When the muses speak…
The pedastal for my computer which is to preserve my good posture begins with the two-inch thick bound manuscript of my first book, “Exhilarated Life: Happiness Ever After”, the foundation without which this next work would be of lesser value. There are reams of printed edited versions that filled many shelves in the spare room. They will be burned in due course. This one I had printed in LA and while it was really too heavy to add to our already bulging return luggage, my friend Line, helping get organized said that I simply could not leave this behind. And now, of course I am glad I didn’t.
“The Art of Yoga” by Sharon Gannon and David Life, which was a gift to me from a friend, Lisa, who I wrote about in my post Yoga, More Than a Handstand. It tells of my inability to do a pose because I could literally not support myself. It was a photocopy of an image in this book that I posted on my wall at her suggestion and let the sublime ease of the asana, depicted; finally dissolve my block both physically and emotionally.
Yoga is a way of life for me that doesn’t always mean I’m always practicing on my mat, but it does mean that my body and I have a good understanding. Finding yoga – both in philosophy and practice at my darkest night was most certainly the anchor that kept me steady and I continue to ‘go to my mat’ even when I don’t feel like it.
“Tetrascroll, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, A Cosmic Fairy Tale” by Buckminster Fuller uses these characters to teach his daughter about the basic building blocks of the universe: the tetrahedron the four sided geometrical shape made of triangles (a pyramid) as the basic building block of the entire universe. This book is a bit out there for me, but its mate, “Operating Manuel for Spaceship Earth”, too small as a paperback for the job at hand is a book I read as a teen and reread as needed. Fuller advises us that our every choice and action resonates throughout the universe. We are interconnected and interdependent and the sooner we understand that and the sooner we cooperate with this miraculous blue-green planet the better off we will be.
Ancient Greeks history illustrates that it is hubris that choked the brief Athenian Miracle. It felled the city and civilization, which knowledge, values and principles continue to shape our world today. Fuller warns us not to continue to be obsessed by money and politics and become stewards of our own planet. If our collective unchecked hubris played out in the denuding of the rainforest, the Earth’s lungs in the polluting of her waters, the blood, and the desecration of her body with mining drilling, frakking and underwater nuclear testing, then the fallout will be dire indeed. Instead of revering the paradise and benefitting from what is available and renewable, we will be the parasite that mindlessly kills its own host.
This comprehensive book on the body “Total Stretch”, Roscoe Nash, is the reminder that as physical beings of muscle and flesh we would do well to follow what an animal teaches us in simple stretch and renewal of all our systems before and after engaging in activity. It is this same human animal that requires certain nutrients, vitamins and minerals for optimum body and brain function.
I realize that I spend many more hours sitting in front of a computer than nature ever might have dreamed reasonable. This book is a note to myself not to put it back on the shelf but to engage again in the simple stretching and breathing that keeps me agile, flexible and relaxed. Many physical deficiencies that we attribute to maturing are really nothing more than the ‘rusting’ of the parts we don’t move and keep limber and youthful. We don’t get old, we get complacent.
Decorating with architectural elements is the topic of “Irreplaceable Artifacts”, Evan Blum and Leslie Blum. In our land here of ancient history, antique shops overflow with wonders that predate any sense of modernity. Many of the domed churches that abound on mountaintops and on city street corners are built of the blocks and bit of friezes that were once ancient temples. Sometimes the cobbles on the street will have a surprising bit of art from another time and you wonder how such architectural beauty could have been so boldly tumbled into recycled scrap for something else.
While IKEA might be de rigueur for rented houses one only means to pass through, some antique elements, like a roof tile ornament or bit grillwork make it human again and an homage to a more classic time. I’m intrigued how this one room might become more interestingly multifunctional and aesthetic with such additions. It is the reminder that I live within the energetic influence of the Temple of Aphaia, which forms an equilateral triangle between the Parthenon on the Acropolis and the Temple of Poseidon at Sounio (perfectly situated pre geometry). Aphaia was a devotee of the goddess Artemis. It is not lost on me that Artemis is the name of my company, nor that the statue that so influenced Athan as a young dancer was Zeus of Artemesia. I remember the quirky synchronicity that brought us here and the saying I’ve heard many times since, “You don’t find Aegina, Aegina finds you.”
On top of that is a book about olives with a title in Greek. Its author is a man from our neighbouring island in the Saronic Gulf, Poros. It catalogues the many species of olive trees that still grace Greece. There are some two hundred. Black olives, green olives and white olives, small and bitter, large and sweet. Olives, olive oil and olive leaf tea are staples in our home and the basis of Athan’s work as a writer and researcher for the health benefits of olives, its oil and leaves. It is the single most versatile plant underpinning the advice of Hippocrates, “Let food by thy medicine and medicine by thy food.”
It is the reminder that in this country geography may have fostered tribal mentality in isolated mountain villages or hard to reach valleys, but this is also perhaps the its greatest treasure. When so many food crops are modified and olives themselves commercially grown, harvested and processed, they lose much of the innate nutrition that the once whole and untainted food offered. Olives grow best in drought ridden mountain terrain and in these rough conditions produce some of the most concentrated phenolics, which benefit human health.
The olive is also most notable as an anthropomorphic plant. Calling it that, I mean no disrespect to the tree, but it seems to readily respond to the needs of humans in times of drought or hardship with greater nutrition. In addition, the wild olive tree is naturally pest resistant and in its youth has thorns to dissuade the marauding and voracious goat populations and in its maturity a natural protection against fruit fly, (the blight of domestic olives) with a Venus Flytrap kind of defence. The olive tells us, if we will listen, that the community that loves and supports us is far greater than the count of heads around us at any given time. All we need is all we have in abundance if we only support its nature.
This delightful book, “The Scented Room”, by Barbara Milo Ohrbach is about scenting and decorating the home with potpourri, floral waters, dried flowers, and herbal wreaths. This is a land of scent where the air is rich with wild thyme, oregano and sage. I’ve had this book for years. I bought it long ago when after reading Alexandra Stoddard, designer, philosopher and writer on the lifestyle of beauty. “Living a Beautiful Life – 500 Hundred Ways to Add Elegance, Order, Beauty and Joy to Every Day of Your Life”. These were the days when I could not afford to buy books but borrowed from the library so none are on my shelf, but nonetheless, Stoddard became a life altering guru for me as certainly as Patanjali. Elegance, Order, Beauty and Joy are the stuff of the ancient Greek aesthetic and worthy pursuits in and of themselves in whatever we do.
In Los Angeles we found a boutique in Melrose Place, Santa Maria Novella, where we found a Pot Pourri made in Florence since 1612. It is one of the most divine scents I have known. It’s a mixture of ‘buds, leaves and flower petals from the Tuscan hills’. Exotic and floral and spicy, at times it reminds me of the sweet pungent un-fruity scent of the rind of grapefruit and roses. We have placed this precious mix around the house in various charming pieces of ceramic made by local Aegina artists. They will blend handsomely with the few things we brought from deep in the locker in Toronto to make here feel more like home. Things like Italian damask linen tea towels, Moorcroft vases, Wedgwood china and a few small and treasured paintings. As Alexandra Stoddard taught me so long ago, such a few small things can transform a simple room into an oasis of loveliness.