Tag Archives: Persephone


We have had a winter of everyone’s discontent. It’s rained, and rained, and rained some more. We’ve had terrible flooding here on the Pelion. Some of the worst ever in parts. Great destruction. Millions of euros of damage. There seems little chance now of seeing a bridge back in Kalamos given how very little money there is in Thessaly’s coffers. 

This morning the sun has made a valiant effort to revive people’s spirits. The cats are enchanted – butterflies, bees, beetles and all manner of airborne flitters to chase, not to mention racing to ambush each other and unwary critters. Try as I might I can’t get a decent photo of the antics, so fast do they all move.

But the spring flowers are more composed. The first of them are beginning to appear. Slowly. Gently. Nodding a brief hello. Secure in the knowledge that before long they’ll begin to explode upon the scene they will dominate for a while, changing roles, giving way to new performers in differently colored  costumes, as they retire from center stage assured that they will reprise their roles again and again in new performances.

Persephone, daughter of Zeus and Demeter, snatched by Hades to be queen of his underworld, has returned to the earth, as she does each year to bring  spring to winter-weary mortals. What a mismatch her parent’s union was! Her mother is the goddess of the harvest; her raucous, thundering father’s behind all this ghastly weather we’ve been having. Well, you can’t choose your parents, but Persephone does all she can to make up for her egotistical father and we’re grateful. She stays but a little while before she’s obliged to return to her underground kingdom.

Rain is forecast again for tonight. And wind. Lots of it. Persephone probably won’t be too thrilled about that, but her father hates to be upstaged and hasn’t yet ordered Boreas, his god of the wind, to skulk back to the north. And Chione, the goddess of snow, daughter of cold Boreas, still lingers on Mt Pelion. Persephone’s resourceful though and won’t be intimidated – she’ll triumph over all of them before long.



Summer has finally settled in here on the Pelion after some rather atypical spring weather, which indicates what is locally called a ‘cool summer.’ The Greek word for summer literally means ‘good weather’, and the prospect of a cool summer isn’t welcomed by too many here for it means days of intense heat, interrupted frequently by wind, bouts of rain and heavy thunderstorms. The classic summer pattern is a long, unbroken stretch of hot, dry weather – predictably stable and free of sudden surprises sprung by the elements – during which residents and tourists alike disport themselves, mindful that all too soon the latter will return home and the former will begin making preparations for winter.

Persephone continues to revel in her freedom from the dark, dismal depths of her obligatory winter home, well aware that her time on warmly welcoming earth is coming to an end and that her husband waits at the gates of Hades. 

Throughout the ages artists have depicted their visions of the Gates of Hades by means of the plethora of media chosen by them – in paint, in sculpture, on pottery, stained glass, carvings, embroidery – whereas the artisan who constructs a gate is bound by the limitations placed on him by his materials. I don’t imply that the woodworker, stone mason or ironmonger is not an artist, but he is further constrained by the demands of function and artistic expression, as well perhaps by monetary considerations and the expectations of those who may have commissioned him.

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Persephone has wrought her wonders once again this spring, thrilling the vegetation into exuberant displays of colour, waking the sleeping leaves from winter-dormant trees, encouraging the buds to open, and enticing tiny fruits to peep out at the warming world.

The olive flowers have given way to teensy olives – pale green beads sheltering tightly in little clusters as though fearful of what the unpredictable storms of the season might yet do to them.

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Olives have been grown on the Pelion peninsula since time immemorial; there are trees in our grounds that are at least 300 years old, and many colossal specimens in the area are claimed to be more than a thousand years of age. Quite possible.

The olives are not looking promising this year, though. Much of the blossom was torn from the trees by very strong gales throughout May, so the olives are already greatly reduced in number. Add to this the myriad of pests which attack all parts of the olive tree, the leaves, the bark, and particularly the fruit itself, and I fear the olive crop might be a poor one. I do hope not, for olive revenues are vital to the local farmers.

The fig trees are laden with fruit, dark green and shining new. Shall I call them figlets? They are bigger, brighter, bolder than the olives as they are of course a much larger fruit, but I have to keep a wary eye on them. The wind is not so much their enemy as are the worms and moths that infest the leaves at every opportunity, spreading cobwebs all across them, under which the worms thrive, and munch, and mature, and start the whole cycle all over again.

