Love Tea

I’m sitting down to drink a cup of tea. If you don’t hear from me again, please notify my husband.

I’m going to try dittany or diktamos. The Cretans call it erontas or erondas, from the word eros. As you know, Eros is the Greek god of love and sexuality. The Greek is diktamos (δίκταμος) or erondas (έρωντας).

Diktamos is an herb that grows only on remote, rocky hilltops on the island of Crete. The name comes from the Dikti mountain range in the Lasithi region of East Crete.

https://i1.wp.com/phyto.gr/assets/Origanum_dictamnus_2.jpg?w=840

The use of dittany goes back into the mists of history. It may be the plant featured in the fresco of garlands at the Minoan palace of Knossos. Hippocrates prescribed it. Homer, Euripides, Aristotle and Theophrastus, Plutarch and Virgil all wrote about the herb.

When Aeneas is injured, his mother Aphrodite (Venus) uses dittany to cure him:

A branch of healing dittany she brought

Which in the Cretan fields with care she sought:

Rough is the stern, which woolly leafs surround;

The leafs with flow’rs, the flow’rs with purple crown’d,

Well known to wounded goats; a sure relief

To draw the pointed steel, and ease the grief. [1]

Even characters in Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal and JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows use dittany. The herb is considered an aphrodisiac (okay, maybe not in Harry Potter). Suitors collected the wild dittany flowers and gave bouquets to prove their love. The young men were known as “erondades (love seekers) and were considered very passionate men to go to such dangerous lengths to collect the herb.” [2] Traditionally, diktamos was given to newlyweds to inflame desire.

It can be used both internally and externally: a poultice, an essential oil, for application on wounds, an herbal tea (my chosen method – I bought a bag of dried herbs when we were on Crete this fall), to disinfect wounds, chewed, or as toothpaste for a sore throat and to clean the mouth and teeth. Dittany is distilled and used as a bitter in vermouth or martinis (for example), and in cosmetics. [3]

Finally, before I drink my brewed cup, I give you my favorite fact. Dittany/Diktamos is also known as the burning bush. I leave it to you to decide why I’m drinking it.

NOTES: [1] Book XII.411–415 of Virgil’s Aeneid. As the poem mentions, Cretan mountain goats nibble on diktamos to heal their wounds. [2] botano.gr. The flowers of the Dittany plant are hermaphroditic with both male and female organs. [3] This rare and protected little plant gets around! ©Jadi Campbell 2019. Photo courtesy of phyto.gr. To see Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

“Dittany contains an essential oil called Carvacrol, which is a natural antibiotic, 50 times stronger than penicillin. In the leaves, there is furthermore a substance called Dictamin, which is used for cardiovascular diseases. In all, there are 70 different curative substances in the plant that can be extracted and used for medication or cosmetics.” — ilovecrete.eu

“Compounds of Dittany are powerful antioxidants. The essential oils have also antiseptic and anti-fungal properties and are often used in ointments to treat burns and skin ailments. Tea made from dittany is used to relieve tension headaches and as a relaxant. Dittany is also used to relieve indigestion, colic, stomach cramps and bloating. It is also thought to be a diuretic and to combat fever.” —greece-is.com

To learn more:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origanum_dictamnus

https://www.we-love-crete.com/dittany-of-crete.html

http://www.elenaoncrete.com/oregano-origanum/

 

The Animal Kingdom: 32

I give you Installment #32 of my blog thread describing what to call groups of animals! … See how many you can guess. Answers listed at the bottom of the page.

  1. The durante MUST be named for Durante.
  2. A raffle is perfect for a Thanksgiving raffle.
  3. Have you ever heard a drumming drumming?
  4. An orchestra plays their orchestra on summer evenings.
  5. A trip seldom trips.
  6. I’d love to see an aurora during an aurora.

Long Beaked Bird on Brown Wood Near Forest

  1. Durante of toucans [1]
  2. Raffle of turkeys
  3. Drumming of grouse [2]
  4. Orchestra of crickets
  5. Trip of goats
  6. Aurora of polar bears [3]
Trip

NOTES: [1] I had to check that this one was real because I instantly thought of Jimmy Durante and his famous schnozz with this definition for the big-beaked toucan… [2] Drumming comes from the birds’ mating call, generated with the wings [3] Could the name be any more wonderfully appropriate for an animal that lives at the North Pole?!

