Saturday, September 4, 2010
(Click Image For Information On This Painting)
Orpheus walks full of hope towards daylight, expecting his beloved Eurydice to follow him all the way out of the underwold. He has been granted an extraordinary and unique opportunity: to have the breath of life restored to his wife. Hades, king of the land of the dead, softened to Orpheus request, marking Greek history as the only time this ever happened with this fearsome god. Even Cerberus, the horrifying hound of the gates of Hades, succumbed to the sad songs Orpheus played. Hades and his wife Persephone conceded Orpheus a chance for getting back Eurydice, alive. She would walk behind him, all the way to daylight, but he could not turn back to look at her, or would lose her for ever.
Read more about this topic at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clytia
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Saturday, August 21, 2010
(Click Image For Information On This Painting)
Apollo climbs the sky in his chariot of fire, and ignores Clytie, who betrayed his beloved Leucothea in order to gain back his favors. She suffers silently and finally turns into a sunflower; her face will now follow forever the Sun in its daily path.
Read more about this topic at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clytia
Sunday, August 8, 2010
(Click Image For Information On This Painting)
Knowing how popular he was among women - and some men, too... (see "Male Lovers", at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo ); it was better for heart breaker Apollo to spread the rumor that a leaden arrow hardened Daphne's. It would stand badly against his reputation as a seducer if people began to think that the beautiful nymph Daphne simply didn't like his glorious handsomeness. And Apollo wasn't the kind to take feminine rejections smoothly, apparently. So, one good day he decided that Daphne would have to give in, even if by sheer physical force.
The god chased Daphne around the forest, first playfully, then, seriously, breaking in a heavy sweat. What a moment it must have been for Apollo, to find out how badly the girl despised him, that to stay away, she ran furiously for all she was worth! And, even worse for his overfed ego, Daphne was a very fast runner, and he couldn't catch her. Only a divine favor would allow him to close the distance between them, as he was no match for this lightning-fast opponent!
Just at that moment - his good luck working miracles, no doubt - Cupid decided to give him the aid he required. But as his footsteps ate the space separating him from his sweet goal, right when he could feel the heat of her body on his finger tips, and the brush of her hair against his face, he received an almost heart stopping surprise. Beautiful Daphne turned instantly into a laurel tree! His desperate hands sought the dreamed softness of her skin, but found instead hard bark. He buried his face in her lustrous mane, with the last of hopes, but found only the rustle of leaves, and tiny branches that scratched his cheeks and lips.
So determined was Daphne to avoid him (or not just him, but all her suitors, as the Greek story likes to generalize, to Apollo's relieve...), that she preferred to transform herself completely. She considered her gorgeous form to be responsible for her troubles. She asked her father Peneus for help, and received it in the shape of a huge laurel tree. Now she would be forever rooted to the ground, opposite to the freedom of movement she was so used to have around the woods, which allowed her to be the great runner and hunter she was well known for.
I wonder if she had any idea of what her father had in mind, when she asked him for help. Either her father couldn't think straight in such short notice, or his responses to favor requests used to be this radical. Or maybe he simply just had a terrible dislike for Apollo and his ill reputation with women, now planning mischief with his dear daughter's purity.
Apparently, Apollo's ability to continue his love life as if nothing ever happened continued unimpaired. To me, it wasn't so. I think Daphne marked him deeply, after all... Irreversibly. His declaring as sacred the green leaves now replacing her hair, isn't one to be taken lightly. Instead of remembering with reverence her braveness in each Olympic event with laurel leaves as a special symbol, I think he grieved her loss quietly, in every of those magnificent occasions. He was the brave one, suffering silently for the only love he was so obsessed about, and couldn't have, ever.
You can read more about this topic at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daphne
Thursday, August 5, 2010
(Click Image For Information On This Painting)
Greek mythology tells the story of huntress Atalanta in many versions. From all, we can take note of what an incredible young woman this was, fighting and hunting fiercely like a bear. She had no equal…as no wish to attach herself sentimentally to anyone.
Of course, suitors almost rained from the Greek sky for such a remarkable lady, well endowed with a tantalizing beauty, to boost! But, as most Greek myths go, a bit more than mild cruelty added up to the story. Atalanta’s father decides, apparently agreeing to the young woman’s wishes (wicked wishes, to be more precise…), to allow all her suitors come forward for marriage proposals. These would be “processed” for considering in an uncommon way: the pretender would have to win Atalanta’s hand in a race, instead of begging for it on one knee. The race would be against Atalanta herself, winning a death sentence instantly, had the suitor the bad luck of being outrun by her.
