I'm on beautiful island of Naxos now, the largest of the Cyclades group of islands in Greece. This is the island where the King of the ancient Greek Gods Zeus was raised, in a cave on a mountain bearing his name. Naxos is also where his son Dionysos, the God of Wine was born. Dionysos later married Ariadne, the Princess of Crete here after she was abandoned by Theseus, who she helped escape the Labyrinth at Knossos on Crete after slaying the half man/half bull Minotaur.
It is the myth of the Labyrinth at Knossos that is a primary reason for my coming to Greece this winter after working on the Halls Hill Labyrinth Project for two months this fall on Bainbridge Island in Washington. I am dedicating the inner 9 circuits of the Labyrinth I'm building to the 9 planets in our solar system, which are named after Roman and Greek Gods. The 5th circuit, which I will be building when I get back in March, is dedicated to the planet and God Jupiter, who is the Roman incarnation of Zeus. You can read earlier essays I've written about the 6 circuits I've already completed by scrolling down past this and the previous essay about stonework in the town of Molyvos.
|The Labyrinth I am building on Bainbridge Island, Washington State|
|The Temple of the Delian Apollo|
|A buried marble column from an ancient building on the beach of the Delian Apollo|
|Trash on the beach of the Delian Apollo|
|Even when technically "properly" disposed of, the volume of trash generated on the islands of Greece is overwhelming|
|Bottle caps nearly equal the number of stones on the beach in places|
|Pieces of fishing nets that have washed up on the beach|
We consume too much plastic. Even as stewards of the Earth, garden clubs on tours to my garden have shown up with cases of individual water bottles, so handy and common and taken for granted today. Individual servings of water dispensed in throw away bottles is a huge generator of garbage. We think we can recycle them, but are they really recycled? It is estimated that only a third of the plastic consumed in the United States gets recycled. A third is burned in incinerators and a third goes in to landfills. So I guess the gyre of plastic the size of Texas floating in the Pacific Ocean came from Canada? The less we consume, the less we have to throw away, and this by far is the most proactive solution. I travel with a back packing water filter, so I will have bought maybe 3 disposable bottles of water in 3 months of travel this winter, rather than the 120 or so I would have bought if I was not filtering my drinking water in to reusable bottles. I take bags to the store when I buy things. I went to a Carrefour grocery store on the island of Ios recently and pulled out my bags. The cashier said "Those are old, let me give you new ones, they are free." I told her "No, thats OK, I want to reuse these." She then said "This has a hole in the bottom, it will break." So I said "I'll carry it carefully, I really don't want to use more plastic bags because I am always picking them up off the beach." She said in a matter of fact way "They're everywhere." So I said "Maybe I'm a little bit crazy, but I really like to reuse my bags because I am an environmentalist." She smiled in acknowledgment to my insanity and let me reuse my bags. Virtually every person I saw the rest of the day was carrying disposable plastic bags that they would use one time. I don't think it was like this 20 years ago, but we have changed the way we live, and the consequences are obvious.
So today I arrived at the beach. It was liberally sprinkled with trash. A dead sea bird lay by the rocks, surrounded by plastic bags half buried in the sand, and the brightly colored caps of hundreds of water bottles and bits of rope.
|A dead sea bird on the beach|
|Two bags of trash I collected at the beginning of the beach|
|Cigarette butts on a beach on the island of Paros|
|Trash on a north facing beach on the sacred island of Delos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site|
|Santa Maria Beach on the Island of Paros|
|A beach on the island of Paros near Paraiki|
|Plastic bags on another beach in Chora on Naxos|
|Debris in Naxos Harbor|
|The best kid on Naxos|
I carried the crate full up to the dumpsters for him. When we got there he gestured that we needed to sort out the plastic bottles to put in the plastics recycling bin in the row of containers. This kid is awesome! I feel like I have met a true Bodhisattva.
|My new friend carrying as much garbage as he could up the beach|
|The Mother of a very special young Man taking plastic bottles to the recycling bin|
He even found a two liter bottle full of dirty motor oil that we carefully moved to the dumpsters so it wouldn't break. We managed to fill a dumpster half way, and recycled about 50 plastic bottles. It was hard work and he gasped under the burden of the heaped bin, but didn't complain. He was happy to do it.
|All of this was on the beach today|
There are still a lot of bottle caps and bits of plastic on the beach but if you don't look too closely it looks like a pretty beach instead of a garbage dump. It was now late afternoon and I decided, even though I hadn't eaten since breakfast, that I would make the mosaic I had come to the beach to build. I dedicated it to the boy and to the Delian Apollo. Most of the mosaics I've been making on beaches in Greece are sunbursts. I used all white marble pebbles since that is what the remains of the temple at the other end of the beach is made of.
I thought about Apollo's father Zeus as well, although I would like to make a mosaic specifically for him as well at some point while I'm here. I'll have to make one for Dionysos too, since he is my favorite immortal of all…the hedonistic bisexual God of grapes and wine, and the protector of those who do not belong to conventional society, like me.
|Lying next to the giant 7th Century BC Kouros statue, believed to be an image of Dionysos|
A couple and their two children came along as I was finishing for the day. We had a lovely conversation about the things that seemed to make this Sunday special, caring for the Earth, creating beauty, and being compassionate. Then they carried on down a beach that looked entirely different than it did before, and that made me happy.
Don't just walk by and ignore the world. Make it better place.
Thanks for reading, Jeffrey
|A beach on Mykonos Island before I picked up all the trash|
|A half hour later….|
|The Naxos Island landfill|
Like the mosaics I have been creating on the beaches of Greece, the work that incredible young man and I did with the hope of making something better is only temporary. The mosaics wash away, and the garbage washes back in. And so it goes. My heartfelt apologies to the deities of this beautiful island.
|The sea reclaiming a mosaic on the Beach of the Delian Apollo|
The family I met on the beach of the Delian Apollo wrote to me to say that they are doing a workshop with children on the island of Paros to teach them about plastic and how it pollutes the sea, and they are actively cleaning up the beach when they go for walks now.
|Tzamaria Beach on the island of Ios|
|What I collected on Tsamaria Beach|
|Tsamaria Beach after I cleaned it|
|Reusable bags are no longer a part of European culture|
|Half of what I collected from Agia Theadoti Beach on the island of Ios|
|Agia Theadoti Beach after I cleaned it. The pile of sand to the left was inside a large garbage bag washed up in the surf|