The Sanctum

15, October 2012 § Leave a comment

At the core of the Aegean Center, lies the philosophy of the Sanctum, the Center’s special space for students in the hill village of Lefkes.  If the Center is an oasis for the Classical arts in a wasteland of post-modernism, then the Sanctum is an island refuge from the din of the over-connected, banal networks found in the supposed modern world.  In my own experience I have found the Sanctum to be a place of healing, a fountain of renewal after I had been drained dry by societies pressures and the indecision of identity and character.

In 2010 I was still connected to old rhythms, still dancing a tired, limping waltz leftover from an exhausting home-care commitment in which I had willingly labored since 2004 and human aid work in Bosnia in 2007 and 2008.  That fresh spring day I had not intended to come to sit in the clear light of that quiet room.  I had wandered around Lefkes hoping to take some interesting photos in the streets and the surrounding area, but found myself, quite by accident, at the Sanctum’s door.  The students had visited the place a few weeks before with John Pack.  He had told us something about himself that day and opened up his heart in both joy and sadness.  I inserted my shiny, new key, turned the lock and walked in.  I put down my day-pack.  It suddenly felt too heavy to bear.  The muted April light shining through the windows illuminated the soft pillows, colorful rugs and a small wooden writing desk on the floor.  There were only earth tones, nothing jarring to the senses. There was a painting on the wall, some wooden tables, a few simple caned chairs. The air was cool, scented with oregano growing in small pots.  In comparison I felt heavy, ungainly, somewhat unbalanced.  My mind was buzzing with a dull grey drone and I found myself asking questions as old as Paros:  “Why am I here? Who am I? What is my reason? Where am I going? What will I find when I get there?”  I sat down roughly into the pillows, grateful for their softness, kicked off my shoes and fell into oblivion.

I awoke an hour later feeling more calm, but still pensive.  I had dreamed.  I understood that it was acceptable to feel uncertain, to ask these questions of myself.  I didn’t need the answers today.  Perhaps they would never be satisfied.  To keep searching would be better than ending the quest with a quick, efficient, modern answer.  I had discovered this vital truth, a truth I knew in my heart, in a little room in Greece, surrounded by silence and light.  I returned to Paroikia that afternoon, transformed.

So what is the philosophy of the Sanctum?  To be honest I am not entirely sure, but I know that there is one important rule:  No electronic interference or devices: no mobile phones, no internet, no recorded music, no games.  Nothing that would distract the mind from the important experience of ‘being’, as opposed to ‘doing’.  We come to the Sanctum to learn who we are, just as we come to the Aegean Center to experience something we do not have in America, or wherever we are from.  With any luck we leave that behind when we step off the boat from Athens.  We search for something more meaningful in a world measured by ‘things’ and a vertical technology.  We disengage from the cacophony of an incorrectly defined progressive era, step over the marble threshold and into a clear and quiet room.  We put down what we carry.

– John D.C. Masters, Paros, 15 October, 2012

Student Post: Sarah Ransohoff

30, March 2010 § Leave a comment

On Friday, John led a group of students on a four hour journey from Lefkes to Aliki (towns on the island of Paros). Believe me when I say that this was truly stunning, and possibly my favorite hike with John ever.

Imagine walking on a sunny day over the flower-rich mountains of Paros, with occasional powerful yet refreshing gusts of cool wind, and no villages in sight. It was so awesome that I often found myself imagining what a bird’s-eye view of us would look like, trekking through donkey paths and stopping to drink water from a spring  (I often came up with an image somewhat like “The Sound of Music”). Some images that have stuck with me  are of wind whipping through fields of tall grass, fellow students far ahead of me winding up a steep and flower speckled mountain side, and drinking from a spring that John showed us. Needless to say after the four hours of hiking, most of us went to bed early.

Below is a poem that Charlie, another student here, has written about the hike.

Soles wore thin,
On the undulating trail,
Of where my feet led me,
Among the pristine pebbles I met metal.
My face neared earth,
My hands grasped nettle,
And I wondered who was right,
Nature or civilization?

Until next time, and wishing everyone a great day,
Sarah Ransohoff

Sarah Ransohoff is a painting student here at the Aegean Center. This is her second semester.

The Friday Hike

6, May 2009 § Leave a comment


Some photos from our past several hikes.






Thanks to Chantal, Jun and Melissa for the photos.

The Friday Hike

11, March 2009 § Leave a comment

6 March 2009, in the mountains of Lefkes

The first hike of the season took place under a dusty sirocco sky. John led the way through overgrown donkey paths, stony river beds, and fields bespeckled with spring’s first wildflowers. A traditional meal at Flora’s Taverna in the nearby village of Lefkes sated our whetted appetites before our quiet and contemplative return to the Aegean Center, to our studios, and to the work already begun this first full week on Paros.




Thanks to Jun and Alice for the photos.

The Friday Hike

31, October 2008 § Leave a comment

Samantha, Remonstrative; Carter, Bemused

Alice, exuberant: Samantha, remonstrative; Carter, bemused

Friday, 24 October, 2008. In the Mountains of Lefkes. Fotos by Alice Houston.

Olive Picking George

Olive Picking George

White goats, white clouds

White goats, white clouds

Adrian, contemplative, with satchel

From the Archives: The Lefkes Sanctum (2005)

4, June 2008 § Leave a comment

It was 1988 when I had my first meeting with the town council of Lefkes. I was seeking their approval to establish an outpost facility of the Center in their beautiful mountain village. Time and events, being the friend and enemy they always seem to be, delayed this special dream from becoming a reality until October 2005.

Dreams come true not through fairytale realities, but through focused hard work, conviction and usually a good measure of well earned serendipity. Dreams are also often realized with the help of others who believe in what you are doing — the John Van Burens, the Rosamond Olivettis, our faithful alumni and their families. In the case of Lefkes, it was through the kindness of Monique Mailloux and Stelios Ghikas who founded the beautiful Studio Yria in Lefkes and Kostos.

This beautiful space, outside of the daily path from home to studio, in a different village on the island, allows students to find a quiet place dedicated to thought and conversation.

Within the space our intent will be: to contemplate Art and Place, finding personal meaning in its message, to increase our ability to observe, to still the obsessive contemporary art ego and pinpoint our focus, to clarify our attention and quiet the anxious world outside. Over the years Lefkes has always provided this ‘quiet space’ for me personally.

Standing still before beauty we seek self awareness and access to our humanity.

John Pack

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