Tag Archives: life on santorini

emcsquare your life…

The man to whom the above quote is attributed had considerable capability when it came to thinking… in fact he is considered by many (myself included) to possess the most innovative / creative mind of all time. His name… Leonardo Da Vinci.


There was a younger contemporary of Leonardo… who also happened to be rather talented. His name… Michelangelo.

Both of these men had remarkable capabilities and talents. Their skill levels were immense and both were capable of creating work of enormous complexity. At least that’s how it was perceived by other… less talented and less inspired artists.  Alas…they saw things others could not. The quotes above give us a clear indication that their philosophy, their aesthetic values and clarity of vision, were indeed inspirationally simple. They were both very “clear” in their belief  that “less” is in fact…. “more“.

Many years later there was of course another relatively intelligent man… who told us that “things should be made as simple as possible… but not simpler”. And just in case anyone wanted to argue with his theory on simplicity he constructed an equation which managed to capture the known laws of the universe. His  e=mc2 equation is so elegant… so ingenious, that it redefined physics. His theory of relativity as represented by this equation redefined what I like to call “complexity surrounded by simplicity”.

To give you another example of  “complexity surrounded by simplicity”… think about this. The deepest penetration levels achieved by devices/inventions used in every day life over the past 100 years have been achieved by the “telephone” and “electricity”. Why? Because the complexity of the inner workings of these inventions were hidden from the user. Anybody… even a 100-year old, can use a telephone and turn on a light switch. They don’t need to know how the telephone exchange works or how electricity is generated and/or distributed. They just need to know how to “dial a number” and “flick a switch”. THAT…is “complexity surrounded by simplicity”.

As people we have developed a predisposition to complicate things… to believe we are superior because “we understand” and “they don’t”… to basically believe our own bullshit. We confuse ourselves about what’s important and delude ourselves about what is the essence of our existence. We complicate our lives to the point where we lose the plot completely… and then we blame everyone but ourselves and ask for divine assistance or buy a book on “zen”, which ever is closer and easier at the time. We are seemingly incapable of learning from nature or even from our “enlightened” fellow humans. If Leonardo, Michelangelo and Albert, tell us that ‘less is more’… you’d think we’d listen. But alas… we don’t.

A few years back I was addressing the board of a state-owned electrical utility. Twelve senior execs sitting on a long table looking at me… perplexed at what I was saying to them. Almost all of them from an engineering background… their conceptual understanding of customer service was virtually non-existant. A customer was an account number to them. An address…nothing more, nothing less. In an effort to help them understand that their view of the “customer” was Jurassic… I asked them: “gentlemen… I’m curious, what business are you in exactly?”

The next five minutes were taken up by monologues about “electricity generation”, “electricity distribution”, “poles & wires” etc etc etc. The senior engineers had a stereotypical view of the organisation’s “purpose for being”. I nodded as they spoke and then said “gentlemen… if I may, I would like you to consider this… that the business you are in is in fact the “PEACE OF MIND’ business”. As I spoke I turned and wrote these words on the blank white board… then turned and said “you see gentlemen… the customer doesn’t give a flying f… how you generate electricity… how you bring it to the cities or how you distribute it across millions of homes… all he wants to know is that when he flicks the switch- the power goes ON. Your product is electricity… but your business is quite simply ‘peace of mind’ “.
With that I walked away to the side and looked at all of them… looking at the board.

You could’ve heard a pin drop…

Somehow I don’t think anyone had ever explained to them the simplicity of their business in the eyes of the customer. They always chose to see it through the eyes of engineers… a view completely removed from the eyes of the customer. To them it was about the complexities of the network… to the customer it was about seeing the light when he flicked the switch.

But life is funny and the universe works in mysterious ways. For the utility executives there was a tsunami called “deregulation” that came along and proved to them that paying attention to the customer may not be a bad idea after all. They became very grateful for seeing the light… so to speak. Similarly bankers and financial market players have come to realise that you can only complicate things so much. Sooner or later they will unravel and then there will be nowhere to hide. It’s funny how a disaster makes people think that they should’ve kept things simple in the first place.