© Jadi Campbell 2017. Durante member photo courtesy of Pexels. Goat photo © Uwe Hartmann.To see Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de. Fun animal names from en.wiktionary.org, www.writers-free-reference.com, Mother Nature Network and www.reference.com.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

 

Get Me to the Church on Time: Malaysia

Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur

We spent a couple weeks in Malaysia this spring. Most of that time we stayed in the classic tourist destinations: Georgetown and Melaka for their rich layers of Dutch, Portuguese, British history.

Visitors at St. Paul’s Church, Melaka
Portuguese tombstones, St. Paul’s Church, Melaka

We tried to see some of the incredible nature, too. My personal highlight was Sarawak on Borneo. We went to the UNESCO global geopark on Langkawi Island and took a bus inland to the tea country of the Cameron Highlands.

Everywhere we went, I was struck by two things. The first is that in a predominantly Muslim country it can take a while to find alcohol. Evening mealtimes for Uwe and me are when we want to linger over a glass and talk about what we saw during the day. In Malaysia we’d peruse the menu at the front of a restaurant and turn the pages to the very back where the drinks were listed. If it didn’t serve beer or wine, often we’d smile and say thank you, and head further down the street feeling slightly like jerks.

Mosque and Muslim cemetary, Sarawak, Borneo

The second thing I noticed is that in every place we visited, streets in Malaysia contain the houses of worship of different religions. Muslim mosques, Christian churches, Hindu, Buddhist, Tin Hau and Chinese temples, one next to the other line a street. Everywhere.

Hindu temple, Georgetown
Hindu priest, Georgetown
The goddess Tin Hau, patroness and protector of sailors and immigrants, Georgetown

We explored many of them and I was delighted and calmed by the sweet atmosphere in these roads. The world feels more and more divided. But the Malaysians we talked with are proud of the religious tolerance and multicultural blend that makes up their country.

Chinese temple lanterns, Sarawak, Borneo
Dutch, British, German cemetary, Melaka

And that’s a concept I’ll gladly raise a glass of wine to….

NOTES:  © Jadi Campbell 2019. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s pics from Malaysia and our trips go to viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Borneo’s Wild Orangutans

Last spring we saw our first free roaming orangutan.

We were at Semenggoh Nature Reserve, just south of Kuching in the Sarawak state on Borneo. Semenggoh is also a Wildlife Centre, established in 1975 as a rehabilitation sanctuary. They take in injured, orphaned, or rescued orangutans. The sole goal of the centre is the rehabilitation and gradual return of animals to fend for themselves in the wild.

Orangutans are endangered, rare, marvelous. They’re native to only two places on the entire planet: Borneo or Sumatra. Our chances of running across them in the wild were pretty much zero, but at Semenggoh maybe we could watch them feeding.

Our individually booked, guided visit conjoined with the larger international tourist groups. The centre gives educational lectures. We learned the rarity and habits of these giant primates. Orangutans spend at least 60% of their waking time looking for food. “Their diet consists of 300 different kinds of fruit such as barks, honey, young shoots, insects and occasional bird egg and small vertebrae. Fruits make up 60% of the orangutan’s diet.” Also (this fact surprised me), “a 1-mile square radius of rainforest can only support a low population density of about 2.5 orangutans.”  [1]

The centre maintains a feeding platform. Orangutans are called back for lunch if they want it. But the jungle vegetation fruited a second time last winter, and we were informed that if the orangutans didn’t show, this was a sign that they were fending successfully for themselves in the thick woods. And indeed, none of the creatures responded to the rangers’ calls. [2]

We waited patiently for the tardy luncheon guests. Then suddenly walkie talkies crackled. The seemingly relaxed park guides sprang into action, urging everyone back towards the entrance. A ranger had spotted an orangutan!

Seduku

The matriarch was in a tree near the parking lot and ironically closer and easier to observe than if she’d come to the feeding platform. It was Seduku. She’s nicknamed the ‘Grand Old Lady’ and she’s 48 years old, born in 1971.

The Grand Old Lady

Seduku could be aggressive towards tourists, our guide said. But the morning we ‘met’ her she was mellow (and almost seemed to be showing off). All I can say is that she had a conscious dignity. Kudos to the great work being done on behalf of orangutans at the Semenggoh Rehab Centre!

