Peroulia Dreaming 4 ~ Walking Through Olive Groves To And From The Sea

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It was the quickest way to Peroulia Beach – left down the hill from the Iconpainter’s  gateway, with a quick wave and a kalimera to the old lady in the farmhouse opposite, then following the rough track beside the olive grove with the decomposing Volvo, then on through the trees to the pretty house with green shutters, whose owner we met several times out on the lane, clearing the drains in advance of the forecast storm; on into another olive grove, following the overhead power lines, then a dogleg round some more recently planted trees, a scramble down dirt steps in the cliff bottom (minding the little cyclamen) and finally picking our way through mature olive trees, pony droppings, the mish-mash of phragmites canes and onto the shore.

Phew! It really isn’t far, but it has the feeling of uncharted territory, and at least three of us admitted to losing our way on the return trip.

*

There is anyway something so momentful about olive groves. For one thing there is the complete and utter stillness; the depth of leaf litter that absorbs one’s footfalls and very probably one’s soul if you do not watch out. For then there is the existential sense of earth and weather elements and human hands, conspiring over generations to train and sculpt the trees to encourage the best possible yield; hands whose deftness is doubtless informed by Athena herself, that wise deity whose spear long ago struck the barren scarp of the Attic acropolis and so brought forth the first Greek olive tree.

From fruit and seed, empires were grown and in many Mediterranean lands beyond mainland Greece. Among the earliest, back in the Bronze Age, were the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations of Crete. The olive tree was an all-provider. The timber served for tools and shelter, the fruits made good eating, their oil gave food, light, unguents, medicine and formed the basis of extensive trade networks. It is not surprising, then, that the trees were seen as sacred, to be protected on pain of death for those who would dare to destroy them. Athletes used the oil on the bodies to invoke its intrinsic power, and the victors at the Olympian games were crowned with olive leaves.

And so as you walk through a grove, the response is natural reverence. Every tree is its own self; its individual biography wrought in knotty bark and bough. There is more though. I would call it immanence. For if trees have spirits, then they are here. And if I had an olive grove, then I would worship it and none other.

Respect for the sheer potency of these trees is  also requisite. For I have read* that you should never fall asleep beneath an olive tree. Its shadow is said to be too heavy, and so may later induce bad dreams and vertigo. I can believe it. With all my heart I can.

 

* Patrick Leigh Fermor Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese

Related:

Peroulia Dreaming 1

Peroulia Dreaming 2

 

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Daily Prompt: Believe

41 thoughts on “Peroulia Dreaming 4 ~ Walking Through Olive Groves To And From The Sea

  1. This is so beautifully written – and again you paint such a wonderful picture with your words. Sitting in or painting within an olive grove is one of my favourite things to do. There is such a feeling of substance, stillness and beauty. Thank you, Janet 🙂

  2. Oh I love your Greece and focus on the olive tree – history and mythology, and all in inimitable Tish style. Please keep an eye out for your soul’s protection! I have a bowl made out of olive wood and it is most beautiful. I deeply admire Fermor, for his young man chutzpah, his memory (or note making capacity) and his deep knowledge – a fitting companion for you.

    1. I’ve only just got to grips with him. Much of his writing is quite magical, and his knowledge of the arcane classical matters prodigious. Or as you say, he kept a lot of notebooks. His house in the Messenian Mani was just across the Gulf from where we were staying, and apparently will be a museum.

    1. I have only just discovered olive groves, though having said that whenever I read about them in the past, they always seemed to ‘speak’ to me. Something about collective memory and endeavour and harvests past and those to come, and slathering golden olive oil on Greek brown lentil soup…it’s almost all you need to know 🙂

    1. Yes, definitely full of promise, Gilly. The locals were predicting a very good harvest this year. They just needed some rain to increase the oil content of the olives. Once we knew that, we didn’t mind when we had a few downpours.

  3. A lovely and evocative post. I think so much of Greece is so elemental in a way that seems profound, and there is a much there that kindles a ‘natural reverence’, and your post captures this so well.

  4. I love the conspiracy which shapes the trees to give their best yield. It implies such care and concern for every tree. Olive trees have become a popular landscape plant for city gardens in Christchurch. I don’t like them much used in this way but my biggest worry about olive trees in my neighborhood is their allergy inducing pollen. Did you find much discussion or concern about olive tree pollen allergies?

    1. No, I’ve not come across anything about allergies, though might need to think about it if we go back at springtime as we were thinking. It’s doubtless a lot to do with taking a plant out of its native setting and putting it somewhere where it would not have ended up under its own steam. I remember a doctor in Kenya telling me that many Kenyans were very sensitive to maize pollen – this despite maize becoming their primary food source over the past 60 odd years.

      1. The same applies to people perhaps. At least in my case, anyway. I didn’t have any problems with allergies in the country where I was born and spent my childhood. My troubles only started when I moved to NZ as a teenager.

  5. Your writing is enchanting. I am there in that olive grove with you, breathing lightly so as not to disturb those ancient spirits. An idyllic place for walks and dreams.

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