What a yeah, huh?
This is an intimate celebration of the past year. Since I sent my annual thought patterns next week, you’ll have to wait until January 7 before I return with the usual links to quiet, odd and poetic web.
Thank you for reading, and thank you for 2023.
Uno’s shoes are yellow. His hat too. Yellow like the sun. Yellow like the wildflowers peeking up from the pavement cracks, decorating the wayside and spotting the hillside slope of Hydra, the Greek island we stayed on over New Year. Ana and I wear beige. We resemble an egg as we walk hand in hand with yellow Uno in the middle. Yellow like the egg yolk. It is off-season. Tavernas are closed, and the tourists are gone. In their absence, the presence of the island is amplified. We wake up to the donkeys’ “hee-haw.”
With two days’ notice, a work trip to Mauritius is confirmed. The client books premium business class for our twelve hours flight. Uno and I sit in a two-meter-long private cabin. We are assigned a driver to assist us the entire week. The roads are named “The North,” “The Center” and “The South.” It is uncanny how Mauritius is designed to be legible to foreigners and to be one of them.
I spend my days with Uno, from morning till evening. We make a dent on the Philopappos Hill using fallen tree branches. It becomes our second home. We grow closer. We respond to each other’s moods without words. Uno knows when I’m too exhausted to be second-guessed, and I know when Uno needs a hug. It is an extreme luxury to witness how he discovers the world: he bobbles with happiness from jumping in muddle puddles, laughs deeply from the breadcrumb-eating bird, and builds a habit of picking flowers for Ana.
In the middle of February, we plan a calm weekend. It is the first weekend without visitors or work in five months. We listen to music, I make coffee, Ana dresses the bed, and while Uno plays with the sofa pillows he falls… He screams in panic, and blood runs out of his mouth. The egg breaks and his front tooth is gone, leaving a hole in his smile and my heart.
I’m writing a pop-up newsletter during a three-week trip to Denmark, Austria, Slovenia and Italy. In the newsletter, I mention my mom’s sickness for the first time. Ana and I share much of our lives online but wonder what to keep for ourselves. I’m open to writing about heavy things but want to deliver them gracefully.
The first thing I do when we return home to Athens is to fill our kitchen with fruits and vegetables from the local farmer’s market. Cooking is becoming a daily highlight. I practice perfecting my French omelet with Uno as a helper.
We are one night from signing another rental contract. Fortunately, we follow our intuition, so instead of moving, we spend April eating ice cream, picking wild mimosas and hosting my grandparents in Athens. It touches me to witness Uno forming lasting memories with his great-grandparents.
Ana is busy with work. I’m proud of her. She has worked more than half of her life to reach the opportunities she receives. For her birthday, we return to Hydra. When I look back at the photos from the year, we look the happiest on the Greek islands. Maybe it is the access to water? Or is it the disconnection from land?
It is a vulnerable period for me. Ana’s travels leave me feeling alone. To fall asleep, I listen to Danish football podcasts and wake up lying on my AirPods like the princess in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale about the pea.
We travel together to Naxos for work. I photograph Ana with her prints for The Poster Club on a field of wildflowers. Remo teaches Uno and me how to drive a car. And one Saturday night, I published the Naive Yearly website. I’m so nervous that Ana starts to record a video and interview me about what I’m doing.
The heat arrives. We decide the lighter clothing is an invitation to potty train Uno. I feel like a beginner parent. I’m constantly asking Uno if he needs to pee. Neither of us can rest. I also struggle with repeating dizziness. Every second day feels like I am walking on jelly. I notice my head is cramped, so I expand the strap of the cap I received for last year’s Father’s Day.
There are days when I look at Uno’s face without focusing on the gap in his smile. And there are days when the neighbour kids come by for unsolicited visits. Everything feels less foreign. Maybe that’s why we start to visit museums and galleries. It is the best art experience of the year when we visit the joint exhibition of Theodore Psychoyos and Raoul De Pesters.
June 22nd is the first day I want to leave because of the heat. I’m alone with Uno. We wake up early in the morning, but it is already hot. I prepare him a bath on the balcony and roll the agony down to maximise shade. Uno sits in the bathtub for hours. It is also in June we visit Syros, and I launch Tiny Awards with Matt.
I loose my keys. Our door is like a bank vault, so it is difficult to make a replacement key. Six years ago, I also didn’t have a home key. Back then, it was because I didn’t have a home nor did I know where I wanted to be. Instead of a home key, I had pockets full of keys to my friends’ places. Now all I want is pockets full of spare keys to our home so I can give a copy to friends and neighbours.
Towards the end of the month, we travel north to visit families. When we arrive in Austria, the forest appears as saturated as an iPhone photo. The strong green against the sharp blue sky makes me miss their contrasting red and orange tones. Greece is an analogue photo, a Kodak Gold film, with nuances that are easier to notice when the contrast is reduced.
We say goodbye to his pacifiers and celebrate Uno’s birthday in Slovenia. He masters three languages, the same as his age, and uses Slovene to sing with his great-grandmother. The day makes me extra sentimental. I look at old baby photos of him. He looks different, still Uno, but a different Uno, and I miss the older Uno as much as I love the current Uno.