It doesn’t have to be a disaster either… it can just be elegant innovation. The computer industry up until now was run my engineers. Complexity and geek-talk reigned supreme. Then… along comes a guy that actually focuses on design & the user experience. A heretic, a pirate (as the early Mac guys were known). He makes things simple… as simple as possible but not simpler. He hides the complexity and surrounds it with elegant simplicity. He pays total attention on the “user experience” as well as the aesthetics and styling. He sells you “Peace of Mind” incased in Michelangelo design. Now…the rest of them (computer executives) are like that long table of utility engineers…their mouths open, trying to work out WTF is going on. Simplicity and elegant styling has come along and virtually put them out of business… imagine that !

I guess by now you’re wondering what the hell all this has to do with Oia…or Santorini…or the Greek islands. I say EVERYTHING !

You see… simplicity of lifestyle has always been the most important and essential element of an islander’s existence. Everything in the house had a purpose… every room, every wall curve, every inch of the yard and the garden, served a purpose. There was no waste. Water was captured from the skies and the night moisture… the houses were designed to be warm in winter and cool in summer… and there were no Monsanto freakazoid seeds growing in their plots of land. Everything was pure, healthy, simple and self sufficient. Over the centuries their lives had been simplified and made totally efficient… completely aligned to their environment. To this day most of the islands live like this. Sure… tourism has left a footprint and a lot of the traditions of island lifestyle are under threat. But only if you let it happen. There are still infinite pleasures to be experienced as every day life on these islands… that city dwellers don’t even dream about.

I am not saying you should all move to the nearest island or rain forest. All I am saying is don’t underestimate the benefits of a simpler lifestyle.

A simplified life is not an empty life. It is not an unsophisticated life. Leonardo knew what he was talking about… and so did Michelangelo. Inside the chunk of marble that is a complicated life…is a work of art waiting to be carved free.

Emcsquare your life… carve away the excess marble, make your life a work of art.

`~)

Autumn sunset fantasia

This post was started yesterday and was going to look quite different. You see… as we always do after stormy weather, we went collecting driftwood. It’s amazing what we find on the western side of the island after storms… some of the driftwood is like work of art. As always we went early morning on Sunday. This post was going to be all about that…

Searching for driftwood…

Alessi shoots the shooter !

But then… this evening (Monday), as I was writing this post – using the driftwood pics from Sunday – I was told to “look outside…quick”.

I did…… & this is what I saw !

these are real colours…


bit more to the right to take the fort (blog column not wide enough)

only so much you can do with the little Pentax… but the close up looks dreamy,
don’t you think?

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PS: For the unidentified commenter “One of your readers”…. in answer to your question,  I would love to know why you would want to submit an essay but not want to win.

PPS: To all those who thought I was being harsh towards the procrastinators…you’re wrong. I’m guilty of it myself, so I can hardly chastise others. However…I still believe it is a debilitating condition and I suspect it robbed some people of  an opportunity to  be in the contest with a chance of winning. Big topic this one…perhaps a separate post !

PPS: More essays on Wednesday & the “Living with purpose” post still needs work ;-)

ALSO… if you haven’t seen them already, there are more “Respect” photos on the page… hope you can take a look and leave a comment for those who took time to try and make a difference in this world. If you happen to live in a large city (NYC, London) or anywhere for that matter… I would LOVE to see some “Respect” photos from you.

Oia Santorini – traffic delays

I know that some of you think that the view you wake up to is very special…. and it probably is. However, somehow I don’t think any of you wake up to anything like this:

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good morning Mr M !

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are you looking at me?

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Morning traffic… Oia style !

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early start for the mule team… the good doctor next door is renovating
his cave house…which means these guys will be visiting us a lot
over the coming days/weeks.

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Alessi patiently awaits for the mule traffic to clear so he can go to school…

No… it’s not your average suburban neighbourhood or traffic jam… but then we never signed up for that ;-)

PS: this is in fact the 99th post… the 100th will be on Sunday night. Santorini Dreaming essays all next week… and please keep sending your “Respect” photos... they are very much appreciated !

Bougainvillea – A sexy South American in Santorini

It’s an amazing world we live in… how often have you thought about that lately?  Not often? Perhaps you should.

Lately I have found myself running around a bit too much and realised that its been a while since I took Rex for a long walk through the village. Today I rectified that and although its very hot here… it was an uplifting experience. Its the middle of summer (almost), the light is very bright and the village looks a picture. It struck me as I walked through the narrow paths that there are so many beautiful images all around, quite apart from the views of Oia. It also struck me that you can’t help but gaze towards a particular plant at this time of year…wherever it may be growing.

