Saturday, 31 August 2013

Persephone departing (Η Περσεφόνη φεύγει)

There really is no point going to bed before 3am in the summer months on a Friday, Saturday or even Sunday night in my neighbourhood, including the eve of any major holiday or religious feast day. Add to that, a saint's feast day, which means that people with the same name are celebrating their nameday. I should point out that every day of the year in the Greek Orthodox calendar is dedicated to some saint. I'm not even including wedding and baptism celebrations in this list - they too tend to take place in summer, at outdoor reception centres. 

Pomegranates ripening in our garden - photo taken 29/8/2013

There is usually some outdoor celebration taking place on most of these nights, accompanied by the full range of music, often a live band, playing loudly with compelte disregard for people living in the area - if you live in places close to outdoor summer entertainment, you basically have to tolerate it unitl the end of summer. The rhythm of the music is often the same - feasts generally start with Cretan music, then go on to general Greek 'λαϊκά', which basically means 'popular' music, and as the evening wears on, the beat increases and the music becomes heavier with the tsifteteli topping things off, before modern English pop music takes over. To make the evening go on for a longer time, a general free-for-all follows in terms of muscial choices - I was recently woken up at 4am with the duck dance (I seriously wondered if they would play Smurf music after that). These feasts could go on until 6-8am, depending on people's kefi - despite the crisis, they don't seem to be lacking in it.

Singing, dancing and clapping are of course some of the joys of life, but in the modern world, there are also rules in place against playing loud music at certain hour (just like there are rules against smoking in public indoor places). But Greeks are very forgiving and forgiveness often overrides the rules. So we often end up having to share our village peace and quiet with a lot of cicadas before the winter sets in, despite our grumpy mood when we have to get up early the next day on so less sleep than we would have liked. I personally prefer ants: they are so much quieter.  

It's the last day of August, and a Saturday at that, so I can guarantee that tonight, there will be plenty of revelling going on. I take comfort in the arrival of September, because I will be able to truly sleep more comfortably at night: not only will it be cooler and I will be able to shut the window while I sleep, but the outdoor music will also fade away altogether with the hot weather. 

Grapevines at MAICh - photo taken 26/8/2013

I can see the signs of Persephone slowly preparing to leave the earth, and I sometimes wish I could hurry them on. She will not leave alone - the visiting Athenian housewives will also follow her, with their spoilt children who are raised fatherless and undisciplined for almost three months of the year while they bring their urban habits to the countryside. I'm tempted to crack open a pomegranate from our tree and eat the seeds, as a way to hurry in winter.

I am not lamenting Persephone's departure, for the time being, at least. In fact, it will mean that I can spend more time in the company of Demetra, Persephone's mother, the ancient Greek goddess of agriculture, who will now have nothing to do when her daughter is away, so she will start raining on the earth, muddying its parched arid appearance. My wild Cretan greens will start growing, which I can forage when Demetra takes a break from her grief, interrupting the cold weather to let the sun peek through the clouds. I am certainly not complaining. I am impatient for life indoors with the windows shut and less dust coming in and the silence of the empty wintry streets. I'm looking forward to using a blanket on the bed once again; living with Persephone for the last three months has made me feel so naked.

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