Tag Archives: Aeolus

A BASKET CASE

 

This winter was a pretty bad one. Worst in living memory is what folks have said about it. Winter here is a season I usually enjoy though most people don’t, and I can see why. For sun lovers it doesn’t get a whole lot better than Greece with her typically placid summers, long and hot. Dependably so.

Once in a while the gods get angered and tempers fray up there on Mt Olympus. Zeus hurls a few thunderbolts about, Aeolos pitches his winds into the mix, and between them they might fling some rain around.

It’s usually all over in a flash, sometimes several flashes, but it doesn’t last long and it doesn’t happen often during the summer.

This winter nearly did me in. The sun pulled a vanishing act. It simply up and left. Perhaps Helios felt slighted that Chione, temperamental goddess of snow was getting too much attention and so he went into a prolonged sulk. Whatever. We missed him. We’d arise to damply dismal days, with fog so thick that frequently we couldn’t see much of the Pagasitic at all.

For the first time in my life I was affected by the lack of light, and began to understand what Ron means when he refers to the cabin fever of Alaska. Peering through the gloom at the distorted outlines of familiar shapes among the olive groves I could almost imagine that I caught glimpses of centaurs chasing about.

We’d been away so long last year that one of the storerooms wasn’t opened up until we’d come back and needed a few items. An awful smell greeted me as I unlocked the door and found, to my horror, that some of the bits and pieces were pretty much covered in a black mold. Yecch! The worst affected were the baskets I’d put there when I went through a de-cluttering frenzy a couple of years ago. Housekeeping not being my strong suit, I’d decided then that I was tired of dusting them, and probably even more tired of extricating the cats from them.

The only way to attempt a rescue was to wash the mold off, but the weather was so wet and the sun so absent that drying them was going to be a problem. I placed the sorry-looking baskets in a spare room with a dehumidifier, which Ron had to empty constantly, until winter began its journey south and the sun started getting over its snit. Finally, after still grumbling and grousing its way through a few days, gracing us with only brief appearances, the sun recovered its good humor and beamed down brightly.

As soon as I was reasonably confident of weather reports predicting prolonged periods of sun I set the baskets out in the courtyard and got to work with the hose, spraying the mold off carefully. A gentle brushing with a very soft brush completed the task and although some of the woven grass has darkened a little in color, the baskets emerged none the worse for the experience. I’m much relieved for apart from the fact that I have a great appreciation of the handmade, several of my baskets are quite old and are filled with memories.

This little basket has a history. It’s one of my most precious possessions. A great many years ago my Mother helped a Zulu woman who had come to our back door. Several days later the woman returned in order to give this basket she had woven to my Mother. Mother was overwhelmed by the generosity of a rural woman who had so little in material terms, and treasured the gift. It’s worth noting that she had walked many, many miles to come to our home. Barefoot. In the blazing sun. My Mother kept her knitting in it until I, by then in high school, relieved her of it to store my knitting needles.

Ron’s Mother purchased this beauty about 60 years ago in Taiwan. It’s a funerary basket, used to take food to the grave of a loved one. It’s woven of rattan, lacquered in red and black, with decoration in gold paint. I have no way of knowing if the female figure on the lid is a general representation of a mourner, or was commissioned for a particular person. Fortunately the basket suffered no ill effects from the mold although it was so covered in the gunk that no color could be seen.

Here are a few more from my collection.

Yesterday my friend Carrie in Austin sent me these pictures of a basket she’s just made.

One of two she’s making for her cats, having noticed, like me, that kitties are partial to taking naps in baskets. My cats, it must be said, are partial to taking naps anywhere that’s likely to inconvenience me. Ah well…

 

THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER – ‘BYE!

We’ve had our fair share of typically grey days this winter, but they’ve not been accompanied by as much rain as we usually get. This type of weather rather irritates me as I feel we should at least get something back for putting up with drab and dreary days…some token rainfall at least to justify the lack of sunlight.

