Balance. Ultimately, it's what we're all aiming for, right? Whether it's balancing our work life and home life, balancing our gut flora, our circadian rhythm, or our dreams with our reality. There are so many things that knock us off balance, though.
It is bitterly cold here (for Athens!) and I’ve covered up my pot plants to protect them from the frost. The lowering grey clouds may look bleak but down on the ground, the plant life is far from dead.
Midwinter. There is such magic and mystery in the word - a connection to people and times past, and an invitation to sink down into the comforting dark. This is a time for rest and rejuvenation, for re-evaluation and sowing the seeds of intention. But modern Western Christmas culture rips that from us in the mad rush and the insistence that we need to buy more, do more, see more, even eat and drink more at this time of the year. I'm taking it back.
I love the Christmas season, but I have to admit the waste and excess makes my stomach churn. I know lots of people feel the same way. Over the past few years, I've been consciously downsizing Christmas for me and my family - cutting back, but keeping all the heart.
Nature moves in cycles. We can see it in the dance of the seasons from winter to spring to summer to autumn and back to winter. We can see it in the water cycle, photosynthesis, the food web, and the life cycle of one small basil plant. Everything is constantly in motion - living, dying, beginning again - and everything is interconnected. We often forget that we are a part of that, too.
A lot of plants are dying off or back in autumn, but you can plant stuff too! A couple of weeks ago, my girls and I got busy on the balcony, planting some bulbs in pots. We've got iris, hyacinth and crocus. I haven't planted bulbs since I was a kid, and I'm excited for them to come up!
All my life I have lived near water. I grew up less than 10 minutes’ walk from the bank of the River Thames in England. For five years, I lived on the west coast of Wales. Then, in my mid-twenties, I lived back in England, two minutes’ walk from a lake. Now, I live in Athens … but not in Athens, on the edge of Athens - and that makes all the difference.
In spring, two of my daughters planted some basil seed. I wasn’t optimistic. First, the seeds were from a kids’ mini-greenhouse kit from a toy shop. Second, I have tried to grow basil from seed before - and failed. Well, I should have had a bit more faith, because that basil sprouted ...
There are two things I can harvest from the olive tree in our garden - olives and leaves. This year is my first time working with either, although I have been a fan of eating olives for most of my life!
Olives, the olive branch and the olive tree are symbolic in many cultures and religions, from ancient Egypt to Christianity to the Arab world. In ancient Greece, newborn babies were presented with an olive branch, brides wore a crown of olive leaves, and olive wreaths were given to the dead. It was illegal to cause damage to an olive tree in ancient Greece - a crime that was actually punishable by death at one point! The olive tree was also sacred to Athena and had a special place in the myth of the founding of Athens, the city I live in.