Father and daughter, united in the purpose of repelling pretenders in this unconventional way, had great success. Atalanta could run faster than a deer, and faster than any other person. Curiously, while Atalanta’s suitors disappeared for ever in this fatal fashion, new ones never stopped from volunteering and giving it a try, yes, a deadly one.
Hippomenes was one of these self-confident young men. He had his good amount of glorious reputation, too, if not as magnificent as that of Atalanta's. But what he lacked in speed, he over brimmed in wit. The day of the race he showed up sure of his good luck, which to everyone's amazement worked to the best wonders. Finally someone won against thunder fast Atalanta!
His trick? He made some plans ahead. He asked Aphrodite for a favor, which she answered in the form of a few golden apples. Apparently, the goddess knew what a greedy little thing this Atalanta was. Even Hippomenes was surprised when the young beauty stopped dead in the middle of the race, to retrieve each of the fallen apples that he let go intermittently.
Right at this point is where I wonder what really went on there. I think it might not have gone exactly as it appeared to the naked eye. Avarice on behalf of Atalanta, a beautiful and successful woman, who was a god's daughter? She, who could have anything she wanted, as her history of never ending pretenders faithfully stated? Hum...maybe not...
Maybe it was convenience she thought of. Hippomenes was another story of success in himself. No other man could equal Hippomenes' sharp skills, making of this young man the best match for this extraordinary girl, her continuously growing pride probably coming to a dignified stop, finally. And if she outraced this one, too, she would stay lonely forever, her wicked father at her side, helping her plan who knows what other product of dementia for the future. So she bent obediently to pick up each of the shiny fruits.
Or maybe it was pity she felt for Hippomenes, her feminine intuition telling her that such pricy treats were not obtained so easily. Such things usually had a divine origin. Knowing how capricious Greek gods could be, such favors had generally a high price to pay in return. Being aware of what this pretender was risking for obtaining her hand in marriage, and feeling charitable towards the best of her fellows in sports, probably she thought it was time to renounce to the crown accrediting her as the fastest runner in the universe.
Or maybe it was love at first sight, which is the possibility I like best to consider (...sighs!). Hippomenes was very handsome, with the attractiveness his tough daily life molded his muscular body with. One good look at this young man convinced Atalanta that it was worth it. And not just being nice to look at, this man was the best hunter and runner she ever had known, even if a notch below her skills. So, maybe then she suggested the apples plan to a more than willing Hippomenes.
And probably it was her idea that he would get a few more (as in my oil painting), just for precaution. The formidable Aphrodite provided him with just three...In any case, Atalanta would need to have considerable "distraction", for the sake of appearances, with everybody knowing how fast she could run. After a long and hair rising history of fatal rejections for all her suitors, it wouldn't look good if Atalanta let Hippomenes win easily. The apples fitted perfectly to her machinations!
But Hippomenes probably had one more reason to accede smoothly to Atalanta's idea. Attracted to her as he was, maybe he felt it his duty to protect her reputation and dignity, thinking he wouldn't like her feelings bruised by her first lost race. What if he truly could outrun her after all, even without those darn apples? Death would appeal to him like a sweet treat, in place of the monstrous rage he might unleash from Atalanta, had he the indelicacy of letting himself win, shamelessly, in this comfortable fashion.
From the different versions of ending for this story, a popular one tells about how the newly weds celebrated their union, just after the race was won by Hippomenes. Ja, see? If it was not a plan between the two lovers, how could both of them end up happily celebrating? Common sense makes it more plausible that Hippomenes would celebrate, while Atalanta hid her humiliation and discomfort behind a dead serious face, in the best of scenarios. What would really be expected in this case, as Greek mythology usually went, is an outraged Atalanta, asking for some god's help, in order to take some creative revenge against Hippomenes.
In the following part of the story, according to one of the many versions, an angry Aphrodite brought death upon Hippomenes, apparently because he forgot his debt to her, in the bliss of celebrations. In this direction of the story, I think that the real reason for the goddess' anger was another. Secretly discovering that she was the fool in the middle of the lover's genial plans, must have triggered the goddess worst humor.
Another version of ending for this story states that Aphrodite, or Zeus, turned both newly weds into lions, because of their lack of proper honoring the goddess, or their irreverence in one of Zeus' temples. Apparently they were engulfed in a cloud of lust, that drove them to make love right there in the temple. They were punished accordingly, changed to the forms of wild beasts that Greeks thought couldn't mate together.
