The gods, history, art, food and agriculture of the Isle of Naxos, Greece

There are a lot of pages and references  dedicated to the Greek donkey as of late. A sturdy animal used often for the purpose of agriculture by farmers or by villagers without cars to carry heavy weight in incredibly hot temperatures. This is what they were built for as they are similar to the desert camel.  So, please people, unless the donkey owners are untrained or ruthless “meanies” most of these animals are beloved in Greece. I should know, we owned several in our family in years past.

Greece is considered the “hottest” country in Europe with summer temperatures  exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). The last “hydration” post is most important to review as one can even get sunburnt if they don’t wear a hat often — it happened to me! Health literacy indeed should include the “donkey” holistic model described on this site if we are to look at the bigger picture.

Greece has over 6,000 islands but only 227 are inhabited. So this post will be one of several where I will be sharing some extraordinary experiences with the hope that you will visit there too!

4783E0CD-5D4B-4609-9D92-23BDA16D81FALast year, during this summer period,  we were privileged to stay at the “Princess of Naxos” on the isle of Naxos main town, and interview the owner and island hotel association rep. who was very proud about his island and more recent tourism developments. It’s an island for “all tastes” for families, couples, or individual adventurers. We had the chance to walk and drive around various parts of the island enjoying the pristine blue waters of the sea (Agios Prokopios, Agia Anna, Agios Georgios were personal favorites) visiting museums with remnants from ancient, medieval, to modern times. An island of antithesis yet complementary sites, smells, sounds and tastes. Also a geological marvel with stones and minerals, including Naxos marble, would make anyone want to “dig” for more!

The marble Sphinx is proof of the Hellenistic and Egyptian relationships while the marble “portal” door welcomes visitors to the island. 8110DEED-9A7E-41EE-AC52-469304D7F4F1.jpegAs if a sleeping pharaoh, the gigantic statue of Apollo is carved on the mountain side for worshipers and the majestic pillars of the temples of Artemis and Demeter (female goddesses of fertility and earth’s bounty), or the site of Dionysus (merriment and “wine god”) remind one of how important fertile land and the bounty of food is for human survival.  The gods of pagan times likely affected the mentality of Christianity as various saints are important to Orthodox Christians. We remain with elements of various personality types and the cosmos: earth, air, fire, and water — ancient philosophy, astrology, and later psychologist Carl Jung aspired personality experts Myers & Briggs to better understand ourselves and others.

One can take a side trip to neighboring islands of Paros or Mykonos, and the small (uninhabited) isle of Delos dedicated to the sun god Apollo with a fabulous “terrace of the lions” built around 600 B.C. with infamous Naxos marble showcasing the strength of dominance of the island as biggest sea trades happened here of all the Cyclade islands, the name of the island “group”—  see fellow blogger’s site here.

 

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Following Artemis’ path, I became a “huntress” of sorts to try and understand the island “identity” and driving towards semi-mountainous Filoti (Φιλώτι), we stopped right before at at a local pottery maker whose family art goes back three generations. We still admire his work today in our home and they deliver goods almost anywhere globally. The impressive “wine glass of equality” was fascinating as all drinkers could only have equal amounts — if you went over the ‘line’ wine would be lost pouring to the floor (one would not be happy).

A small shop owner told us stories of agriculture and dedications to the ancient gods as people aspired to live off the land and how Naxos became the main trading isle of the region. Some of the popular trades of the island continue to be their cheeses like my favorite graviera (γραβιέρα), Naxos potatoes (something similar to the U.S. Idaho potato), or their famous citron (κίτρο) green colored liqueur.

His shop was full with handwoven baskets, and anything from mountain oregano to sheep’s bells or khoudounia (there is a site on their origins in Greece here) in smaller animals the smaller bell is called a “trokani” (τροκάνι). Noteworthy is the fact that there are similar herbs and medicinal plants shared among other islands and mainland Greece (Alan Touwaide’s research work is highlighted in a past post on ancient and medicinal plants). This shop is a cultural treasure that will hopefully make it through the ongoing financial crisis of the country.

 

Find out more about this “must visit” Greek island via the website Naxos.gr — from museums to gastronomy, or simply a relaxing seaside vacation, that will leave everyone wanting to return.

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Hydrate your body and soul this summer

Happy 4th of July to all U.S. friends and happy summer to everyone else. People ask me what can I do to feel better? How can I stop negativity? How can I look younger?

