Monday, 21 October 2013

October 16 – Waiting for the rain


 All the weather reports say it: there’s rain coming to Lesvos. According to one weather station it’s already raining cats and dogs, whilst another predicts that the rain won’t reach Lesvos until tomorrow and yet another says the rain will be with us this evening. You never know what will happen on this island. More than once the weather reports have led us to expect a deluge that has never happened.

Today is such a day. Outside I made everything ready: I put a plastic sheet over some furniture and the linen was pinned to the washing line in a way that facilitated its removal to indoors with one fell swoop of an arm. A promising mass of clouds this morning simply curled itself around the tops of the Lepetimnos mountain range. Now the cloud formations congregate but they separate just as quickly, making way for the sun. Well, are we going to have rain or not?

Just like a dog thirsting for a drink with his pink tongue hanging out, the island waits for water. The first nets have already been put under the olive trees; but many olives have already fallen from the trees. The prediction for this year’s olive harvest is not too good. Already, in some parts of the island, more than half the olives are victim to their natural enemy: this mean insect the fruit fly dakos, who with one sting helps the fruit to the next world. Some people say that the natural enemy of the dakos, an ichneumon, is disappearing, but it could also be that, with the increase of biological cultivation here on the island - meaning the dakos is no longer being fought off with chemical spray – the dakos sees his chance to direct a massive offensive against the olives.

The surviving olives still on the trees will be enhanced with rain. They are no Dutch tomatoes full of water; but after some serious rains you can notice the difference, you can see the olives grow fatter and gain colour. And now with the rains starting  - yes indeed, I can see the olives smiling, making up for a great party with lots of booze.

Now the dry autumn is shifting into a wet one with mushrooms and the scent of wet leaves. But there are some flowers that don’t need too much rain to bloom. After the first showers hit the dry meadows and sandy paths, you will first see the appearance of a kind of bright yellow dandelion. Then the yellow autumnal crocus will appear, along with its purple look-alike Naked Lady (what a wonderful name for a Colchicum autumnale!). And when you walk along barren grounds that have been devoured by voracious sheep you’ll discover very small autumnal scillas: small bunches of light purple flowers, so miniature that they manage to be overlooked by the sheep.

The most charming flowers of the autumn are the cyclamen. These small purple-rose flowers are also impatient to bloom and, rain or not, they always start showing themselves in October, preferring shadowy places between rocks or at the edges of the woods where they light up in the dark with their seemingly frail petals staying sturdily upright.

Cyclamen originally came from the Middle East and it’s only in the 19th century that the bigger ones (the cultivated and coloured ones) became popular in West-Europe. The name of this flower Kyklaminos probably derives from a circle - kyklos in Greek - because their petals seem to climb out of a perfect circle.

Cyclamen can make you happy and they actually belong to the plants of ancient Greece known as aphrodisiacs. Theophrastos described a love potion, made from their roots steeped in wine. The Witchipdia (The online encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Paganism and the occult) however warns against this potion: it’s a recipe for drunkenness, so be warned! The same pages tell that people eating a cyclamen cake (made with pounded, roasted slices of cyclamen root) will fall madly in love with the creator of the cake. And pregnant women must be careful where they walk: they could miscarry by stepping on these attractive flowers.

In the bedroom the cylamen can increase the libido and protect against nightmares. Wearing a flower protects you against a broken heart and from the evil eye. When you see these fragile and beautiful flowers in the wilds of Greece, you would hardly think that they have all these mighty properties.

The first showers have dampened the landscape, probably the beginning of a weather front which will bring more rainfall. I wonder if it will be enough to save what remains for the olives. But at least the cyclamen are already doing their best to save the olive trees from the evil eye.

(with thanks to Mary Staples)

© Smitaki 2013

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