Tag Archives: spring

SHRINES

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SHRINE: A place dedicated to a saint or deity; a memorial.

Greece is a bewitching and often bewildering mix of the ancient and the modern, and particularly so in the deep countryside, away from the urban sophistication. There are many springs here on the Pelion; the charming villages in this beautiful region originated in the age-old sites where water sprang from the ground, although some of these springs are dry now. The local people are usually quite well informed about the history of the area, and indeed, several of the families trace their roots back for many centuries.

What treasures of information are in their memories: family biographies, community traditions, local narratives, the historical record, tales of yesteryear. Greeks are well schooled in their history, and fiercely proud of their heritage. I’ve had the pleasure of many a fascinating conversation from which I’ve learned much, and so it is that I’ve heard about springs or caves with shrines dedicated in antiquity to gods or goddesses, but which are now updated, so to speak, to The Virgin Mary, to Christ, or to a particular saint. Thus you may see a little sign pointing to The Spring of Diana, and a few feet away, another sign indicating The Spring of the Blessed Mother. Take your pick. One thing is certain though – the spot was known and enshrined in pre-history, whatever its name or names since.

Shrines abound in Greece, and because they’re frequently found at the roadside, they’re often assumed by tourists to be memorials to a life or lives lost at that particular location. This may well be the tragic case, but many shrines are erected, in prominent places, to commemorate a life lost elsewhere, in circumstances other than a road accident. Shrines may be built in memory of persons beloved; in gratitude to God or saints for favours received and prayers answered; to acknowledge a miracle attributed to the entity so venerated; or simply even as a sign of respect to a divine being.

Many and varied are the shrines. They may be a simple stone, placed perhaps by a tree. They may be tiny, they may be enormous. They may be a basic metal box balancing precariously on rusting legs: these are old, quite often badly neglected for nobody remains to tend them. They may be large, beautifully constructed and maintained. They may even be grand enough to accommodate people: magnificently decorated chapels, open to those who wish to spend a moment in quiet thought or prayer.

All, no matter how humble and long forgotten, represent the hearts and minds of those who placed them there. They are, quite literally, historical markers.

They serve as a reminder to reflect.

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GREEN’S THE THEME

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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

 

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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SPRING’S POPPING UP!

The weather’s been very unsettled, rather like Greece’s political and economic situation at present; brief periods of brilliant and heartwarming sunshine readily give way to gray cloud and rain. The weather forecasters have been speaking of yet another really cold snap to hit us before spring arrives, and plenty more rain which we certainly do need. These prognostications may of course be wrong, and it can’t be easy to predict conditions for the Pelion Peninsula, as we really do have the most mini of micro climates, given the terrain – gulfs, gullies, headlands, hills and pinnacles. The rain nymphs, known as the Hyades in Greek mythology, might be chucking it down hard on us, while Helios, god of the sun, is beaming benignly on our friends up the hill. Does make life interesting!

This morning brought a sunny dawn, fairly warm with only a little cloud.

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Anemones and daisies, always among the first wildflowers, have begun appearing, but I was thrilled to see a poppy – one solitary little poppy on the whole property.

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Poppies typically begin their exuberant displays in March so perhaps this enthusiastic loner augurs well for the coming days. We’ll see.

Mythos and Raki, never ones to miss any activity, made the very most of the sun which sadly decided to make itself scarce come midmorning and by noon sea and sky had settled into deep pewter, this season’s prevailing colour.

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Can you see me?

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Where’s Mythos going?

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What’s he doing?

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What’s he up to?

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Oh, please! I’m always the one who’s on top of things.

The temperature has fallen quite sharply, and now the rain clouds loom, leering darkly down on us, while Mt Pelion has begun to vanish from view.

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But life is busy in the garden – spring is coming for sure!

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New housing developments

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