Nov/Dec 2015 • Vol. XXXVII No. 6 Fiction |


We, the monks who paint the icons, do not live in the Stavrovouni Monastery proper but at the foot of its mountain in the Metochi Agia Varvara, or the Dependency of Saint Barbara. It seems fitting, in the light of our history, to have named our home after a Turkish woman who is the patron saint of gunsmiths, armorers, and artillerymen. Or ironic. I am not always sure which. I did not know that this was how it would go when I first arrived, but Father Meletios took me to the metochi and told me to sit beside him. He said, "Cedar is the best to use if possible," and he handed me a plank that had been drying in preparation for five years. "But if not cedar," he continued, "you should use cypress or oak or pine. In that order. And if not those, some other." "Some other" would mean any other if necessary. This, I learned, was the rule to override all other rules in my training on the icon—that one was always to strive to use the best, but if the best was not avail able, not to

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