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Its bougainvillea… and in Oia, its everywhere. This sexy little climber from the South American tropics has certainly found its way to the Greek islands and in this small village it is almost symbolic. There is good reason for that of course… the colour contrast between the various varieties of bougainvillea and the mostly white-washed walls in Oia is spectacular. The effect of bougainvillea on a landscape can be stunning.
 

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Whether it’s someone’s garden…

 

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Or a small hotel like this. The contrast against white and blue seems completely natural and “right”.

 

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It is used to add colour to our narrow lanes…

 

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and even our clock tower.

 

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Shops use bougainvillea….

 

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so do our restaurants. Some of these are old, very well established plants, adding lots of colour and atmosphere.

 

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Others use them in a very subtle, understated way to achieve sublime results !

 

There are no prerequisites to having a bougainvillea. You don’t need a spectacular villa or a great restaurant. You can just as easily have the good taste to grow one in front of your small island home.

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It certainly makes plain white & blue look like dreamland…. don’t you think?

 

And so it was…walking around my little village, that I realised what an amazing world we live in, if only we take the time to look around us. A gorgeous South American now living and thriving in Greece, adding infinite beauty to the landscape every year.  

Go for a long walk…clear your mind and look around you. I bet you’ll find plenty of beautiful things you haven’t noticed for a while ;-)

Spirit of Oia – a Sunset to remember !

In Oia, on most evenings, something magical happens. People are happy…very very happy. Some come early, some come at the last minute… but all of them have a certain expression on their face. It’s like watching kids about to see a magic show. They come, they take their seats and they wait….

They come as couples mainly, but also as friends, as groups (small and large), or as families. They come from all over the world and its quite special to hear smiling faces speaking in all kinds of languages to each other. Its HAPPY hour in Oia, Santorini. Its “s u n s e t” time.

Since I promised you sunset magic I have gone out a couple of times to take photos. The sunset gods have not been kind, but magic still happens in Oia… even if the weather is not perfect.

As usual the sun-setters are in position early…waiting, chatting and taking photos.

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What a lot of them don’t realise is that the best way to get great photos in Oia is by moving around. It’s a moving picture show and unless you move around you’ll miss some magic shots… like this:

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On hazy days the light changes constantly… and the boats (as always) move around trying to get the best views for their passengers. Half the fun is trying to capture “the” shot…. if you’re there for the photos that is and not everyone is there for great photos. Most are there to share a great experience.

My theory on the fundamental need, we have as humans, to share an experience gives rise to many types of “why” questions. We humans are not just social animals. We are pack animals. We live in large cities together and we like to go to places where there are lots of others sharing the same experience with us. Not always of course…as you will see soon !

Sunset time in Oia is special for many reasons. It’s not just the view… as fantastic as it is. It’s the whole atmosphere around you. It’s the architecture, the topography, the people from all over the world around you and the “spirit” of the village. A multi-sensory torrent. Its a total immersion of sorts.

Did you know that humans have more muscles in their face, used for expression, than any other animal? Up to five main muscles and on occasion up to ten more. All used for expression. Useless information…I know, and I can only assume that not all of these are used to express pleasure… but let me tell you that the “pleasure muscles” work overtime at sunset…. I mean that in the cleanest possible way of course ;-)  

So visitors sit and wait…they chat, they drink, they dine or just cuddle – and they take looooots of photos. That’s because there is a lot to take photos of and the scene changes as the night progresses.

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The sunset viewing side of Oia gets filled with visitors during peak season. They sit on roof tops, steps, hotel balconies and of course the old Kastro (fort). They sit and wait for the show to start… anticipation growing.

 

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Other than the position of the sun the first sign that the show is about to start is the sailing ships below. Full of people…they cruise out for a closer glimpse then double back (depending on the weather) to allow their passengers to watch the sunset from inside the caldera.

 

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Watching these old ships down below in the small bay of Ammoudi gives you a feeling you’re watching a live pirate movie. It just adds to the sense of magic of the place and makes the whole experience almost surreal.

But of course… its not just the old sailing ships that come out at sunset. Almost any captain of a ship/yacht/cruise liner tries to time arrival into Santorini at sunset. They all want to give their passengers a look at one of most spectacular sights in the world…. a Santorini sunset.

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Obviously the timing of this particular captain of a privately owned (large, old-style yacht) was impeccable.  Just imagine the thrill of the guests on-board…. arriving in Santorini just as the sun was hugging the horizon. Probably not even aware that they themselves were adding to the magic of the show for all those high on the cliff.

