that these particular little towers are that old, for they would have had to survive lots of goat trampling and have withstood many an earthquake. In past times stones were also used to mark fields and roads. From simple rocks these boundaries developed into elaborate obelisk-like boundary towers. So I guess that today these little piles of stone can be seen as very simple boundary demarcations or where a nearly invisible goat path runs. They certainly add to the mysterious air hanging over this bleak but fascinating landscape.

After a tasty lunch in Sigri we came back to the town beach, where the sea was like a mirror and the sun was really hot again. Although a challenge, without any hesitation we jumped into the water and swam as if summer would never end.

(with thanks to Mary Staples)

© Smitaki 2013

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