Tag Archives: Mt Olympus

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…

 

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.

WELCOME BACK, PERSEPHONE!

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We were still in Austin when Persephone began her journey back from Hades to return to her grieving mother, so we missed the earliest signs celebrating the end of winter on the Pelion.

Winters here are typically mild with very occasional snowfall and rarely any frost, but the rainfall can be heavy and this past winter it certainly was. No complaints at all as we really needed it; many springs had dried up during the previous summer, causing considerable difficulty for those who depend upon them for their water supply.

The ancients would have attributed this generous rainfall to Zeus, god of rain, who reigned supreme on Mt Olympus. Good of him to spare the time from his lusty pursuit of young maidens! His daughter, Persephone, surely appreciated it for the wildflowers have done her proud, happy as we all are to welcome her back.

Greece is renowned for her wildflowers, and deservedly so for they are spectacular, not only in their beauty but also in their variety.
Habitats are many and diverse: sandy coastlines, pastureland and scrub, rocky ravines, wooded highlands and craggy mountains, saltwater, freshwater, well-watered lands and dry, wind-lashed and tightly sheltered, all with their particular plants adapted through the aeons to their conditions.

Man’s influence has inevitably been enormous. The maquis, which might at first glance seem untouched by man’s activities, will almost without exception have been affected in some way by previous populations and their lifestyles, stretching back into antiquity. The mountains of the Pelion region were once dense with native hardwoods; today only comparatively minute forested areas remain. Man is an innovative creature and where there is something – whatever it may be – to his advantage, he will make use of it.

Greece is a paradise for botanists professional and amateur alike, who may be seen, notebook in hand, hiking enthusiastically about as they spot and document plants. Several species are unique, found only in one particular location, such as an island. Many plants are rare, threatened, on the verge of extinction, others have already vanished, identified only in old engravings and drawings, the regrettable result of man’s impact on the environment.

Wildflowers of varying types appear throughout the year; some are tiny, almost invisible, others stand tall. Colour! Colour! Colour! The bees are frantically busy, knowing that warm days will inevitably end, while the beekeepers carefully tend their hives, moving them about to take advantage of the best nectar. Pelion honey, infused with flavour fit for the gods, is much sought after.

Spring and summer flowers retire, their seeds and bulbs lying peacefully dormant until Persephone calls to them again. Autumn arrives, throwing down dense carpets of cyclamen, welcoming the approach of winter, much as local residents roll out their rugs and kilims in preparation for the cool damp days ahead when more time must be spent indoors.

Look closely, remembering that the photos will enlarge when you click on them, and in some of the photos you’ll spot bugs, bees, butterflies  buzzing busily in the abundance! The cycle continues as birds and other wildlife feed, thus ensuring seed dispersal, and preparing the way for Persephone to return in all her ageless beauty.

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CHASING APOLLO

Apollo’s mother, Leto, became pregnant by Zeus, which of course greatly infuriated Hera, although the myths tell us that Leto was already in the family way when Zeus and Hera tied the knot. Zeus was rather fond of Leto, while Hera was anything but. No surprise there. She threw a spectacular hissy fit and one can just imagine the glee with which this tale was told and retold by the ancients as the myths took shape; soap operas are nothing new. Husbands with a wandering eye, betrayed womenfolk, children born outside a formal relationship – these have been well understood from time immemorial, and are the endlessly fascinating stuff of stories in every genre.

It didn’t take Hera long to get rid of Leto. As I’ve already mentioned
(Apple SlapDash; Stormy Relationships) she wasn’t one to tolerate her husband’s straying under any circumstances, nor was she going to give lodging to Leto on Mt Olympus. Out! Leave! Banished! So Leto wandered about until Zeus had his fellow god, Boreas of the North Wind, carry Leto out over the sea until she wound up on Delos. Heavy with child, as they say, on this rocky island did the heart wrenching operatic saga continue. Fascinating stuff indeed, but my point is that Apollo was born here.

