The Drowned Village.

In memory of the sunken village of Σφεντυλι, a tribute in pictoral form, photographed in Summer 2014. 

It was an amazing trip! A hot early summer’s (June I think) day, I was on my break and I had decided to take a scooter ride up to the mountains. I took a detour down the road to the village as it occured to me that I had never been there before and fancied a new experience, also to see the village before it dissapreared “forever” under the water. 

The frogs chorus as I approached the lake was deafening! I got off the scooter and just sat there soaking up the atmosphere for a while before heading up the old road towards the village on foot. 

It wouldn’t be long before the village would be lost under the resevoir that was being constructed. Just beyond the village of ποταμιες and before the beautiful village of Αβγού on the road to Καστελι lay this little village. It had been evacuated long ago, the local people paid to leave their homes. However it was not willingly they left. The loss of the village, the beloved streets and homes that had nurtured generations of people who had grown up and lived out their lives there. There were still at the time I visited sneaking around with my camera, a couple of people still living there, refusing to leave, their black flags gently fluttering in the breeze, their last stand of defiance against what would only be inevitable.

It was such an eerie feeling walking around the deserted streets and houses. It was like people had left in great haste, leaving their posessions behind. I felt the ghosts and spirits of the older generations and their ancestral dead swirling cooly around me, as if they knew what was about to befall the place. The air was cool but stifling with their presence. There were odd moments of absolute stillness, stifling in the heat, the sweat trickling down my neck and back along with the fingers of the ghosts, contrasted with old whispered memories tumbling down the empty streets, upon a fluttering leaf or a stirring breeze. 

Today you see nothing there, just the lake. And that which is reflected back from its surface.

This line below sums up the experience for me perfectly: 

“There is  no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in the proportion.” ~ Edgar Allan Poe 

Rest in peace, Σφεντυλι.

From Field To Fork: The Art of Horta, Cretan Style.

I decided to include a category in my blog for the wonderful food I experienced and recipes I learned while living on Crete. Eating the Cretan way has become such an integral part of my lifestyle, I can’t imagine my life without it. So to kick off, a basic staple. Horta.

Here is a step by step guide to getting some wild greens into your system. So simple, so delicious and so healthy! 

Find a patch of edible wild greens. Make sure you can fully identify the plants you are collecting. Simple examples are dandelions, nettles…here is a lovely list from this ladies web site:

http://www.dianekochilas.com/glossary-of-edible-wild-greens-2/

Collect.

De-bug and wash thoroughly. 

Boil gently. When cooked, remove onto a plate and keep the juice to drink with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

Add olive oil, lemon juice and salt.

Eat.

Simples! 🙂

Hanging Out With Nettles.

​I had an enchanted morning, out in the fields gathering some wild nettles. Some for tonight’s dinner and some to dry to drink as a tea later on in the summer. Now, here it is prime time for the nettle, in the peak of its season. The fresh spring growth tender and abundant. 

You know, I miss so much from Crete and I was reflecting upon this as I was out this morning, what would be a regular sight, so familiar, of people out in the fields collecting wild plants and herbs, known under the generic term as horta (χόρτα), you just don’t see it happening here. People wandering about with a small knife in their hands and a carrier bag bursting full of vibrant fresh greens after having spent much time in the fields with their bum in the air. For Creten and Greek people it is a part of daily life and diet. Everywhere you go you made sure you had a carrier bag and a small pocket knife with you somewhere either in your pocket or in the car. 

I have really missed the aching of my back from having my bum poised mid air while collecting all the wonderful plants for dinners and drinks. But most of all, I miss the health I get from the plants as a reward! I do notice a big difference in my vitality after not having eaten freshly picked bitters and greens from the wild for a while. It has dropped considerably.

They are so good for you! The bitters help the stomach, they clear your skin, make your nails stronger, you get lots of nutrients, minerals, vitamins and energy from them. I won’t go into details but here are two excellent sources for further information for you to peruse and I will add them at the end of the post. 
I really miss also, more so than anything else, the closeness I felt to the land and plants on Crete. I do miss the plants of Crete very much…they became very familiar friends and allies. Companions. We had a wonderful relationship and I miss them as dearly, just as I would miss any close friend. When you are close to the land, you eat of it, you live and breathe it, you communicate with it, it becomes a part of you and you of it. You develop this amazing relationship with what is around you and with what you share this life with.