Shortly after we leave Slovenia, the country gets flooded. We read about it while sitting in Denmark, overlooking the house we used to live in. We also read about the death of one of our neighbours in Athens. Around the same time, wildfires strike Greece. Another neighbour sends a touching text message: “Hello from burning Greece. Mira just went to your home. Everything is fine. We are living a hell. Athens is full of smoke blown towards our city by very strong winds. I never remember anything like this. I am glad you are not here, especially for the baby’s health. It is very difficult even for us to breathe. As long as Acropolis is safe I feel safe… Love and kisses.”
I’m too occupied with the last preparations for Naive Yearly to understand the significance of everything unfolding. When the day finally arrives I get up with the sun. It is the first time we see the sun in weeks. I bring a bag of sunflowers with me to the venue. I remember its weight on my shoulder as clearly as I remember every minute of the rest of the day. It is the biggest gift I ever have given myself.
Naive Yearly ends with Uno assembling people on the dance floor to music played by my brother Holger from his USB. Three days later, I’m at the hospital with my siblings and mother to learn about the development of her illness. Another three days later, I’m knocked down with sickness for a week. When I recover, I visit my grandparents with Uno. Then my mother. And then take my dad and Uno to his first football game in a complete supporter outfit. Before we leave Denmark, I return to Malmö to host a stage at The Conference. It is a surreal period.
Back in Athens, my beige outfits feel like the white-washed marble statues that have lost their original colours in aesthetic rewriting. As a response, I let olive green and rust brown spread in my wardrobe. The environment is becoming us, and we are becoming part of it.
The six-week summer trip taught us that we can’t spend months of the year traveling from parent to parent, from country to country. It is too exhausting to be nomadic visitors and live from our suitcases. Instead, we must make our own home and become our own family.
Uno starts in kindergarten. He loves it. We pick him up happy, tired and clean. One weekend, we make a short trip back to Hydra for the Hydra Book Club and the last taste of summer. We walk along the coastline to see Jeff Koon’s Wind Spinner sculpture. I realise its rotating golden rays resemble Uno’s curls. Golden, soft, and gently moving in the wind, a contrast to Jeff Koon’s yacht, which is docked in the harbour and requests attention from everyone with its large size and graphical patterns.
I’m calm when I launch URL Poetry Club.
In one week we receive a series of messages from public authorities in Denmark. We left the country thinking we would return, therefore some things are only paused, and the patience seems to be running out. The messages are annoying reminders when they arrive, but they push us to get the bureaucratic things in order. Or at least continue the process of permanently relocating to Greece.
Uno is furthest in the process. One evening, before going to bed, he sings his first song in Greek. It is about an owl. He sings the same song a few days later when we sit on a ferry to Naxos. When the passengers in front of us asks him where he is from, Uno replies Greece.
Uno calls me “old man”. I taught him that. I have grey hair on the side and forget to zip my fly.
In the mornings, I light an incense stick and listen to Andre3000. I also delete Twitter. And after picking Uno up from kindergarten, we dance wildly to Outkast. Uno starts to stutter. It sounds like the “alright” part from Hey-Ya. His stuttering only lasts for a week, then it evolves into rolling r’s. It is extra cute when his friend Andres comes to visit.
Outside, tourists are still wearing t-shirts. We find it cold and unpack our winter clothes. One evening, when our friend Loni puts Uno to sleep, Ana and I go on a rare date. We go to an art opening in a villa with acoustic music, a fireplace, a balcony with orange trees and the Aegean sea in the background. It looks like a movie scene, but I forgot how to act, and we both miss Uno, so we are home before 10pm. Still, it is one of the best nights of the year.
We travel to Santorini for a short work trip. The place surprises me. I make a new folder in my Notes app where I try to articulate why I’m scared while walking along the tall, steep cliffs. I still feel too insecure about my writing to publish it, but I practice whenever possible and aim to one day feel confident enough to accompany Ana’s photographs in print.
Uno asks about everything like a reincarnation of Socrates. Why is it Christmas? How do you make a tree? Where does fish come from? How did Uno come out of Mama’s belly? In a video call with family, he asks what they are eating, and when they reply chicken, he tells them they shouldn’t eat chicken. They ask him why. “Because then they are not there anymore,” Uno responds.
It is Christmas, and for the first time in my adult life, I’m fully committed. We listen to Christmas songs, decorate our Christmas tree and bake Christmas cookies.
I feel at home in Athens. Our bookshelf is filling up, including new coffee table books with Ana’s photos. In our neighbourhood, there are places where they bring my order without asking. I enjoy learning more than in a long time. I practice Greek, writing, editing, and self-care, and I research Greek history, Mediterranean plants and regenerative agriculture. It was a good year. I’m thankful for all the experiences and look forward to the next.
Naive Weekly is solely financed by voluntary paid subscriptions. If the newsletter is valuable for you, consider upgrading your subscription. You won’t receive anything else, but I genuinely appreciate the support.