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The lemons always do well, not surprisingly, and are quite indispensable for all sorts of uses.

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On their way to lemonade…

The grapes are making an effort, but the birds do love them so, and the ants are wild for them.

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Speaking of ants, look at them feasting on these fat buds.

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So tender! So tempting!

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We’re green here on our property, not just in Nature’s brilliant hues, but also in the ecological sense. This piece of land was in the possession of a local family for many generations, several hundred years in fact, and so its history is well known; they have never used any form of poison. No herbicide. No pesticide. And we most certainly have not, nor will we ever.

And yet, somehow, it balances itself out. We have abundant bird life, which we encourage by providing fresh water at several spots. The insectivorous swallows do a fine job of zapping various pests, as do the cheeky flycatchers. And while our fruit is not perfect, it’s delicious and most certainly organic.

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Jason in new spring colours

Jason got into the spirit of things, sporting a new hat, and making no objection to being photographed.

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Oh please, this is getting boring…

Several of the furry and hairy ones stuck their noses in, as they invariably do, cavorting about like kids let out of school.

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Peek a boo!

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Raki is either absolutely convinced of his superiority, or else he’s too self-absorbed to comprehend that all the others regard him as just another one of the pests!

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Retsina’s not at all fazed



We had some very good rain yesterday, and though today’s quite cloudy the flowers about the property are, to quote Oliver Goldsmith, “the very pink of perfection.” What is it about rain? It washes the plants clean in a way no amount of watering can do; leaves gleam and blossoms sparkle.

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Jason among the wild gladioli

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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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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.


Worn by an antique olive jar

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


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The Greek Ministry of Culture has recently made known details of the current excavations at Amphipolis, in northern Greece. News outlets worldwide are featuring the amazing discoveries at the tomb site, which have archaeologists in a flurry of scholarly speculation, and interested laymen eagerly anticipating each new revelation. The tomb appears to date back to the time of Alexander the Great, and although some have debated whether it was built for him, it’s highly unlikely that his remains were ever brought back to Greece. Could the tomb be that of his mother, or is someone of great importance to the royal family buried here? Debate rages among academics and amateurs alike.

What is not in dispute, however, is the stunning quality of the marble sculptures and the mosaic floor which have been uncovered so far. The public is understandably barred from the dig, but the Ministry of Culture has released some pictures and a short video.

The mosaic floor is quite spectacular! Composed entirely of pebbles and bits of stone in natural colours of white, black, gray, blue, yellow and red, the mosaic is large and includes the abduction of Persephone, one of the fascinating Greek myths. The scene has a border of spirals and squares in the typical Greek meander style. Sometimes called the Greek key, the meander is named for the river Meander, which twisted and wound its way to the Aegean Sea.

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Part of the Mosaic

I am fascinated by this mosaic, and particularly by the border, and have attempted to echo an aspect of it in two-colour stranded knitting. “Hats off to knitting!” I say, for knitting a small item such as a hat allows me to play a bit with colour and pattern. The hat is knit in the round, in three colours, using no more than two colours per row, with the background colour predominant. I used charcoal, grey and oatmeal tweed yarns, for the flecks of colour in each yarn are reminiscent of the flecks of colour in the stones of the mosaic. The meanders of the mosaic are too long for me to reproduce in knitting, for this would involve carrying the yarn not in use across the back of too many stitches, so I’ve copied the squares for this first sample. I think I might be playing with this for a while.

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Can’t resist the cyclamen!

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Natural Colours

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Jason Loves Flowers

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Jason Meets a New Friend

This praying mantis is nearing the end of his/her life, for it will not survive the winter but if it’s female, its eggs will have been laid, and we’ll have lots of these curious predators about the garden.

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Contemplating the Mountain, Shrouded in Mist

Mt Pelion and its environs, home of the centaurs, is the birthplace of many of the Greek myths. Here were first told wonderful stories of the gods, their attributes and achievements, their moods and misdeeds. Through how many centuries did these tales form part of the oral tradition? How far were these fables carried by wanderers and nomads to people and communities before ever being written down? Who was the original spinner of these enthralling yarns, and how much were the exploits of the gods embellished in the telling and re-telling of them?

We will never know.