 

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The haze didn’t allow one of the great sunsets for all those viewing on the night… but the atmosphere of the village never fails to capture the imagination of the visitors. They will talk about for years, show their photos and talk of watching the sunset at Oia. They will applaud and they will talk to the people around them. Some will kiss, cuddle or hold hands as they watch. Some will make plans to come back, others will not want to leave.

But there are also some that didn’t want to be with the crowd. They wanted to be alone….wanted to share only with each other.

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High romance…high on the cliffs of Oia.

Now THAT my friends, in my humble opinion, is the way to watch and remember an Oia sunset !

 

Oia Santorini – VespaCam: Oia Sunset

VespaCam :  you are riding around this magical island…you see something beautiful, you stop… “click”, back on the Vespa and vrooooommmm ! 

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something like this for instance…

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Btw…if you look closely the tiny dot in the sea is not dust on your screen, it’s a twilight sailing boat. Lucky people ;-)

Oia Santorini – Time

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Time is the wisest counsellor of all.  ~Pericles

Forgive me for indulging… but many of you have sent emails and left comments about your own dreams and life aspirations. One of the most common themes is time. Time is something that I have tried to understand as far back as I can remember. It’s a concept that has such a deep impact on our lives and yet… it is barely touched in formal education (at least in western cultures). Understanding time, the impact and effects of time & the lessons from time, are not issues that most people think about a great deal. Instant gratification and feedback at the speed of thought are the new standards, especially for our kids.

In making the decision to come here there were many discussions about time. There were comments about missed opportunities, regrets, dreams and secret desires. Comments about “timing not being right” and “time will tell”. Comments about “having plenty of time” and “one day I will…” .

When younger and working in newspapers my editor used to call me a “young man in a hurry”. I wanted to get things quickly, get promoted, get more money….. and get it all NOW! Time was not my friend and patience was not in my vocabulary.

But I was an observer… a silent student of those around me and the late 80’s was a fascinating time. In the corporate world there were a few players that were using time and strategy to achieve incredible things. I watched people like Robert Holmes a Court and Rupert Murdoch patiently building their empires and using time exquisitely. I saw the ’87 crash and the effect it had on the markets and the economy at large. The lessons were not lost on me. Three years later the markets were recovering but many of the get-rich-quick players had vanished. I remember talking to my old friend Rex Lopez who asked me about the lessons I had learned. I told him “time and gravity”. On this planet nothing goes up for ever…. and time, well time has a way of working for you or against you, depending on how well you understand it. He smiled, nodded and said “make time your friend”.

I needed to learn to be patient. I needed to understand time better… to have a different perspective on things. The first thing I did was take up Bonzai trees as a hobby. This is “not” a pass time for those in a hurry for results. The full beauty of a Bonzai tree (when grown from seedling) takes years of care and shaping. You start with an end in mind… and you slowly work at it. With patience, persistence and passion for what you’re trying to do… you end up with something that is exquisite.

This is where the conversations prior to moving to the island come in. Many said “you’re so lucky”…. but they didn’t walk miles and miles in the stifling heat looking for the right cave, they didn’t run around for half a dozen  years chasing paperwork and they didn’t  live in a hole for a year, breathing in volcanic ash while the renovation work was being done. I guess “lucky” is all about perspective. People tend to make many assumptions when they hear about those that make a decision to live a different life. They assume that you can easily afford to do it…or that you obviously have nothing to hold you back….that somehow all the planets aligned to make it possible. But that’s not how life works.

There were many “Sophie’s Choice” moments prior to making the decision to move. But something like this does not happen in an instant. From the moment an idea enters your mind, or a passion is discovered, or a dream becomes an obsession, it is a long process….a continuum if you will. You have to patiently align your life to your dream. You have to work at it and patiently make it happen. Everyone’s life has circumstances and everyone’s dream is different. But making dreams come true is a formula and understanding time, having patience and being passionate about your dream are surely the key elements.

There is no such thing as a “universally audible tick-tock”. But no matter what your dream is – opening a shop, writing a book, travelling, living in another country or changing your career – it takes time, patience & passion.  The sooner you start aligning your life to your dream the sooner you will live your dream. Time is infinite…life is not. The much talked about “one day”…doesn’t just happen, you have to make it happen !

Just my humble opinion…

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If you are into great photography and an interesting read… you might like to visit the following two ladies and their wonderful blogs:

Carla loves photography

Soto Il Monte Vineyards