NOTES: [1] Semenggoh Wildlife Centre [2] Not getting to see the endangered animals at a feeding station means that they’re rehabilitated into their natural habitat. Not seeing them is a good thing. This is an ironic moment for any tourist. To learn more about the rehab center, go to their website at https://semenggoh.my/

© Jadi Campbell 2019. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

The Foods of Fall

If I had to pick a single season for produce (like, if you tied me down and told me I couldn’t eat another meal until I chose) I’d pick autumn. I’ve always liked the abundance of autumn, and the generosity. The neighbors suddenly show up at the door with armfuls of squash. “Want some of these? We’ve got more than we can use.” My mother-in-law grew zucchini. She gave me some that were the size of Little League bats.

Life in a small village in Germany makes harvesting more present somehow. I get my veggies from a family run green house a couple blocks away. They don’t have the space or money to do anything other than seasonal vegetables, and I’ve learned to appreciate what’s suddenly ready to be harvested.

I jones big time for fresh Swiss chard a lot of the year here. My parents grew it in their garden and I totally took it for granted. Seeing it here was like winning the culinary lottery. At the end of every summer I go in the store hoping I’ll spot a big white bucket filled with freshly picked rainbow chard. Not just normal wonderful green chard, but rainbow!!

“I’d like your Mangold,” I request when it’s my turn to be served.

“A bunch of it?” she asks.

“No…. I’d like your Mangold. All of it.” I make sure my tone of voice lets her know that I’m not joking. Screw the other customers, let them find their own source for rainbow chard!

In the fall she has big, juicy, imperfect tomatoes. I had an awkward morning once as I attempted to translate the term heirloom tomatoes into German.

Orange pumpkins are available in the fall, but I lived here for years and never saw a Hubbard squash. Or an acorn squash. Or spaghetti squash. You get the idea. I don’t when or why the region finally got hip to winter Kürbisse, but I used to go into the exquisite (and super-duper expensive) Stuttgarter Markthalle if I wanted to cook with them.

At the moment, Pfifferlinge – trumpet mushrooms – are being picked. They’ve got a short season, so I buy them by the bagful. We eat them in risotto, or sautéed with diced bacon for pasta, or in a cream sauce for chicken.

In the spring, white asparagus is a national delicacy. For about two months, restaurants have entire menus based on dishes with Spargel. Germans and French people go insane for this vegetable. The spears are thicker than regular asparagus (the green variety barely elicits a yawn here) and a pain in the ass to peel without breaking. A few years ago Uwe and I were shopping in a big grocery store, and in the frozen foods aisle I spotted big bags of already peeled, frozen Spargel.

“Hey! Wanna get this? We can eat Spargel all year round!”

Incredulous disbelief and revulsion chased each other across his face. Once he was sure what he’d heard, revulsion won. My husband looked at me as if I’d just suggested that we have sex with a puppy.

“No, I don’t want to buy frozen Spargel! Why would you possibly want to eat that??”

I set down the bag of frozen asparagus and carefully backed away. We go out to eat fresh Spargel each year, in the spring….

But, autumn. It’s time to go grocery shopping again. The first crop of apples have arrived!

NOTES: Text and photo © Jadi Campbell 2019.  To see Uwe’s pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Pour Wine and Oil in my Grave

I attended the funeral of a friend’s mother recently here in Stuttgart. I arrived early and sat awhile in the silent cemetery chapel. First, I lit a slim yellow taper in the entrance to the church.

Greek Orthodox monastery, Corfu

The family is Greek Orthodox. I’ve lit candles in lots of Orthodox churches throughout Greece, and once went to a church service in a tiny church in Thessaloniki that stands on a spot where the Apostle Paul preached.

I’d never been to an Orthodox funeral. Huge wreathes of white flowers bought by the families of her children were arrayed to the left of the altar. Candles in red glasses flickered around a framed photograph of Olga on a small stand; a cake in a white box and a bottle each of wine and olive oil were placed beside the photo.

The priest prayed and sang in Greek; he lifted the icon set on the casket and kissed it. Believers in the chapel crossed themselves at the right places in the text. Later, it was time to bury Olga.

A man played horn music, the priest chanted as the coffin was lowered into the ground. He opened the bottle of wine and poured it, in the shape of a cross, in the grave. Next (after wrapping his long black robes between his knees to keep them from getting soiled) he poured olive oil in the shape of the cross. He took the white box of cake that my friend had carried out of the church with her and, cutting it, spooned some of the cake into the grave as well.