But I like to stay with the version of ending that tells about the fortuitous escape to safeness of both lovers, away from Aphrodite's fury.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Dominican Republic has a lot of great places to visit, if you choose to have your vacation in a country located in the tropical island of Hispaniola. But here I will tell you about one place I visited not long ago, one that is very interesting and less included in most touring expeditions: Sabana de La Mar (translation: "savannah of the sea"). First, let's get there...
Sabana de La Mar is located on the East side of the Dominican Republic, opposite to Samana, on the coast of Samana Bay. You can get there by bus or car; an all-terrain vehicle is ideal. You could also come by boat from Samana, crossing the Samana Bay. Either if you are coming from La Romana (East) or Santo Domingo (South-West), you'll need to get to San Pedro de Macoris, where the road towards Sabana de La Mar starts.
For my visit I took, along with my family and friends, a vacation of four days and three nights. We left Santo Domingo around 3:00 p.m. After half an hour of blue-green sea by our right side, we spotted for a moment our Main International Airport at Punta Caucedo. Right before it, we could see the turquoise waters over our Submarine National Park La Caleta. We continued to see more sea to our right, some beaches, and then we arrived to San Pedro de Macoris.
The road we chose took us behind San Pedro city, over Higuamo river through the new bridge, with a brief view of the factories nearby. Then, we started the long road towards Hato Mayor, surrounded side by side with huge sugar cane fields. Deep green vegetation was splashed wildly with more green, changing from one tone to another. The climate and geography took turns varying the colors according to a not so dry prairie vegetation, then dry, not so dry again, and then abruptly humid.
Crossing the picturesque city of Hato Mayor, we left with the promise of returning to a small cafeteria, famous for typical delicious desserts. A cloud of brown dust floating over the road marked our passing. Following the leading vehicle, occupied by the only ones in the party who knew the way to our destination, we turned corners, twisted, and went up or down the narrow streets out of Hato Mayor city. We had a hard time catching up with our leading friends, since they seemed not to care much about a slow progress on a road that turned rougher with every passing minute. My children didn't mind a bit the resulting jostling of the vehicle, their delighted shrieks testifying their enjoyment.
At one moment, we stopped for the second time(and could finally catch up with our guiding party!). One of the smallest people in the group had too much soda or juice to drink, again... With no restaurants of stores nearby, we followed the advise of one of the friendly and helpful farmers of the place, and took the wild surrounding vegetation as shield for private relieve. The first time we had stopped next to a huge plantation of exotic palm trees. We took a moment to admire how ferns and vines grew easily on the tops of the leafless trunks of the old trees. Butterflies and grass hoppers passed by, busy in their activities.
The third stop was required, again, by our leading company. This time, a ripe fruit from a cacao tree, from the hundreds along the road, was too irresistible for one of our guiding friends. She got out of the truck almost tip-toeing, and subtracted with great secrecy the beautiful price. I suppose the excitement of the possibility of being caught at it just added to the original lure. The indifferent faces of the people living nearby, clearly knowing what was going on, told me such possibility was just in my friend's imagination. But to her benefit, we all wisely refrained from informing her so.
The road continued, each step tougher than the last, wild as the involving green surroundings. Tall walls of greenery, covering our view of the sky sometimes with magnificent roofs of vines and branches, suggested magical possibilities in our minds. Then, we got to Sabana de La Mar.
Being this a fishermen town, great amounts of small stores selling fresh fish and sea food are very common. The abundant coconut trees that grow dense with each step towards the shore wouldn't let us forget the place we just had got to, anyway. Turning right, we headed to our final destination: a two story house sitting on a cliff looking over a virgin beach, from where all Samana Bay can be admired. We got there close to 7:00 p.m. After a long stretch of gorgeous coconut trees flanking our left side from Sabana de La Mar main town, imagine how it feels to come face to face with a breathtaking view of the sea from the top of a cliff. Add to that a fabulous sunset...
A party of twelve, including three kids and a small dog, we spent our vacation in the following fashion:
Waking up to a magnificent view of Samana Bay, sprinkled with small fishermen boats. These were out since very early, in their every day duty, watchful to protect their lucky catch from the cheeky pelicans and gulls. This feathered and unwanted company always kept escorting their boats with unashamed indifference, beady eyes and fast beaks at the ready.
During the day we took a bath in the beach below, surrounded by very tall coconut trees, and testified by a huge almond tree throwing cool shadow over a big old log. We sat there to rest, wet out toes in the foam of the incoming waves, and savour the delightful view of the Bay. Sometimes hundreds of tiny scallops would be washed ashore, held onto small branches and logs. Their bodies resembled white butterfly wings bordered in orange.