Firstly everything is “reversible” as long as you take control to “hydrate” your body, the mind, and soul. Would you ever NOT water a plant if you wanted it to flourish? Or not care for your child? Or not listen to your friend’s pain and offer advice? Pain can feel like stones heavy on the heart. But what if they were “hot stones” which are good with healing! Could you collect some at the beach and “throw” your heavy worry to the sea? Whatever it is, WATER heals….

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What about water? — for every coffee you consume and any alcoholic drink you must drink at least 1-2 glasses of water (mind the cup). We should be drinking 6-8 glasses of water daily and in the summer increase to 10-12! I won’t go into other summer safety precautions since I’ve written about this before (see here) but I will go on with “the power.”

We all have the power to change our thoughts and share with others how to become better people but are they ready? Some are “stuck” in thinking everyone is “against” them, they are “not good enough,” you don’t “love them enough” (often this is their own “stuff” from personal insecurities, childhood, borderline behaviors that you cannot do much about as they need spiritual or professional guides). This summer read Ms. Byrne’s book it will open your mind and help heal the soul. In general prayer, meditation, and healthy “mind food” do!

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“The Power” by Rhonda Byrne

As for your skin — besides sunscreen, adding more raw vegetables and fruit 🍉 like seasonal summer squash, grapes, or watermelon do the trick! But some of us have sensitive digestive systems so vitamins are just what the doctor ordered.

My favorite summer skin beauty regimen the last two years is Truvivity is so ask me or others about it and try it today if you want to build your collagen and keep inner hydration healthy against sun damage and normal aging process a bit longer delayed! Beauty is skin deep but if you have a healthy attitude around you will be surrounded by many friends and loving persons to be even more attractive to others. Remember to be beautiful inside and out keep “hydrated” mind, body and soul!

 

Strawberry Moon, Shortcake, and June

According to Native American tradition June was the perfect ripening time to pick strawberries by the full moonlight … since it’s also cooler in the evenings and less critters like bees, my guess is? The article by USA Today published last June 2018 suggests that the warm color of the moon as it is closer to the earth and the related folklore give the related “strawberry moon” reference.

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Full moon overlooks the cityscape

Buying my 1 kg. (about 2 lbs.) in-season June strawberries I was thinking about what desert to make  — despite the fact strawberries have one of the highest ratings of pesticide residue,  about 10 mins steeped in cold water with a tablespoon of lemon juice and a “pinch” of salt helps reduce this ‘bad for your health’ stuff according to experts —  In thinking along the healthier eating lines, we should try to reduce calories due to high sugar in most strawberry deserts. But how?  Then it comes to me…. as a kid I recall those “special occasions” with my aunt Dorothy who introduced me to so many “American” traditions including antique stores, the 4th of July Independence Day parade in the historic Marblehead, MA. complete with fireworks, barbecues, and yes, strawberry shortcake!

In the 1980s there was a greeting card that evolved into many cartoon characters who lived in “Strawberry Land” including friends Lemon Meringue and Blueberry Muffin (by the way I love those deserts too!). Apparently, this became popular again with a newer North American (Canadian – American) ownership and animated series in about 2010!  This desert is still an all-time classic. Growing into adulthood with all the pains and  needing to cut down on extra calories one can understand why it’s best to keep thoughts only on the cartoon’s “Berry Adventures” 😎🍓

So, I substituted the whipped cream with strained Greek yogurt and guess what? It is simply fabulous with that extra protein needed and less sugar calories. Yummy! Well,  I still like those strawberry daiquiris with my leftover strawberry sauce …maybe I’ll drink to that?! Cheers, and happy summer.

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Flying lanterns & Safe Returns

Lanterns made of biodegradable material, big and small, yellow colored with more bold red and blue checkered patterns, floated to the sky by the dozens, accompanied by fireworks, on the Saturday of the Resurrection. Traditions such as these, as well as a simple lighting of candles are customary to Orthodox Christians celebrating Easter week in several towns and villages in Greece and other parts of Eastern Europe.

I was in awe of the spectacle in the town of Leonidio former municipality of southern Arcadia, Eastern Peloponnesus. A small town with a traditional “Tsakonika” language dialect, and modern traditions including rock climbing, Leonidio will also have a summer feast of the eggplant  (aubergine) in the summer “Melitzazz” festival with jazz music 🎼

Yes, there are many pagan traditions that have made it across to religious Christian traditions as a fellow blogger rightfully addresses (Aratta) and the above are a welcomed change adding value to our trip while helping the local economy.