We approached the grave one by one. When it was my turn, I tossed in a blooming flower and then a spade of dirt onto the casket.

The musician started playing Amazing Grace, which almost put me in tears. Some pieces of music transcend time, and continents, and cultures. In any language, for any generation, they bring solace and peace.

Then we went to a restaurant for the Makaria, the “Meal of Mercy”  that follows an Orthodox funeral. This one was a German/Greek hybrid of coffee, Butterbrezel (large buttered pretzels), cakes and Greek pastries. My friend went around the long table and spooned out some of that traditional funeral cake onto each of our plates. “My mother used to make this dish herself,” she said. “Koliva. It’s traditional; every Greek family has a recipe. I didn’t have time to make it myself, so I bought one at a Greek bakery.”

I ate the Koliva, a mix of sesame seeds, almonds, oats, ground walnuts, cinnamon, sugar, and anise amongst other ingredients…

I went home afterwards and lit candles.

The last funeral I attended was for my father.

NOTES: The wine is the blood in our veins and the oil announces the resurrection. Koliva is a dish used liturgically in the Eastern Orthodox Church to commemorate the dead. The cake is symbolic of death and the resurrection. Orthodox-death-rites. © Jadi Campbell 2019. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

The Animal Kingdom: 31

I give you Installment #31 from my blog thread describing what to call groups of animals … See how many you can guess. Answers listed at the bottom of the page.

  1. An armoury has hides like armor.
  2. The sneak snuck around sneakily.
  3. The shimmer had a shimmer as they shimmered in the air.
  4. The prattle prattles on proudly.
  5. The doom brought doom.
  6. This moxie has plenty of moxie for something so low to the ground!

  1. Armoury of aardvarks
  2. Sneak of weasels [1]
  3. Shimmer of hummingbirds
  4. Prattle of parrots
  5. Doom of dragons
  6. Moxie of doxies (dachshunds)
I finally meet my doom at the Singapore Zoo

NOTES: [1] The group name sneak is derived from weasels’ behavior. © Jadi Campbell 2017. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.  Fun animal names from en.wiktionary.org, www.writers-free-reference.com, Mother Nature Network and www.reference.com.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Snake Plants

Sansevieria. It’s almost impossible to kill, produces oxygen like a champ, and has over 70 varieties. Sansevieria is also named the snake plant, or mother-in-law’s-tongue due to it’s sharp, pointy leaves.

I started off with a single snake plant about a decade ago. Over the years, I’ve divided and sub-divided the clumps of stalks every so often. In all this time they flowered exactly once. Heck, I didn’t even know a snake plant got flowers…

One of my oldest and best friends just came to visit. Before Shaun arrived I scurried around with all the cleaning and prettying up tasks I’d put off – one of them being to repot those stressed snake plants. And lo and behold, during Shaun’s visit they suddenly began to send up flower stalks!

These babies grow at an astonishing rate, practically as you watch. The flower stems grow as much as four inches a day! (No joke. Ask Shaun: I made her look each morning.) Even she oohed and aahed in wonder at how fast they rose.

Here are a few photos of the flowering stalks. And they are not slightly out of focus just because I’m a lousy photographer. They are blurry because they grow right before your eyes.

Here’s to flowering plants, Round Two. I hope I don’t have to wait another decade for Round Three!

© Jadi Campbell 2019. To see Uwe’s much more professional photos and pics from our trips, go to viewpics.de.  Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

 

 

Borneo is Frog Paradise, Part Two

Ah, Kubah National Park on Borneo…. froggie paradise. The park is also home to other species. We met these guys.

Borneo angle-headed lizard (Gonocephalus borneensis)
Giant bent-toed gecko (Cyrtodactylus consobrinus)

And these. They were the size of my out-stretched hand!

When we planned what to do and see on Borneo, I made only one request. Okay, I admit it was a demand. I wanted, no, I needed to go on the night tour to see endemic frogs.

Our tour guide picked us up in front of the hotel and drove us out to Kubah National Park, where the park ranger met us. The four of us headed up into the park in the deepening darkness. And I do mean up: we climbed to 1,ooo feet to reach the part of the park where the most frogs hang out. The road was lit only by the beams of our torches and the flashes of fire flies.