Dismal proclamations have been made about this state of weather affairs whenever the topic of rain, or more to the point, the lack thereof has arisen in conversation.

“There’ll be no olive crop at this rate,” is the gloomy prediction.

“The water will run out; the dam will be empty; the springs will dry up.”

All of these prophesies are accompanied by head shaking and heavy sighing, and indeed the lack of rain, the threat of drought are serious matters, and not to be laughed at. Some snow has fallen on Mt Pelion, and the snow melt will contribute to the water table, but it hasn’t been enough.

Zeus, that unreasonable god of the rain, has messed us about all winter long. After a fairly long period of unseasonably warm weather, just as I was beginning to think of putting winter bedding and coats away, just as the fig trees are filling with figlets and the orange and lemon trees are beaming with blooms, so has he decided to make himself felt. And did he ever!

He started quietly on Sunday, no fuss. No thunderbolts. A bit of wind later in the day when he called upon Aeolus to join him in mischief. But at nightfall he let rip, throwing down torrents of water which thrummed and drummed on the hard ground, the roof, the trees. Welcome it was, at first, but soon it became too much of a good thing, and began to concern us. I found it difficult to sleep, fearing that flooding would occur, would lead to landslides, that people would have problems.

Monday morning we awoke to the thick brown river of mud flowing across the Pagasitic, evidence of the downpours on higher ground.

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Snow on the mountain, several major and minor landslides, flooding in Volos city centre, and numerous incidents of damage and difficulty as a result.

It rained heavily all day yesterday, and there’s still more to come according to the weather gurus. And so, it wasn’t all that much of a surprise when our friends ‘phoned from their car this morning with the news: “The bridge over the river has collapsed. We have to turn around and go via the top road.”

The unpaved and unmaintained top road. Four-wheel-drive territory at the best of times. The long way round. A quagmire.

Ah well, never a dull moment, but the damage to the bridge is more than just a nuisance: it will take a long time to repair and will be costly. I wonder if the Ancients felt as furious at Zeus?

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The Main Water Supply Line for the Peninsula

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HATS! CHAIRS! TABLES!

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The south wind, that most unwelcome bearer of Sahara dust, has been blowing wildly most of the week, yielding occasionally to the rages of the competitive west wind. So choking has the dust been that the elderly and those suffering from breathing complaints have been strongly advised to remain indoors.

Newspapers the world over run banner headlines to the effect that the weather is nuts, has gone mad, is weird, strange, odd, ominous. To hear some tell it, the end of the world is upon us. So must the Ancients have believed when Aeolus, heeding the command of the gods, opened his bag of tricks and let loose the four winds.

Who has angered the gods this time? No idea, but someone up there on Mt. Olympus was certainly livid enough earlier this week to demand that Aeolus really let rip. Unpleasant as the south wind is, it’s no match for the west wind in full throttle. All through the long Monday night it ranted and roared, pounded the coast, sent shutters shuddering, surely terrorized many creatures, and kept us awake. Nor was Aeolus instructed to bag his west wind again come morning, with the result that it grumbled along, squabbling with the south wind until late yesterday.

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Wind is hardly uncommon here on the Pelion Peninsula where the many islands and inlets of the Pagasitic Gulf, together with the hilly and mountainous terrain, interact to influence the weather patterns. The Pag is beloved by sailors, its merry breezes with their sudden shifts in intensity and direction providing challenges to amateur and pro alike.

The locals have a delightful vocabulary of expressions to describe the effects of what Aeolus is offering: kapelato, kareklato, trapezato being among my favourites. Kapelo is a hat, karekla is a chair, trapezi a table. Well, what he unleashed on Monday night had no difficulty lifting tables, none at all, as was soon obvious to us in the morning when we set off for Volos. We took the coastal road which is practically deserted at this time of year and shortens the trip by a good 15 minutes. West wind’s temper tantrum had littered the beaches with debris. Branches, rocks, stones are objects of nature,

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but the heaps of plastic and other examples of man-made items hurled up by the sea are an eyesore, though in fairness some had clearly been dislodged by force of wind and wave.