However, some practices are more difficult to fathom at close range including fireworks and other “poppers” including shooting guns for “fun”. This includes a random bullet on Easter Sunday landing in an 8-year-old’s head who is now fighting for her life in the town of Thiva, and a cameraman who lost his life at 58 from a misfired firework in the town of Kalamata. Many towns every year have fireworks to bring in tourism but at what costs? And we as viewers need to keep our healthy distance to prevent injury.

Health literacy people, to prevent injury by safe practices! The US Consumer Product Safety Commission puts out some good guidelines  to be safe around fireworks (CPSC) particularly for young children who may be “curious” or sensation-seeking teens and adults who tinker with danger.

May Wreaths

On May 1st we make wreaths from the earth’s bounty!

Take a moment this May 1st to pick your flowers and dance around the May pole (May energy) or rethink labor “rights” traditionally celebrated as “Labour Day” by many countries, neither North America nor Australia (hmm!) , on the side of safety first and occupational health.

Violets in the Spring

Spring is here in full bloom and many of us have seasonal allergies, others use this time for  a stricter diet — perhaps for lent but most to reshape our body after our seasonal eating and drinking “escapades” as natural to take on weight during winter and hibernate …Well I’m trying?! I gave in with my friend for her namesake and had a Spring inspired dessert …Pavlova with strawberries and Violet ice cream 🍨! Yes you heard it right … infused with essence of violet.D401FB7B-EE66-4572-8251-068A07F444E2

Turns out that the inspiration for that light fluffy Pavlova dessert was inspired by the Russian ballerina’s “tutu” Anna Pavlova in the 1920s according to history of food site! After eating this, surely feeling light and jubilant inside. In the name of health please enjoy everything in moderation and with friends …less guilt, more enjoyment!

Turns out that this low ground flower is traced back to Greco-Roman myths in Greek also called “Io” and it also symbolizes sexuality as well as humility  (see all violet myths described by blogger Herb Rowe).  Thus the color purple is considered a spiritual color and in some cultures even used in times of lamentation. It is also a color of the quartz stone Amethyst, the birthstone of February. Amethyst comes from the Greek  “amethistos” meaning one who doesn’t get intoxicated or drunk, have any of you drunk alcohol from an amethyst goblet or ‘drinking vessel’ to test this?  Let’s stick to Spring and flowers shall we? Keep the stone for your own crystal therapy (see blog on Energy Muse)! Regardless if it is considered a questionable practice with not enough scientific proof it is still fun to learn about.

F084389D-5E66-49F1-A029-A074191846DAThese lovely purple violets were bought at my friend’s small business called “Flower Bar” in Southern Attica (Greece)  — let’s support locally! There are over 200 types of violets, these with deep purple leaves and a yellow color center are “African violets” to be exact, made a family couple very happy for their Golden 50th anniversary! Check out the Farmer’s Almanac for caring for these gorgeous violets. 

Inspired by the flowers and spiritual color of purple is a common poem (written in 1784_ source) we used to say or sing as children and even in our romantic years! Bring back more romance people, it’s good for your relationship health ….

Roses are red, Violets are blue, Sugar is sweet and so are you! 

The Audacity of Hope…Public Health week

The U.S. celebrates initiatives that make people’s lives better during April 1 – 7th national public health week and April 7th is World Health day (celebrated since 1948)!  There are so many issues to ponder over and one to focus on is giving people hope for better communities with less crime, more positivity, better infrastructure, building health literacy and overall wellness.

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Keep areas clean

Before Barack Obama became the 44th U.S. President I read his book “The Audacity of Hope” and years before a book about the community project titled “Streets of Hope” reflecting the community reorganization of a downtrodden area in Boston, the Dudley Street Neighborhood initiative. It is vital to understand how to motivate people and what community organizing is about — sustained efforts long-term. Reframing everything for positive changes does not mean turning a blind eye, but rethinking community strengths and addressing weaknesses. Understanding this first-hand I am constantly checking in to past efforts started and understand what Prochaska and Diclemente did so much research on years ago, the Stages of Change, a great one to add to our tool kits.

Taking the streets of most parts of Athens one sees many historic areas falling apart, trash, many run-down neoclassical buildings and mainly dirty tagging and more trash everywhere. As I travel to various places, I take photos of people’s work in trying to beautify their neighborhoods, often doing it with their own money and supervision. Change starts here, it starts with us, but we need to also maintain these efforts.

