Century #18/ Endless Days of Spring

From the journal of Lita Hopkins



Mae Dumphy lives on the sea, a few miles east of L. in a little enclave of artists and intellectuals called Crisilata, I can’t be sure of the spelling or the origin of to the name, but it is said with some reverence for an ideal of open minded searching for ways to combine art and life. That is a paraphrase of something Mae said. I was in a very drowsy state with the wine and deep conversation and missed much as I drifted in and out like the small sail boats that came in on the dry wind warm wind from the south across the Mediterranean from the Sahara to this place of rich green and life, light that burns color into the air. Someone was speaking about the creative impulse alive in the world, that artists must find. I feel connected with that here. I feel the earth cradle me in its warm arms. There was a young man there or a boy asking so many questions. I wanted to ask, but I could not have listened to long answers. The evening water rubbing on the pebbles of the shore called me to the water to watch the sails draw into the marina. The murmur of voices could only provide harmony for all that was.


All day at an abandoned monastery in the hills above L. The professor knew of it and brought us in his motorcar. Above the monastery, a shrine to an unknown saint, a little grotto beside a shaded pool, so deep we could not reach the bottom. The water fell trickling in from a spring. We swam, drank red wine and ate cherries, bread and goat cheese. Charles drinks in ideas more than wine. I do my best with both.


We climbed to the top of the ridge to north and could see most of the southern tip of the island. Brush clambered and dry with nobs of white-grey rock fisting up through the cover all the way down to rocky inlets that cradle white beaches, here and there, sprinkled at the edge of the water, small square houses of fisherman. There must be fewer than a hundred people within ten miles. There is only the sound of the soft wind and water when we are quiet. The birds, gulls, finches, and jays, squabble and natter, sometimes a bunch of rooks will come jabbering through, but mostly the movement of air and water and crunch of footfalls.


I have grown used to the cold of the stone floors and even welcome it in the warm afternoons. The house is cool, sunk in the hillside and shaded by ancient olive trees which leave a constant mess of tiny sharp leaves in the courtyard. Sometimes I am amazed to think, we have come all the way from London to this remote and primitive place (we have no running water or electricity) for Charles to put his thoughts in order and begin piecing together his manuscript and filling in the spaces. So much time is spent gathering wood and water to cook, hauling our supplies up from the dock. But, even with all that the days are long and restful. Nancy has figured out the old stove, and we bath in ocean. I believe Charles will grow strong here. He seems more lively each day and his coughing has eased.

The children grow strong and brown and swim like otters all the day. Nancy helps me keep an eye on the little one, but she seems to keep up with the others just fine.


Traveling is so hard on this island, but yesterday we climbed into the motorcar and headed to visit Mae at Crisilata. Her home is full of her art and other artists works, and to visit her as she works in her studio is fascinating. She showed me some tricks with drawing and color and let the children and I play with some clay, even a botched attempt at the potters wheel. She also loves music. She is wry and wrinkled and waves her hands about with a lot out of enthusiasm. She speaks to Margo and Fletcher as if they were grown ups, asking their opinion on the serious matters of life. She is in love with little Annabell, who charms everyone with her grave little face and blonde curls. Charles and Mae have close philosophical discussions over games of chess, and she taught me some songs on the piano. Time seems endless here, as if we could put whole lifetimes into a day. There are always interesting people about from all over the world, a couple of American students, professor Coyle, and a Romanian poet.


Eric Bramble, one of the American students has come back with us to “The Quarry”, our name for our fine rustic homestead. He is so impulsive and forward. 10 minutes before our departure he came as we were packing to go and saying our farewells, asking if any of us would like to return by boat. He has a 30 foot sloop that he bought in Spain and has sailed around the Mediterranean with his, as he calls him, crew and body guard, Lorenzo. Who seems to speak all of the languages of Europe. So I went in the car with the professor, Nancy and the girls, while Charles and Fletcher went on the boat. They had the most wonderful ride, while we bumped and chugged along the rutted rocky trail. Though Charles got a little seasick as they rounded the southern end of the island and hit a bit of rough water, Fletcher has found a new passion and swears that he will be a sailor or a pirate like Lorenzo when he grows up. I think that Lorenzo must have put some notions in his head. Lorenzo has the look of an old sea dog and is an exotic character to a romantic boy of eight and a half. Mr. Bramble says he is the most able seaman he has ever known and as fine and steady a man as you would want in a pinch.

Mr. Bramble has promised us ladies an outing on the “Lola” which is name of his boat.

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