Books for a Naughty Kitty

In childhood I read the classical fairy tale of Puss-in-Boots. He was a tomcat, a proper rambler. I wondered: why are certain adventures for men only? And here we go: there is a Cat Lady-in-Boots aka Miss Catherine St. Quintin (or Q, or Squintums, as her companions call her). She plays an innocent-looking furry creature during the day, but nightly she turns into a naugthy hunter with a riffle (no kidding!). And yes, she gets into trouble, threatened by a fox, and is finally rescued by a hedgehog.

I found the book in a forgotten children’s corner of TK-Maxx and instantly fell in love with the illustrations by Quentin Blake: a rare treasure indeed, as Beatrix herself didn’t make her usual sweet drawings to this story. It had been waiting for over 100 years until eventually published in 2015. Now we can read a rather old-fashioned tale reflecting the customs of English hunters – a bit scary, disgusting and not-so-much for children. Quentin himself made a great job in keeping the story’s little absurdities alive: Kitty is wriggling, kicking, fanciful. Alive and very naughty. You may wish to look at the illustrations and read the tale along with Helen Mirren’s lovely interpretation on a CD that accompanies the book.

Still, Beatrix’s message is: you girls should behave and better stay at home, enjoy the proper company of other respectful cat/girlfriends and under no circumstances leave the house after dark to hunt. Well, a good advice for an early 20th century lassie perhaps, but not for a notorious kitty of 2019. I’ll go out and get wild, thank you.

The Spring Full of Haiku

The sea of spring,

Rising and falling.

All the day long.

Buson

Plum-blossoms:

My spring

Is and ecstasy.

Issa

I came to the cherry -blossoms,

I slept beneath them;

This was my leisure.

Buson

Spring rain:

Rain-drops from the willow,

Petals from the plum tree.

Shoha

Foxes playing

Among the narcissus flowers –

A bright moonlit night.

Buson

The violet:

Held in hand,

Yet more lovely.

Koshu

Under the cherry-blossoms

None are

Utter strangers.

Issa

The lights are lit

On the islands far and near:

The spring sea.

Shiki

What a strange thing,

To be thus alive

Beneath the cherry-blossoms.

Issa

Daffodill Sun in Mid-Winter

I feel so happy, now: not because of any ideal rose-colored dreams, but simply because it is possible to work, and love and make good creative life on this earth in spite of sickness, suffering, uncertainty and sorrow (…). I love the world, and want to sing of it, with its muck and its angels, its blind alleys and moments of holy radiance. (…) It is cold, biting, with blizzard flurries, and I bike home from classes and market, laden with apples, oranges, nuts, and daffodills.

Sylvia Plath, excerpt from a letter to her mother, written in Cambridge on 10 February 1956

The Beautiful Red

I am flushed and warm.
I think I may be enormous,
I am so stupidly happy,
My Wellingtons
Squelching and squelching through the beautiful red.

Sylvia Plath

(excerpt from The Letter in November)

She would be 86 today. A year younger than my grandmother. I imagine her walking in the orchard full of apples,  leaves falling down, grass whitering. She is wearing a black coat and red gloves. She notices every shade of autumn and puts it down in a poem. Whenever I read it I feel the colours.

 

Wild Flower Love

At the beginning of my three-week long stay on the island I bought Vangelis Papiomytoglou’s Wild Flowers of Crete. It changed the way I perceived Cretan nature. Now I was able to identify new species without the constant frustration of not knowing their names. I’ve learnt a tremendous lot from the book and enjoyed my nature walks so much more! Some of the pictures below don’t portray wild flowers, but I find them so lovely that I couldn’t resist adding them here.

(Above is a flowering blackberry bush in front of Psychro Cave)

Thistles are abundant on Crete:

And spiny globe thistle is my favourite…

Two examples of Chinese rose hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis:

Ecoballium elaterium is a poisonous squirting cucumber whose fruits are so sensitive to touch that they burst open like bombs. I jumped crying out loudly when it exploded!

Crithmum maritimum, which blossoms in August, has a delightful sweet scent mingling with the smell of the sea. These plants grow often on cliffs.

Extremely rare Limonium creticum, an endemic flower found only on Crete, comes from the same family as sea lavender.

 Sea lily (sometimes called sea daffodil) grows on beaches and sand dunes. Its fruit resemble pieces of charcoal!

Herbs are the delight of Crete. Most common is thyme with fragrant pink flowers and wild savory with light violet flowers.

Jerusalem sage inspires wild wasps to build nests resembling its flowers.

Yellow horned poppy reminds me of Cretan sun.

Plumeria is my favourite exotic flower that smells like the best perfume.

I feel thankful to Mr Papiomytoglou for unforgettable wildlife adventures on Cretan beaches, dunes, in gorges, forests and plains.

Meetings with Greek gods

Whenever I’m in Greece, I read books about it. Four years ago it was Jan Parandowski’s Mythology, three years ago I relished Sandor Marai’s rewriting of Penelope’s story. This and previous year my holiday read has been Gerald Durrell’s hilarious account of his family’s stay on Corfu. Although I’ve been been reading it while enjoying my stay on Crete (twice so far), I find the same nature wonders which young Gerry came across when he was exploring his Greek island on the Adriatic Sea in the 1930-ties.

Butterflies, dragonflies, bugs, snails and fish are among the similarities. But quite unlike Gerry, who became a well-known zoologist and founder of Durrell Wildlife Conservtion Trust, I am more interested in botany and during my trekking walks I discover the abundance of Cretan flora. Whenever Gerry talks about the cry of cicadas in in the olive groves, I hear this beautiful noise they make, but also see how the sunrays linger on narrow leaves that give so much shade. With the author we both share genuine interest in nature and unquenched hunger for discovering more and more about it. I add a non-scientific approach to my meetings with nature as here on Crete everything is infused with mythical stories: the gorges became when giants wanted to have a drink of fresh water and cut the rocks with their majestic beards, the anemones are drops of blood shed by Adonis, each tree is a home of a hamadriad…

A month ago I started doing research for my book about trees and on Crete I keep coming across the most magnificent ones. The one in the picture above is Platanus orientalis in the mountain village of Krisi near Lasithi Plateau. It’s said to be 2400 years old! This must truly be the seat of an ancient god… In a few days I’m going to visit a several millenia old olive tree in Kavoussi. I can’t stop thinking that these trees want to encounter me and find their place in my book as I happen to find information about them quite by accident.

I’m also an ardent student of Cretan wild flowers and shrubs. But this adventure requires a separate blog post. 😃

 

The World Says ‘Yes’

Sometimes you seem to be making a step backwards. You don’t know yet that you are doing it in order to gain speed in your future journey: just before a wild leap into the space or deep water.

That’s what happened to me.

But after this painful experience of regressing into an old, unpleasant situation I emerged to the surface with force and courage.

And now I feel the world has no boundaries.

My actions have no limits.

I can be whoever I wish to be.

…and achieve whatever I truly want.