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20 January, 2018

Dear Friends,

I arrived in Rhodes, Greece, with my daughter Ramsey on the 15th of January. Neither of us has been to Greece. We stayed in the city one night, and the following morning met George, who was renting us a car. A bright blue VW with a stick shift. We made our way to Lahania, stopping for a stroll in one of the most beautiful villages of Rhodes, Lindos.  It is postcard perfect: bright white buildings, cobblestoned, steep streets and walkways, and a view of the Acropolis and of the sea that is breathtaking. And basically closed for the winter.

A friend offered me her house in Lahania. She is an artist, and the house is a perfect combination of stone and wood, wide-planked floors covered with hand-woven scatter rugs, wall hangings and old pottery, and a fireplace. Shelves of books in English were a wonderful surprise, including a book I edited in 1988! It is an eclectic collection, and I have a small pile next to my bed. I finished Remains of the Day a few days ago. Not one unnecessary word, which I keep in mind as I finish the final edit of The Eloquence of Grief, which will soon go to my agent.

 Ramsey and I came to write, and she has a small upstairs apartment where you can look out to the sea. Also a big deck, and a balcony off the kitchen, overlooking the luscious garden below. On sunny mornings I sit in the garden to write, and on colder days I am in front of a fireplace (with wood coming today!). It is ideal for us. We have space, and quiet, and yet we also have a social life with a few ex-pats who have been incredibly welcoming, thanks to introductions from Maria, our host.

People at the hotel in the city were amazed that we were to spend weeks in Lahania. “It’s in the middle of nowhere,” one woman exclaimed. It is winter for them. We explain that we are coming from Wyoming and Vermont, where the temperature hovered at below zero in Vermont for days before we left. It is the perfect time of year for writers! We arrived on a mild day. On our second day Nature moved in with gale-force winds that gathered steam as the day wore on, so strong that we didn’t dare go outside. Lashing rain, which turned into hailstones, pelted against the windows. It was dramatic. Ramsey and I worked.  

The following day felt like summer. I sat out in the garden reading, taking notes, nibbling on olives. Bliss. We took a long walk, our first. This morning three visitors came by: Jehovah’s witnesses (No, thank you!), a neighbor, Tom, arrived to take our gas tank up to the car. He has been here eight years, not half as long as other ex-pats we are starting to meet. A lovely Swedish woman named Noomie arrived to invite us to join her husband, Vangelli, and some friends at one of the two cafes that are open in the evening. A warm environment on a chilly evening. Another evening in the home of Noomie and Vagelli, who is an extraordinary artist/illustrator. (I shall devote a future blog to his work.)

And so. First impression? People who are warm and curious. Azure skies and turquoise sea. Tempestuous winds, with thunder and lightning. Multiple shades of green, especially as we go inland.  Flowers climbing over walls, thriving plants. Chilly and windy days, the sky the color of stone.  Nights in the café, sipping wine in front of a small fireplace, and chatting. Crisp, friend fish in a restaurant, with many small plates to accompany it. Greek salad. Potatoes cut into rounds and fried. Fava bean spread.  The ubiquitous olives. And a dessert made especially for us. Called loukoumades, they are small rounds of dough lightly fried with honey and cinnamon, and served piping hot.  One of the most delicious dishes in my memory.

Naps! Starting to synchronize our schedules to locals, when shops close between 1:30 and 4:30. (that could be slightly off), and light dining in the café after 7:30.

The greatest treasure of all is the daily company of my beautiful daughter, Ramsey, who is a constant source of inspiration, laughter, and discovery. She taught the twice-weekly yoga class today. Haha. It was great.

On the next blog, I will be more specific about our visit to Old Town in Rhodos.  But know that the creative spirit is alive and well in Villa Maria. I’m listening to Joni Mitchell’s BLUE right now, and looking out onto a sunny meadow.


Love, Janet




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