We know from the Broken Windows Theory (criminology article by Wilson & Kelling, 1982) that once one person creates a problematic situation like breaking a window other people soon follow. This can extend to modern ‘trashing’ of cities like the images featured above.  One friend’s motivational speech reminded me about social modeling (Bandura, social psychologist, would be  joyous with this) as her quote rings in my ears “if they can, we can too!” Let’s move away from negative to positive changes, see ‘what works’ in other societies and adapt for our own benefit towards long-term community health. Thus the concept of eudemonia goes beyond traditional wellness to incorporate physical, mental, and spiritual health extending beyond our  ‘selves’ to the larger community and global initiatives for all.

We have the right to:

1) clean cities without trash everywhere (Kondo’s method of cleaning house applied here) and most buildings desecrated by vandals. Respect cities.

2) hope for fellow humans to respect themselves and others by caring and helping each other and their environments.  Getting into positions of power to do away with corrupt politicians or any world self-centered mongul, let’s tell them to “take a hike.”

3) invest in health and focus on prevention — efforts like those by the CDC Foundation are prime examples of innovation and high-impact programs. Whether it’s an effort to combat depression or one to increase awareness of the need for vaccinations, efforts like the recent MIT Hacking event prove worthy of collaborative and volunteer work.

4) build infrastructure towards these goals, and be the change you want!

5) promote personal skills and efforts that have the potential to go global. This includes leadership and public speaking from clubs such as Boys and Girls clubs, Scouts, Lions or Toastmasters International (Toastmasters Greece link), and other similar local efforts reflective of these.

Yes we do, and have the right to the ‘audacity’ of hope!

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Do clean up the trash people (a positive reminder, Athens)

Flags and our Community’s Health

 

Flags as symbols used across nations imply “allegiance” to a cause, a country, used to more easily communicate across boundaries seen from afar. A white flag indicates surrender, while we have the sea/ocean ratings using flags and the coveted blue flag as an eco-label to indicate a clean swimmable beach area.

As we are in the age of globalization and people’s struggle (or not) for identity, it seems that flags have positive and negative perceptions.  There is a lot of work put into their design and symbolism. People have both celebrated and lost their lives for the cause their flag’s allegiance represents. Identity is indeed an evolving and necessary part of our personality as well as the people we put our trust in. This includes our family, educators, healthcare providers, politicians. And all these individuals can help our overall community well-being and health literacy. 

This March gave me an opportunity to compare two countries and festivities that involve the showcasing (or choosing not) of the respective country’s flag. Is it relevant to larger community health? Or at least indicative of it? I think so. Let’s start with the two flag images first — one from Dublin, Ireland and the second from a small village in Greece. 

In Dublin we had many festive images and there was a lot of drinking (whiskey and Guinness) for St. Patrick’s day March 17th — see post: Luck o’ the Irish. In Greece a lot of food (supposedly healthier foods like fried cod (called «μπακαλιάρο»)  beets or greens, and the infamous garlic concoction of “skordalia” (σκορδαλιά — see recipe by Alkis!)  and wine or ouzo (similar to zambuco) lots of it…alcohol always in need of temperance.

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Typical March 25th meal of cod (μπακαλιάρο), beets or greens, and the very garlicky “skordalia”

It seems in Dublin flags were everywhere outside and inside like hotel lobbies in bars/pubs and restaurants, combined with the Shamrock which symbolizes the four life goals — hope, faith, love, luck, but do these also imply health or do we hope to have faith and are lucky in love which hopefully means long term health?!Dublin hotel

In Greece flags as in all countries flow outside public buildings and some homes but it seems in the last years due to crisis and some extremism (e.g. Golden Dawn extreme right group who display both a Nazi-style flag and a Greek flag) people are less inclined to put out flags that once they used to more commonly display. One person specifically commented that he used to have a flag representing his island but due to his neighborhood’s flag being the same one flown by an extremist  group he refused to put it up again in celebrating Independence Day.  Imagine the U.S. or other parts of the world not having their flags flowing in patriotism?

If some people post images or write a post on behalf of their country’s  day of independence there should be no shame or people avoiding putting “likes” for fear of being  perceived as “nationalists”.  This is problematic, as this indeed takes away from the positive side of a person’s identity.

We  have multiple identities and it’s very unfair for people to feel pressured into elements of shame. Worse, the burning of a flag in the name of anarchy (hooded anarchists do not even know why they do it….’government’ is not the same as a country and what they have fought for). This I agree with this Greek author who calls the hooded youth pictured “idiots” in this Greek article.

In countries where people are very proud of displaying their flags such in France for the United States it would seem rather odd if you did not include a flag outside your immediate home or the community for days of independence. Let’s rethink and keep discussing  for the sake of community health shall we?! Be proud, be grateful, respect ✊!