So, it is about going back to this way of living for me. And bringing what I learned on Crete here with me. So I am back out there, familiarizing myself with the local land spirits, the plants, the land. I have oatmeal and tabacco in my pocket ready to be offered. 
What I am really surprised about is, as I said above, what would be a familiar sight on Crete was met here this morning with people asking me what on earth I was doing! Not in an unfriendly way but they were genuinly asking me. I know there has been a surge of people re-wilding, it’s all over the internet anyway, and an uprising of foraging workshops, wild food workshops and just general awareness! But really, but I was surprised none the less by the responses. Perhaps it isn’t as  common a practice as I thought?

Either way, I loved my morning spent out in the fields. I will add this as it is a bug bear of mine and I always rant on about it, so bear with me:

As a rule of thumb, only collect what you need from the plants and respect them and the land where you are collecting. If avoidable and you are not collecting the whole of the plant for a specific purpose, make sure you don’t damage the plant too much to ensure new growth. If there is only a little of the plant growing, I would leave it alone. From where it grows abundantly, I collect. I always give a little something in return, some tabacco and or oatmeal. I always chat away with the plants too as I am collecting. 

Fun times!

Resources and further info:

Mrs Grieves Botanical:

http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/n/nettle03.html

Am very excited about this lady’s work, check her out here at:

http://www.herbalremediesadvice.org/

 

Bacchus And The Little Bug.

It was a baking hot day, very early May, I think, two years ago now, 2015. We had readied the restaurant for the new season and we were taking some time just to relax and chill out after our hard work of preparations; sanding, painting, fixing, cleaning etc, before we would officially say, okay; time for play is over for the summer and now we work. It’s time to open again.

My beloved friends were around during that time and we had spent many a happy evening eating and drinking together, singing and dancing the evenings away until the small hours of the morning, or even until dawn broke the next day. Sometimes around seven a.m. I would stagger my friend back home safely to her bed as the sun was rising, singing rebetika songs as we weaved our way through the empty streets. 

It was around about this time though also, that I was struggling with my spirituality, my take on things, my world views etc. A lot of it also was about letting go of myself and really finding out what was there. One of those things I was determined to find out was when that crossover happens, that exact moment when I stop drinking the wine and the wine drinks of me instead. 

So one day I sat down to have a chat with the God of the wine to find out.

Shortly before this day we had found a stash of old discarded wine that a friend of my friends had left out after closing down his restaurant business. His back garden had become a waste ground for the entire contents of his restaurant. Cooking equipment, plates, foods, you name it, it was there, thrown out as trash. Don’t ask me why he threw it all out, I don’t know. I can only guess he was heartbroken after the loss of his restaurant and flipped. Either way, there was a huge stock pile of wine also. Red wines and rose wines, Bacchus read the etiket on the bottles. Some were in good condition, some were obviously off and spoiled. One evening, my partner and I loaded up what looked to be the still drinkable of the lot into the pick up truck; and off we went with it.

So, back to that baking hot morning, shortly after, around nine am, I had decided to dedicate that day to exploring my relationship with wine. I swapped my morning coffee for wine instead and taking an armful of bottles out with me, I sat down to drink at the back of the restaurant. I sat down on the old rickety wooden chair and table, under the shade of the old gum tree. A gentle breeze caressing my cheeks every so often, bringing sweet relief from the heat and bringing with it also the beautiful scent of the large rose geranium bush that was growing near by. The morning was busy with the little chaffinches bustling about around me, dogs barking somewhere off in the distance from the direction of the village, hover flies darting and hovering, bees buzzing about. It was a perfect morning. 
It was an odd feeling, to have such freedom do so as I pleased and I realised then how lucky I was to have this kind of lifestyle. Such freedom to be able to do what I was about to do. To allow myself, to give myself rather, to a day of drinking, to meet with the God or spirit of the wine. But, at the same time, my task was to be able to hold my own consciousness to the point of absolute awareness through out, to be the one through out the entire experience drinking the wine. If I could manage it. And, I did. I drank myself sober. 

I don’t know how many bottles I got through, over six or seven, perhaps eight, when I stood up, stretched and called it a night around ten p.m. I had been there all day, except for the odd loo break, my consciousness both totally absorbed in the wine, my environment and the creatures I shared it with and at the same time, sentient somehow, apart. 

And it was so peaceful, beautiful. Just to be aware of every breath I took, the warmth, breezes and winds on my skin, the sounds and smells around me and the feeling of the wine as it became my blood, coursing through my veins and through my mind. It became a part of me and I of it. The same with my surroundings. Like the fisher man in my previous story, in a way. And we sat like that for hours and hours in still, ecstatic, blissfull company. 