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Parts of the road had sheared off in the violence, making the narrow road more challenging still,

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but what brought us to a complete standstill was the large tamarisk tree, torn from its position between the beach and the road, blocking any further passage.

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Hubby was unfazed, stopping the car to get out and survey the situation.
I carried on knitting.

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“We left with plenty of time to spare,” he reassured me as he returned to the car.  “I’ve a handsaw in the back – soon take care of this.”

I continued knitting; he appeared to be rummaging about longer than I’d expected.

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“Rats!” he announced (or something similar). “I must’ve forgotten to get it back when I lent it to Costa.”

Well, that put a spanner rather than a saw into the works. I abandoned the knitting in favour of documenting the incident for posterity.

Ron moved on to plan B.
“I’ll use the tow rope to pull it out of the way,” he said, uncoiling it from the collection of hydraulic jacks, oil, jumper cables, tire pump, and sundry other items apparently essential to our survival when traversing the Balkans. (I might mention here that my emergency supplies typically run to plenty of knitting and chocolate.)
“It won’t take long.”

He worked at securing the cable to the tamarisk and then to the car’s bumper, yelling at me to get well out of the way as he climbed back in to start the car.

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Waves crashed, spray spat, tires screeched, stones crunched but the tree budged nary an inch. Again he tried. Again the collection of sounds filled the air. Again the tree resisted.

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Ron climbed back out to retrieve the cable, I climbed back in. There was no option but to retrace our journey and take the upper road. Now considerably delayed we were grateful for the cell ‘phone though it was some time before we could get a signal and let it be known we were running late.

We stopped at the first inhabited property to advise of the obstruction which would need a chainsaw to clear away completely.

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Missions in Volos accomplished – which included hubby purchasing a handsaw – we returned via the coastal road. The tamarisk had meanwhile been chopped up and stacked at the side of the road by some public-spirited soul; Ron had missed his chance.

PERSEPHONE and POMEGRANATES

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The pomegranate – known since antiquity

The burial mound at Amphipolis, near Thessaloniki in Greece, has been very much in the news recently but now that an ancient skeleton has been found the excitement has reached peak levels. Thanks to modern science we’re accustomed to the fact that age, sex, height of skeletal remains can be determined, but it’s astonishing that scientists fully expect to learn details such as colour of hair and eyes of the person buried in this tomb. He or she was certainly of great importance as indicated by the splendour of the burial chambers, though the tomb has unfortunately long since been looted.

The mosaic floor is of superb quality. Only imagine the skill and expertise required to carry out the back-breaking work of assembling the scene. I wonder if the pebbles were collected and sorted for the artist by helpers? One would think so. This National Geographic article gives a brief description of the mosaic.

Persephone, daughter of Demeter and Zeus, featured prominently in Greek mythology, though the concept of a goddess responsible for the rebirth of plant growth in the spring has a history which predates the latest versions of the Greek myths; birth and death have always preoccupied Man’s mind.

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Winter fruits: Apples and pomegranates are frequently mentioned in the Greek myths

Needless to say, after all the skulduggery and trauma of being dragged underground, Persephone was more than a little anxious to return to her mother from the Underworld.  In one version of the Greek myth, Hades agreed to free her if she hadn’t eaten or drunk anything while in his underground kingdom.

But he tricked her, of course – Greek myths are big on tricks and treachery!

He fooled her into eating some pomegranate seeds, with the result that her freedom came with certain conditions: six months on Earth, six months with him as Queen of the Underworld. Thus did the ancient Greeks explain the seasons.

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Jason’s quite cosy in warm winter colours


Some years ago I knitted my friend a shawl in what has become my signature style, using many colours and textures of yarn; the original shawl is featured in my first book (2000).

