by Habie Schwarz & Simon Hamilton (Scotland)
BEFORE THE EVENT : WHY HYDRA?
We fell in love dancing to 'Take This Waltz' in a Glasgow flat in the rain.
If either of us feels down, we put on a favourite Leonard song; 'Marianne' or 'I'm Your Man' for Simon, 'Hallelujah' or 'Field Commander' or 'Joan of Arc' for Habie. We sing along, eyes wild, out of tune. Instant cheer.
A picture of Leonard at his Hydra writing desk is stuck to the side of this computer as I write. It's amazing what beautiful feet he has. There's a newspaper headline from the US stuck to the frame, 'Have scientists found the cure for love?'.
Simon's half-brother Giles was abandoned on Hydra as a ten-year-old boy for several months, cared for by whoever was around. Playing a guitar in the port one day, he was befriended by a man called Len, who offered to help him anytime he needed it. It was Leonard Cohen; years later Giles went backstage at a concert to thank Leonard, who remembered.
Fifteen years ago I was on Hydra for an Alexander Technique course. Barefoot on silk-soft stone along jasmine streets, wild cats scattering or sitting quietly on white painted benches next to black-veiled women. We meditated in the Greek morning and swam in a translucent sea under the loveliest light we'd ever seen. Someone said I'd been transformed from 'a beached whale into a brown Goddess'. He was probably just blinded by the light, but it was a fine time anyway. And in those days I never even knew that my favourite poet loved Hydra too.
We don't meet many Leonard fans in our daily lives, people still mutter about dirge and depression when his name comes up and never really listen. Even those who claim to like poetry.
We love to roam. We don't know what a weekend on a Greek island with fellow Cohen-heads from all over the world will be like, and we don't want to. We're happy to just jump on a flying dolphin and find out.
See you there!
Photo © Henning Franz
ONE MONTH LATER (after the event)
What can we say? Some Hydramazing memories in no particular order:
- Leonard's interview with the woman called Stina ("I'll follow you...") full of so much playful wisdom it was like hearing the news that someone you love has found peace at last.
- Henning bouncing around the coffee tables gob-smacked with wonderment after singing on stage with Suzanne.
- tomatoes like juiced sunshine.
- delicious new friends from Holland to Maine, Dublin to Tokyo, Germany to Barbados, and all the great places in between.
- tiredness melting into music as we stayed up all night in the harbour singing with broken voices and the enthusiasm of children finally allowed to shout thank you.
- Nikolas of Tavern Roloi and his beautiful daughter at 3am, swaying arm in arm singing along to Dance Me to The End of Love.
- Martha Wainwright's thrilling voice in the harbour by moonlight.
- watching Jarkko smile more and more often as the days passed, sometimes even to himself, until by the end it seemed we had completely taken the worry from his eyes.
- Simon's delighted sense of recognition ("I feel like Leonard is inside my head when he talks about women...")
- finding that many of us in the group were able to laugh at ourselves and our painstaking reverence (craning necks trying to photograph the ghost of a piece of wire...), given LC's own humility and simplicity.
- realising that Leonard's poetry thrills even people who speak no English, and coming home to a raft of emails from new friends and the unlikely comradeship of an international network of people who share something each of them had thought was theirs alone.
Many thanks. Here's to you all,
Habie Schwarz and Simon Hamilton
(and our unborn baby, who must surely know all those lyrics by heart already.
Let's hope s/he comes out begging for more, not mercy).