Writer, photographer and lover of the overlooked and forgotten

Photo compliments of author

What would you like to know? I’m guessing you would like to know my slant, my background, what I bring to the party, what makes me tick. Not too much information, just enough. So here goes –

First, my last name is Greek. My grandfather immigrated from Greece in the early 1900s. A fellow immigrant helpfully translated our last name into (sort of) English. “Helentjaris” looks more complicated than it is: the “t” is silent, and, like most Greek names, the accent is on the next to last syllable. Helen — JAR — Us. As a result of the unique…

A short murder mystery from Virginia’s hunt country

Photo by Jason Wolf on Unsplash

The murder had been easy, surprisingly so. Adam whistled tunelessly as he puttered around the shop. He refilled the brass holder with business cards and straightened out the stack of “Visit Middleburg” brochures. Outside the antique shop, the light was starting to fail. The days were so short in November. They’d be short in Puerto Rico, too, but they’d also be warm. He hated the cold.

His mother had always said the best times were the unplanned ones. He chuckled. The best murders seemed to be the unplanned ones as well. “Crimes…

San Francisco, a teen girl, and the medical intern

Photo by Camilo Jimenez

Hers was the first stomach I ever pumped. I stood by the semiconscious teenager’s head and chanted under my breath “In with the good, out with the bad.” With an experienced doctor walking me through it, I had inserted the tube. I snaked it through her nose and ran it all the way down into her stomach. The stomach full of a mishmash of capsules and tablets. Now I was pouring a black slurry of charcoal into the tubing, letting it rest a minute, then drawing her stomach contents out. As…

Recompense for the immigrant

The Old Courthouse Dayton, Ohio. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

I like to think it happened at the Old Courthouse,

though more likely it was in a beige or green government room.

Nevertheless, in my mind’s eye,

my egg-shaped grandfather stands with the mayor

at the top of the Old Courthouse steps.

So diminutive he’s nearly invisible,

flanked by the white Ionic columns

which like a whale’s baleen filtered out the good Daytonians from the bad.

The premier Greek revival courthouse in America,

plopped down on the flats at Third and Main,

a limestone facsimile of Athens’ Temple of Hephaestus.

Nearby, on its own acropolis, shouldering…

Dayton Public Library 1888–1962. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

We are not always who we think we are

Photo by author.

Ourania, the daughter of the banker and Cleo,

spoke English.

Ourania, my cousin, the princess of the backstory.

Great aunt Katherine’s husband had been from up north -

Macedonia, Thrace, Thessaloniki, some place like that.

“A Turk,” some claimed.

Others said he drank too much.

Whatever the facts,

he left her with very little when he died.

Katherine asked to have me visit and I went alone.

Her whitewashed cottage,

no bigger than a Kentucky pioneer’s first log cabin,

had an open hearth at one end

and a shelf along a…

Tucked in Alexander Hamilton’s papers are snippets of black silk lace

Interior with lace-making girl by Emma Ekwall. Wikimedia Commons

Lace is all about what’s left out, a collection of holes formed into a pattern. The word evokes wedding veils, christening gowns, negligees, and fancy words like Alencon, Valenciennes, Chantilly, and Torchon.

Most needlefolk eventually try their hand at making a piece of lace. We knit a diaphanous scarf or tat a hanky edge. Pretty as they are, though, it is the classic handmade bobbin and needle laces which take my breath away. Needle lace, created with a threaded needle and a pattern, takes the buttonhole stitch far beyond…

A quest for reproduction fabric reveals more than expected

Reproduction quilting cottons at The Sew’n Place. Photo by author.

On the hunt, I follow up on a tip from a quilter I know. Gettysburg. Yes, Gettysburg is the spot. Of course. It all makes sense. What better place to find fabric designed for time travelers, cloth which replicates the material and patterns of the past?

Though less than eight thousand souls now call it home, Gettysburg has an outsized place in the American conscience. Over three days in July 1863, the Union and Confederate armies clashed in and around the town. Horses reared and neighed, sabers clashed, and people died…

A hot Ohio day and a lesson in compassion

Natalie Shea on Unsplash

I softly knocked on the exam room door, then entered. An elderly woman perched in her wheelchair, unable to clamber onto the exam table. The diminutive floral print of her cotton dress harkened back to the 1950’s, a time when she had been in her prime. Her bird-like black eyes met mine and she blessed me with a lopsided smile, the same glance and smile she had shared when I was a little girl. I pulled out my stethoscope and warmed the diaphragm with my breath.

She still lived in the…

In a win-win, the colorful fabric bags made life better during dark times

George Reier. Photo by author.

Ninety-year-old George Reier is ready. Always. His car is gassed up, his frig full, and his garden weeds pulled. As a farm boy in Cranberry Prairie, Ohio, he learned to take care of things. Later, in the Marines, George was in charge of supplies. I was not surprised this week that when I mentioned flour sacks to George, he ferreted out one from the bottom of his cedar chest in five minutes flat. Pristine and clean as the day it was made, the red, white, and blue…

Diane Helentjaris

Virginia writer with a love of the overlooked. Author of Diaspora, a poetry chapbook. www.DianeHelentjaris.com

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