We were photographing this one in late Fall before Aeolus, that normally nimble god of the wind, had dispersed all the Bougainvillea blooms, and together with a bowl of pomegranates on the table – the colours were irresistible. So much fun setting up the pictures!

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Highlighting the colours

Persephone is a lovely classical name, not often heard nowadays; Persa is the common pet name. Persephone, a favourite subject of artists and sculptors, is frequently depicted delicately draped in floating wraps and shawls.

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Worn by an antique olive jar

Did she knit brightly coloured shawls to cheer her through the dark dismal days in Hades?

TEMPER! TEMPER!

I have mentioned before that various Greek gods of mythology were said to be responsible for bad weather, and last night they outdid themselves. An almighty storm blew up out of nowhere as we were reading ourselves to sleep. It raced across the Pagasitic from Volos where torrential rain caused such flooding that news reports likened the streets of Volos to the canals of Venice, and had us scrambling out of bed, scattering indignant cats in our wake, as we rushed to secure the shutters. And did it rain! The water slammed against the shutters and the windows and thundered down on the roof, battering the garden as though driven by some fury of envy at the early autumn loveliness. The gods were certainly enraged. All of them were in on the act, but whose tantrum started it? Zeus flung his thunderbolts about in a frenzy, fuming at Aeolus to release the storm winds. Poseidon, not one to be outdone, shot up from the depths to make his menacing entrance. Talk about a tempest!

The rampage was shortlived, no damage, but a quick inspection this morning revealed that the Sternbergia had suffered. The delicate yellow flowers which are such a delight as winter approaches, were no match for the arrogant actors in this latest drama. P1230286 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768] P1230289 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768] P1230295 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768] P1230299 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

CHEESED OFF

Poseidon's been pouting, Zeus has been raging and now Aeolus, god of the wind, has joined in. They've been trying to outdo each other all weekend. Rain, lightning, thunder and wind. Not your gentle Zeus-snoring breaths, mind you, not fluffy little clouds ruffling the water, but great gusts of violence. Tempests. Squalls. Gales. Call them any name you like.

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Lord Beaufort would have been in his element. Lord Beaufort, who survived being shipwrecked as a lad because someone messed up a chart, and who grew up determined never to have that happen again. Can't say I blame him. I've no desire to make Poseidon's acquaintance either. Anyway, Lord Beaufort went on to do great things after his bad experience, not least of which was becoming a Rear Admiral and a Sir, and generally going up hugely in the world. And while he was achieving all this, he also made time to tinker about with his Wind Force Scale. In use all over the world, it describes the effects varying wind strengths have on smoke, trees, water and so on. It makes for interesting reading, and gives you some idea if you're about to have a really rough go of it.

"Wow, look!" I'll exclaim, gazing out upon a froth of wavelets dancing with little white horses, as I  consult my printout of Beaufort's Scale. "I reckon that's a Beaufort 3. Maybe even a 4."

Not this time though. Not on your life. The Pagasitic Gulf has been battling a Beaufort 7 at least, more like an 8 with distinct notes of a 9 at times. Olives are raining down off the trees, bits of geraniums are flying about. The hairy and furry members of the household have the right idea. This calls for restful calm within the house, with tea and munchies, a book and some knitting. And friend Sally's cheesies are just the thing.

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SALLY's Cheesies

INGREDIENTS
4 oz butter – softened
8 oz grated cheese*
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1-1/2 cups flour – sifted

METHOD
Preheat oven to 350 degF
Mix butter, cheese and seasonings.
Add flour and form into a dough.
Roll out and cut into straws.
Or use a cookie press if you like to get really fancy.
I simply roll the dough into small balls and flatten with a fork.
Bake on a greased cookie sheet for about 25 minutes

*Notes on cheese
Use an Extra Sharp Cheddar cheese if possible.
I don't usually have this available, so I add a good amount of cayenne pepper.
Chili powder works just as well.

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These are very popular at parties.
They keep well and are great with soup.
OK, so I lied, they don't keep long in this household!