the beach
2

EPANOMI

 

We live by the currents, plan by the tides, and follow the sun. 

Juliet Blaxland, The Easternmost House
 

It took me one year and a pandemic to muster the courage to move out of the city, into the quietness and isolation of non urban life, which is what I really wanted to do in the first place when I decided to leave London for good and move to Greece. When the opportunity finally presented itself, I didn't look back. Why, what will you do there?, people asked. But I knew perfectly well what I would do here, living by the sea. My mind had been made up a long time ago, exactly on a damp, miserable London morning, in the Barbican looking out of the window at the exotic vegetation and suddenly realising that me too I felt dislocated on that non native, cold island. Besides, didn't van Gogh too move to small, rural Arles because of costs, and in search of the inspiration to work he couldn't find in Paris? Against common wisdom, not always the buzz and limelight of the centre are producive. It depends. There needs to be some accordance between in and out, person and habitat.

Epanomi sits outside Thessaloniki, on fertile hills facing the Olympus on the other side of that huge open air swimming pool that is the Thermaikos Gulf. It is a place of rare, overlooked beauty. There is more than one beach, I live on the one that is not famous, Palioura. It couldn't be more different from Afife: the sea is flat, never in rage like the Atlantic, the water is warm year-round, the stretch of sand is narrow, erosion never stopping its work on the soft rock cliffs that surround it to the east. To the west, there's a park with pines and poplars, followed by tiny sand dunes and meadows and, further west, a lake that in Summer turns into salt, home to flamingos and tortoises. Except in Summer, there's almost no one here, only us and our new neighbours, the dogs that live here in the oikismos: Pablo, Gordo, Fofinha, Feínha, Olga, and our own Carma.

About the series: Beaches are special places, they can be said to fit Michel Foucault's description of a heterotopian space, that is, spaces that have an existence (unlike utopias, which don't) but are different, sometimes even opposed, to existing spaces in a given society. In this sense, the beach is where we do almost the opposite to what we do in our everyday lives: we do not work nor aim to be productive (do nothing), we do not get dressed but instead we undress (no clothes), we share the space with others (no private property), we let go of the need for a roof over our heads (no built environment), often we don’t interact with others (no socialisation). More than a place of leisure, which as such has a (recent) history, the beach is a liminal space, the border between land and water, between the earthly and the aquatic spheres, and as such holds a special power.