I see that almost a week has flown by without a diary entry. That’s because I have been on vacation in the chain of Greek islands called the Dodecanese. These fifteen or so islands are steeped in history dating back to the Classical age and further. How can you not like an island in the sun called Ikaria because in the sea nearby Icarus fell from his foolish height. Here’s the famous painting  by Breughel

Have you ever read W.H.Auden’s poem reflecting on the scene? It is here, and worth a few moments to read it and think. It is about more than Icarus BTW.

I had three days on the beautiful island of Symi–exploring the island on a rented Moto scooter–getting lost winding down dusty lanes looking for a remote monastery or a hike along the coast. On Friday I took the four hour ferry journey to the island of Patmos where St John spent his final years in exile. You can visit the cave of the Apocalypse where St John supposedly lived and wrote the last book of the New Testament. On top of the hill above the cave is than ancient monastic fortress of St John the Theologian.

Once again, the island of Patmos (like Symi) was dotted with little Eastern Orthodox wayside chapels. All of them not much bigger than a garage, but built in masonry with a proper dome and bellcote. I wondered at all these chapels. Who uses them? Do they have a priest in for Mass once a year? Once a week? Once a month? Most of them looked to be very well kept–even those situated on a remote mountaintop or secluded beach. The ones I found unlocked all had a proper iconostasis, icons, candles and everything you would want in a little church. While I am recommending poems, the little chapels reminded me of this one by e.e.cummings:

i am a little church(no great cathedral)
far from the splendor and squalor of hurrying cities
-i do not worry if briefer days grow briefest,
i am not sorry when sun and rain make aprilmy life is the life of the reaper and the sower;
my prayers are prayers of earth’s own clumsily striving
(finding and losing and laughing and crying)children
whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladnessaround me surges a miracle of unceasing
birth and glory and death and resurrection:
over my sleeping self float flaming symbols
of hope,and i wake to a perfect patience of mountains

i am a little church(far from the frantic
world with its rapture and anguish)at peace with nature
-i do not worry if longer nights grow longest;
i am not sorry when silence becomes singing

winter by spring,i lift my diminutive spire to
merciful Him Whose only now is forever:
standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence
(welcoming humbly His light and proudly His darkness)

Both W.H.Auden and e.e.cummings were unconventional Anglican Christians (to say the least) but their irregular moral lives should not preclude an appreciation of their poetry.
On Patmos I had another two days of exploring, enjoying the sun and good food and did some hiking which got a bit concerning at one point as I lost the trail and ended up in the wilds of a mountainside. Luckily I had a decent water supply,  but I hadn’t told anybody who I was or where I was going, and at one point as I stumbled across the mountains looking for the trail I happened across the desiccated skeleton of a goat who had lain down under a rock and died. I suddenly had memories of those awful stories of the foolish vacationer who set off on an innocent hike through the woods only to get lost–his skeleton like the goat, found huddled somewhere–identified only by his hiking boots, his cell phone and his molars. I found my way down the mountain and to my scooter, happy for the adventure, but happier for it to be over.
On Monday I took the ferry from Patmos to Rhodes and had an hour there in the old city. I hadn’t been to Rhodes before. The Old City is crammed with history (and tourists) but worth more than an hour’s visit. The rest of Rhodes city seemed rather drab as the taxi took me to the airport. I joined a flight back to Tel Aviv, the train to Jerusalem and the tram to within a few steps of the monastery and my home for another week before heading to England to meet with the pilgrims for our England pilgrimage tour.
Travel hint: get a Kindle if you don’t have one. Amazing how nifty it is to carry just that slim gadget rather than a shelf full of books (which has been my usual mode of travel.)