On Saturday night at about 1:00 a.m., as we were leaving the excellent Maistra restaurant on the beach at Akharavi, the surf whispering in the darkness, the frogs in the ponds beside the car park croaking to wake the dead, we glanced up at the moon. It was blood red with a slender fingernail of white near the top. A lunar eclipse! Not unexpected to those who keep a proper almanac, but it took me by surprise. Spectacular! An hour earlier, the heavenly orb had been bright enough to read by. As we watched, the pale rim vanished and the moon hung there glowing a baleful crimson, as if Mars had swung closer to Earth to see what was going on.
The old lady on the other side of the hill here in Loutses predicted a grim day following the eclipse, but it was actually delightful. Spring is well advanced on the island, the garden a carpet of wild flowers. Birds sing. Bees buzz. Sky is blue. T-shirt weather. Coming back to Corfu in the spring is always a pleasure. We can count the casualties—my sophomore kumquat tree eaten by the neighbour’s donkey, utterly destroyed. One of the two new vines I planted also whisked away. And the asphodels are back—huge clumps of spiky green leaves with one or two or three stiff glossy stalks thrusting up like triffids’ poison whips. Last year there was one; this spring there are a hundred. The leaves, once dried, are popular winter food for goats, but no one keeps goats around here. And though they say the Elysian fields were fields of asphodel, I can tell you that that is no big deal.
But good things grow amongst them. Yesterday, down at the bottom of our steep patch of land, we filled a basket with fresh young dandelion greens. In Canada, we strive to uproot them; here we try not to. We poached the leaves for two minutes, drained and annointed them with thick oil, salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon. The orange tree on the neighbour’s abandoned and bramble-choked patch of garden is burdened with fruit (oranges would seem so extravagant if they weren’t so familiar). Most exciting of all is the discovery of a few stalks of wild asparagus among the wildflowers. We eat them raw, relishing the bittersweet chlorophyll flavour.
On Wednesday, I have to drive into Corfu Town to deliver a talk to the Durrell Society about my book The Greek For Love which was published this week in a Greek translation. Now our neighbours here in the hills will be able to read what I wrote about them. Bear that in mind if no further word of me reaches Toronto.