At a time during this, sometime towards the mid afternoon after the sun had reached its highest point, I was watching a little bug walking around the top edge of an old plastic paint pot. Round and round it went, clockwise, round and around. There was a spider web that it successfully navigated on its journey around the circumfrance of the pot, and always just at the right moment, it dipped and avoided the web. I don’t know for how long I sat watching it, a long time. I became aware of myself in relation to the bug and asked it;
“Where are you going?” 

And sure enough the bug listened and stopped at the nearest point to me, waving its antenna around frantically, and then as if in a state of confusion walked left, right, left then right, stopped, then it turned left again. This time it carried on and of course, walked straight into the spider web and got stuck. I rescued it, picking it out of the web on my finger and placing it in the rose geranuim bush. What happened to the little bug after that, I will never know. But if I take anything with me from that whole experience, it is the story of the little bug. For me it has great significance. Will not say what exactly and I will allow you, dear readers, to draw what you will from these words. I just wanted to share the story, and I hope you have enjoyed it.

Just for the record, I don’t recommend drinking as I did, not at all. But for me it was an informative time and a time of deep self exploration and it continues.

Photo Credits:
Photo 1: Bacchus, Artist Unknown

Photo 2: Dionysus, Wikipedia 

Photo 3: 

https://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-graphosoma-lineatum-red-black-striped-stink-bug-image9137070

The Story Of The Fisher Man.

I am going to start with his story. I don’t know why, there is no conscious rhyme nor reason to it. It is simply that he popped into my head the other day and his story is asking to be told. It is a beautiful story,  of one man and his at-one-ment. 

Here is the story.

When the great wheel began to turn another notch, the darker winter skies gave way to lighter with the onset of spring, many a balmy early eve as I walked my dogs along the beach it was as if we had the whole world to ourselves. Just the three of us. Some sea birds for company, the occasional buzzard soaring high above, blackbirds in the bushes along the shore line, singing their evening songs and the gentle sound of the lapping sea at the shore. The weather was warm, warm enough to walk barefoot in the sand and to paddle in the sea. Late March, early April, still all quiet before the tourists began to arrive in our village, calm clear blue seas and clear blue skies. The sun began to set around seven or after and dusk would begin to fall. Life was beautiful. I used to play with my dogs for hours on the beach, splashing and paddling in the sea. They were blessed evenings.

One evening, a stranger appeared on our shore. 

I saw him at first as a dot in the distance on the beach. As we drew closer, the dot gradually took the form of a man. He was of medium height, stocky and well built, tight curly short, military style, croped hair. He was in swimming shorts and stood with a hand held fishing net in his hands. 

What drew my attention though was his motionlessness. He was standing on the sea shore, about 6 meters from the sea. The only movement was the rising and falling of his chest with each breath he took in and exhaled out again. His gaze was fixed out to sea.

We walked past him, my dogs, ever friendly, went to him to check him out but he didn’t even twitch. He had an air of such calm about him. So peaceful. He had such a graceful elegance, coupled with well diciplined, finely honed power. It was as if he was there, yet at the same time he was in another world. Perhaps even of another world. One foot here, one in Other. 

We carried on our way.

I was fascinated though. Something about him had me under a spell of curiosity. So I sat down on the sand much further away with the dogs and watched him from a safe distance. We sat there for about an hour, us watching him watching the ocean. He was blending himself with the ocean, becoming one with the ocean and his environment. 

Then, at last…movement. Like something he had seen, or an invisable voice had told him that it was time, he walked calmly into the sea. After wading in so far he crouched into a hunting position, his body low to the water, his net ready. Every muscle in his body was sprung, finely tuned and poised, motionless, ready for the strike. Just like the praying mantis. 

He waited. 

Then, in one fluid movement, he cast his net…

and it was done.

He came out with a big fish. The actual hunt in the water was what, not even ten minutes. But his preparation was long. Stilling his body and mind, becoming One with all around him. 

He became a regular sight on our evening beach walks that early spring; and it became a ritual of mine to watch his ritual and yes, every time he caught a fish. Our ritual continued up until the tourist season started again and I was back into the full swing of work and summer life at the restaurant. When the tourist season came to an end and I had the time to resume my long evening beach walks with my dogs, I looked for him, but I never saw him again. His lesson has stayed with me though. He has formed a thread, woven into the fabric of memory.