Fire flies! I haven’t seen them since my childhood in New England, back when their on-and-off glow was an atmospheric element of every summer evening….

It was glorious.

You hear the one about the cinnamon frog and the fly?

It was also very, very funny, at times like being in a Monty Python sketch. Overcast, humid as hell and still hot as hell, even in the middle of the night. I dripped sweat and my glasses kept fogging up. Pitch black darkness, except for our flashlights…. which the two guides and I were shining on the frogs so that Uwe could capture them in photos. He didn’t want to use the camera flash, not wanting to startle the wild life and because light from a camera flash is too artificial. So I took his flashlight and held a torch in each hand, aiming them as directed. It was as though he were a mad director with a camera crew. It didn’t bother the critters one bit – they went on singing, and croaking, and hanging out on bole branch and vine…

Pitcher plant colony. Home of the narrow-mouth frog, first described in 2010. Microhyla borneensis was once the smallest known frog from the Old World (the current record holder is Paedophryne amauensis from New Guinea). The narrow-mouth frog is the size of your pinkie’s finger nail

A highlight in a night of a parade of wonders was the long-nosed horned frog. O.M.G. If folks on safari speak of the ‘Big Five’, froggers go into raptures about this guy:

Bornean horned frog! (Megophrys nasuta)

He lives in the leaf litter on the jungle floor, and remained motionless even as the park ranger cleared away the leaf detritus around him so that we could see him better. The horned frog, mahogany frog, and narrow-mouthed frog found in the pitcher plant are the rarest of the rare, the ‘Big Three’ of Kubah Park’s frog world. I clearly saw the first two, and saw the third jump from a distance.

Natural world geek heaven.

NOTES: Many of these species can be found only on Borneo. If you missed it in Part One, go to this link to hear what serenaded us in the jungle: https://blog.soundcloud.com/Most beautiful sound in the world competition winner Marc Anderson  This night tour really was magic. Wikipedia: Microhyla borneensis  © Jadi Campbell 2019. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s pics from Borneo and our trips go to viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Borneo is Frog Paradise, Part One

Ah, Kubah National Park on Borneo…. froggie paradise.

March 2019 Journal entry:

Just returned from an exhilarating 2 and ½ hours night tour with nature guide and tour guide at Kubah National Park. We saw frogs on trees, leaves, vines, boles, the sides of the road…. Two rare horned frogs! Mahogany frogs! A teeny pitcher plant frog – just one – it jumped away before we could look more closely but I did see the tiny thing leap (the narrow-mouth frog first described in 2010). Three different lizards. White-lipped frogs. Cinnamon frogs. Firebelly toads. Harlequin tree frogs. We had to head up to 1,000 feet up a road in the dark, the ranger with a head light. Unreal how he could spot the frogs. Glorious sounds of running water and night sounds of the jungle all around, my glasses fogging over with the heat and humidity, a large frog pond formed by wild pigs’ rutting. The frogs surprisingly calm, not jumping at our presence, just hanging out in their domain. I was in the moment, totally blissed out, just there, present with each frog we spotted. The guide and ranger and I backlighting each critter with our flashlights so Uwe could photograph it. The deep jungle trees and vegetation and clicks and buzzes and calls of frogs all around us. Nature’s Symphony. Glorious. An Australian recorded just this place and won an international competition for the most beautiful sounds in the world. Borneo’s really promoting sustainable growth, they recognize what they have here. The Malaysian part of Borneo, that is. I feel hopeful about a corner of the planet for the first time in a very, very, very long and sad time. Man, I like Borneo.

But with this frog tour tonight: I’m blissed out. It satisfied a deep soul place inside me. I am beyond happy. My heart feels filled.

Mahogany frog (Abavorana luctuosa)
white-lipped frog (Chalcorana raniceps)
I think this is a cinnamon frog (Nyctixalus pictus)

file eared tree frog (Polypedates otilophus)

 

 

Borneo horned frog (Megophrys nasuta)

NOTES: Many of these species can be found only on Borneo. This night tour was magic. And to hear what serenaded us in the jungle, go to this link: https://blog.soundcloud.com/Most beautiful sound in the world competition winner Marc Anderson  © Jadi Campbell 2019. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s pics from Borneo and our trips go to viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.