An irregular, irreverent, post-modern account of the surreal, the ordinary, and the bizarre happenings on and around the Felia lavender farm in Crete

Thursday, September 22, 2005


I love Johnny dearly and I happen to think that his Ode to Autumn is a bit of as stunner - odewise - despite having had to do it for O-level but he clearly never did an Autumn here in Greece despite hanging out with the club footed boy.

Autumn here is about sounds and smells. And light!

During the long dry hot summers every prospect that you look at turns into a badly overexposed approximation of what is really there. The human brain, good though it is at image processing, just cannot deal with the light intensity and the phenomenal contrasts that it throws. Everything hazes to indistinct once the sun is in the sky. Look too long and strange motile wiggly cellular structures cloud your sight only to be replaced by heavy black blobs when you eventually look away - as look away you must. Not in Autumn though. In Autumn it is as though some extremely talented optometrist has just fitted you with invisible, imperceptible, lenses of magical clarity. Ground by the gods these new lenses pick out every fine detail, each subtle shade and shadow. Sometimes the intense clarity of Autumn light confuses me into thinking that I have an incipient migraine. I am often reminded here and now of the indescribable optical clarity that accompanies the imbibing of LSD.

And then there are the sounds. As temperatures calm to the workable people start to visit the valley again: with chainsaws and tractors. They come early and often stay until dusk. Acoustics do odd things in this season of sounds. Is that pick-up coming toward us from left or right? Is that JCB coming or going away? And that loud male Greek voice - is he in our fields or beyond the river? The mufflers of summer are off and sounds carry their indistinct and ambiguous messages to us from all directions.

When summer fills the valley with dust and heat only the smells of herbs and insecticides register but in Autumn the olfactory palate is filled with rich and unusual smells. That smell this morning. What was it? Familiar: I know it or knew it. A dew had settled on the irrigation pipes overnight and I brushed it from the taps as I finally registered. That smell. It was the smell of damp earth. Rich, and promising so much fertility, it is a smell I had forgotten but one I will relish in the coming months of a second spring. Make no mistake, Autumn takes the plants by surprise here and fools them into another blooming. Already the nasturtiums are budding. The bottlebrush is full with its wonderful and incandescent red wands. The runner beans are cropping heavily and one can actually begin to see the thinner, weaker branches of the olives begin to bow under the weight of their fruits as the trees drink deep draughts of the rain that fell last week. The wise men of the land have taken their grapes in already. The foolish and the idle procrastinate.

A background, slightly sour, smell too. One that reminds us of jobs to do before winter sets on. The oozing smell of mats of hair holding on to stale soap suds in drains and sinks.

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