I guess today we’d call Apollo a Renaissance man as he was heavily involved in quite a few things, including music, medicine and minding other people’s business through his role as the god of prophecy in Delphi. His large portfolio included being god of the sun and light, duties performed by Helios in earlier versions of the myths, so one might say Apollo’s was a hostile takeover, although Helios continued to be known as god of the sun, alongside Apollo.

No question Apollo took his obligations as sun god very seriously for he never failed to drive his chariot of fire across the world to bring the light. From East to West in regular rhythm did he travel, and we chased him across the sky last week as we flew back to Texas from Greece.

GOLDEN APPLES?

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Apples feature in several of the Greek myths, as they do in the mythologies of many cultures.

Hera was given a wedding gift of apple trees from the Earth Mother, Gaia, when she married Zeus. Theirs was what you might call a tricky courtship for Zeus deceived her into marrying him.

The wedding planner did them proud and although the occasion was a most splendid affair, quite over the top, with gods and goddesses in attendance, lavish gifts, out-of-this-world food, including streams of ambrosia bubbling about, the relationship went rapidly downhill from there. Truly the stuff of tabloids and trashy TV.

Hera, who had a pretty good background of her own and was quite the career woman, became the goddess of marriage once their unhappy union was sealed. The Greek myths tell of Hera’s jealous rages, for Zeus was not the poster boy for fidelity, and their thundering rows on Mt Olympus struck fear into many a trembling mortal, so one wonders if brides of the time were all that eager to have her blessing?

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Sweet, juicy, organically grown

Hera’s golden apples grew in a garden guarded by a dragon, together with nymphs who flitted about day and night on patrol, for the fruits were much prized. Hercules was charged with obtaining these apples as one of his twelve labours; much mayhem ensued as a result of his efforts.

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An apple a day? Not me!

Frankly, I am in awe of the ancient storytellers whose wondrous imaginations gave us these tales. How on earth did they remember all the minute details of each myth?

I’m hard pressed to recall who are the Twelve Gods, never mind all the demi-gods and various other hangers on, whose exploits are so varied and enthralling. Got to hand it to those who first dreamed up the gods and made them mortal in their foibles.

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Oranges, or golden apples?

The Greek myths have held people spellbound for centuries. They’ve been told and retold in countless versions, discussed, debated and dissected in every conceivable forum, with even the apples coming under scholarly scrutiny. Were these apples, described as golden, in fact oranges?

Were they not apples at all, as believed today by some classicists? Others disagree, arguing that oranges came from the East and were not known in Ancient Greece. The dispute continues enthusiastically among those for whom the fascination of these fables never fades.

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Do I want an orange? No thanks!

Jason steadfastly refuses to comment.

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Stormy Relationships

The ancient Greeks sought to explain thunderstorms as resulting from the temper tantrums of Zeus who liked to hurl thunderbolts around when enraged. Not known for fidelity to Hera, his wife, the mighty god was rather fond of larking about with nubile nymphs, causing Hera considerable grief. Tempestuous were the rows which resulted. We seldom experience a thunderstorm in Summer, whereas now, as we move ever so slowly into Winter, we have had some spectacular ones, with more expected; maybe Zeus and Hera are regaining their energy in the cooler weather.

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Mt Olympus Home of the Twelve Gods


Zeus rumbled and grumbled all night long, stumbling about from North to South, from West to East in an ever-changing pattern. Just as we seemed assured of a heavy downpour, the great mass of cloud shifted its attentions across the Gulf from us and a massive hailstorm destroyed almost all the almond crop in Farsala.

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Here on the Peninsula we know better than to trust the weather reports completely, and a common response when one asks about the weather forecast is: “Look out of the window.” The Pelion Peninsula is rugged and rocky. Gorges and gullies abound. Rivers and streams flow from the mountain’s ravines, particularly during the Winter rainy season when many a summer-dry river bed can turn instantly into a raging torrent, bringing floods and landslides in its wake. The area has so many mini weather patterns that it’s probably a meteorologist’s dream, or more likely his/her nightmare but it’s always interesting.

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Zeus and Hera have clearly not resolved their differences this morning. Ominous black clouds sulk in the North, and though we can’t see Mt Olympus from here, I imagine the atmosphere’s pretty bad up there.

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