The nights were spent under the pool gazebo, after refreshing and splashing away our afternoons in the pool, of course. We took turns giving company and support to our friend in charge of preparing dinner, his specialty being barbeque. Eating finger-licking good food (minus a couple of steaks and sausages, thunderfast stolen by a gang of innocent looking cats from the neighborhood), we continued to sit and talk until late.
The fireflies dancing around added more light to the very starry nights of Sabana de La Mar. We watched the curious activities of other flying insects, such as beetles, which vehemently insisted on committing suicide in the pool, attracted by the bright lights in its inner walls. Don't worry, the children always united their efforts in successful rescuing missions that lasted the whole time we spent under the gazebo.
If for dinner we had terrific barbeques, for lunch our BBQ chef's fiance prepared delicious dishes. The first day it was a huge "sancocho". The next, a "paella" bursting with seafood. The official vacation-closing specialty was a Spanish "fabada". Breakfasts were another of her specialties, save some trouble we had one morning with two giant Spanish "tortillas" and a lack of a proper heating place to cook them (finding that out just after emptying the "tortilla" contents into the two huge "paella" pans we had, which were the only available containers appropriate for the task)... That is another story, but at least I can tell you that only the third "tortilla" (specially prepared for a very picky friend) made it with dignity to the table. This was the only one that could fit in a normal pan and on the stove top, thus, being thoroughly cooked with success.
The guardian in charge of keeping watch of the house when not in use, stayed around to give us a hand. A short, sturdy looking person wearing a hat, and a "machete" through his belt at all times, this man proved to be a great company. He knew perfectly the whole place and had no trouble sharing his knowledge with us, along with the town gossip. His picturesque speech and ideas made our conversations more interesting. He brought us piles of coconuts, their water and pulp sweet and irresistible. We drank and ate them under the gazebo, keeping an eye out for the visiting humpback whales that had made Samana Bay so famous around the world. Our friend the daytime chef, and owner of the house, told us to our mouth-gaping amazement that from the balcony around the pool and gazebo, these creatures where often spotted in the nearby waters without trouble. We didn't see any in our stay, but with the spectacular view, we thought that this might probably be true. We could see all the way to the other side of the Bay from where we were.
We planned a visit to the small fishermen village nearby, which gives its name to the surrounding area that includes the property where we were staying. La Cañita sounded very interesting, being a place where we could rent a boat and enjoy the Bay further. We didn't have the time to go, regretfully. Trying to convince the children to leave the beach or the pool for some time was a very tiresome business, so we quit at the first opportunity. We could not go to the village, but the villagers came to us. Or at least, some curious people visited us the last day, coming to say "Hi". Some children were included in the visiting party, and friendly as they were, ended in minutes running up and down the patio, playing with our children, happily catching bugs with them.
On our way back, we honored our promise for sweets in Hato Mayor city. We stopped at "La Bolita" cafeteria & restaurant. We could see how famous this spot is, because of the desserts they bring from El Seybo, a province to the East. El Seybo is well known in the whole country for the terrific pastes made with sweet milk or guava. They offer other fabulous desserts.
I didn't know about those other desserts. These were brought in large containers, and served directly in disposable plastic cups for eating right there, or jars, for taking home. We could sit there and eat spoonfuls of very sweet and soft pastes of coconut with milk, sweet potato, or plain milk. There were other flavors, but I remember only these... Umm!! They also offer little bread-cookies, which will crumble richly in your mouth and make you forget about everything else, as you probably won't be able to stop from eating them for a long time.
With our stomachs and hearts full, we continued our return, only to be surprised as we were about to reach San Pedro de Macoris. On a narrow road with just one lane for going, another one for coming, and sugar cane fields on both sides, what could we do with a very long line of cars in front? Yes, just wait. The reason for this sudden and unexpected dense traffic showed itself minutes later.
Amazed, we had the pleasure to enjoy in "first row" an authentic, real Guloya dance with "palos" and "atabales". People passing by couldn't avoid to move at least a bit with the primitive rhythms of their music. This is a common celebration during Holy week, which was the time we chose for our trip to Sabana de La Mar. The elections for Congress were just around the corner, in next May. It wasn't strange at all, then, to see those who accurately chose the moment for this parade to promote their candidates, obtaining lots of cheers, sweat and frenzy for free.
We may go back to Sabana de La Mar in the nearby future, to honor a promise made to our children at departure. If not for this reason, we will go anyway, to retrieve my sunglasses. Forgotten and probably hidden among hundreds of pebbles, sticks and almond leaves, they may be around still, I think... even if a bit battered by the fierce weather of this beautiful virgin beach.