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Journal Entries

light bulbs: crete, greece 2011

Stella Johnson

I was walking to Chania from the village of Perivolia in search of photographs. I stopped in a graveyard. A worker shoveled dirt from a grave. The gravedigger was a small figure in the background of my frame. I didn' t approach or speak to him. On my way out he screamed, "photo, photo" and pointed to himself. He got himself into the foreground. No dice, though. The images were somehow unremarkable.

I continued on my three-mile walk on this brilliant wintry day. Sunlight bounced all around me. I saw an orange house. Orange drapes hung on a balcony. I started photographing. The owner of the house had a head of orangey red hair. She invited me in for a glass of orange juice and introduced herself. Her name was Stella. Nice to meet you Stella, I said. And my name is also Stella. The day was getting interesting. This is when orange became my new favorite color.

Back on the road, I looked up and saw light bulbs hanging in the sky and took the accompanying photograph. The sky was so blue it was startling, hyper real. I thought, OK, take the photograph, it is beautiful, not really my thing, but I had to have it. Memory persisted in replaying the countless afternoons I took my mother to the Charles River in Boston to see the sky, the trees and the birds. At the bottom of the frame is a pink blanket. Pink was my favorite color before I discovered orange.

Before reaching Chania, I stopped at a bakery to buy spanakopita. I sat down outside to eat. The baker came out to offer me some sweet bread. Suddenly, he ran inside and returned with a bottle of water for me. I thought this is Philoxenia, the Greek custom of giving hospitality to strangers. It was unexpected, even a little shocking, and amusing. A series of spontaneous and unrestrained demonstrations of hospitality warming me right up. And so not like Boston.

I offered to take the baker' s portrait. He changed into a clean apron and baker' s hat and posed in the doorway of his shop.

These encounters were particularly touching because my mother had died a few short weeks before my trip. Strangers were taking such care of me.

Stella Johnson