Akanthus in Sicily

Akanthus in Sicily

“If the Greeks were gone and their monuments were dust

there were still vestiges of their way of life to be found

in the food, the wine and the wild flowers of the land

they had inhabited and treasured.”

Durrell, Lawrence
Sicilian Carousel
The Viking Press NY 1976

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Apollo with Lyre

The small New England town of West Brookfield MA is blessed with a well-preserved and beautiful public common. The land for the common was made possible by the generosity of David Hitchcock and Dwight Foster. In 1791, they both agreed to set aside this space for the benefit of the town and its inhabitants. J. Henry Stickney, in 1874, provided a fund toward the beautification of the space that included planting trees and creating walkways. In 1884, George Rice provided the funding for the construction of a reservoir for fountains installed on the common. Today, the two fountains are in excellent condition. Every day during the warm weather months, the woman with the jar pours out water into the basins. The two thinkers below her ponder the day. And, a little cherub above a public water fountain stands by the road waiting to quench the thirst of anyone walking by.  This is an imaginative story of what the spirits in the statues may have to say about their experiences living among us.

Apollo with Lyre

“My Song, My Song,” finally, it’s in the air. Dear Iris gifted me this lyre on my last birthday. After praying for an age, a way to let out my itch to sing is in my hands. “My Song, My Song!” My fingers sting as I pluck the strings. The tone does sound like the air. The card that came with the present said it all, “better than dry words, better than lonely wind swirls, the lyre will free your spirit to become merry in song. Play your best,” Goddess Iris

My sister Artemis is jealous; all she got was a quiver of arrows and a long bow. The last time I saw her, she was crossing the bridge into Siracusa. She likes to walk under a starry sky with moon shadows all around. “My Song, My Song!” Oh, bliss!

Yesterday was grand. The wind was kind and blew the fountain spray my way. I felt it tickle my wings. I can just about see them over my left shoulder. The naiad, Delfina, and her two friends Tilda and Pastora from Cyprus. I pray the zephyr takes my splendid voice to her tender ears. “My Song, My Song!” Pastora has the garland of marguerites around her neck.

Years ago, I was closer to the women and shared the same water reservoir. When town water lines were dug in, I was moved to give passersby a fresh drink of clean water. I like watching the street and seeing all the humans strolling along. The little kids cool their thirst at the water fountain below. The guy with the beagle always stops and gives his pooch a drink. The bikers fill their bottles. The birds love to fly through the water spray at the women’s fountain. They land on my shoulder and preen a bit.

Temple of Apollo Photo taken at Ortigia May 2015

People call me a chubby angel but that’s not my name. I am the young Apollo with Lyre by Vernetto. My twin sister Artemis and I were born on the islet of Ortigia near the ancient town of Siracusa on the island of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea. The remains of my temple are still standing near the gateway to Ortigia. The proper name for it is The Apollonion, built in the 6th century B.C. during the Age of the Greeks.  My temple survived the Byzantine Age, Arab Age, and Norman Age and made it to the Spanish conquest of the island in the 1800s. The blocks and columns were taken apart and used to construct other buildings and churches. What stands today is the foundation and a few of the mighty walls to show how grand a place it was.

Artemis has a fantastic fountain built in her honor a few feet away in Archimedes Square. It is a glorious, large tribute to the transformation of the nymph Arethuse into spring water. The mermen ride the sea creatures in the basin pool showing passersby the days of glory when the Greek gods and goddesses ruled the day.

Some of this glory is carved into the base holding me up. Everybody admires the swans and cattails on the plate. You know that is Poseidon’s trident. He gave it to me as a going away present, he said if I am ever homesick and want to visit Mom, just strike the tongs, dive into the sea and it would carry me back to Ortigia. It is studded with pearls and bronze, the tips were made in the furnace at Aetna. It is so special, no one else has one, I am sure.

The little peeps around the foot of the pedestal are my echoes. When I sing, “My Song, My Song” they chime in giving it a little dash of cherub sweetness. I am Apollo, the son of Zeus and Leto. Seekers come to me for healing, truth and prophecy. I am the sun. I am the light. I will help form community. I will protect flocks of animals. I am the god of song and music.

The fountain with the naiad pouring out the water into the basins below is beautiful. The two women sitting underneath are called Meditation. I’ll share a little secret, that pensive air they create with the chin in their hands is really a put on. They just act all serious and calm. Delfina who stands above it all, is watching and they never break their silence with her there. You see, they cannot find the book. They put it down and it “walked away.” It was “stuck” in my hands when I arrived and is now under my left hip. It is my book now. It has the answer to the riddle Delfina asked them. They cannot answer her and are stuck on what to do next. When they answer it right, the jug will finally be empty of water. “My Song, My Song” Oh I love to sing “My Song, My Song”. My joy will never end!

The Fountain of a Naiad with two figures in meditation

Oh my stars! That imp is doing it again! All these years and he has only one tune one simple tune. Why can’t he move it along now? What a bimbotto? (A fat baby.)

My story is ancient. I hear the townspeople talking below and some have said I remind them of Rebekah at the well in the Old Testament. I am a naiad; a water spirit. The spray around the fountain creates water music. I wear a laurel wreath to signify my affinity with Apollo. The Greeks called me a Crinaeae; the spirit of a fountain. My destiny is to pour water from this jar to make the way easy for fertility and wealth. Every morning, Apollo pulls his chariot across the sky and brings us the light. At night, I bathe in sacred moonlight cast by Selene, Artemis and Hecate, the goddesses of the Moon. The stars align and tell me a story. Many creatures come to the fountain in the night. The play of the water lulls us into a transcendental state of being.

The two figures below are indeed from Cyprus. This fountain represents the element of air, water and earth. The water tinkles in the air while the women below ground us. They were very fond of practical jokes and mischief before I gave them something to do. I would not be surprised to discover where Tilda’s missing garland ended up. Our work here is to be beneficial as well as beautiful. The human visitor can look upon us and wonder what are they thinking?

The riddle is: What is always on its way but never arrives?

So, what is the answer?

Every day, we are here. I am as hypnotized as anyone watching and listening to the waters flow. This place gives us something important to do. We were made to be pleasing and so we do. We love sharing our waters with the dogs as they pass by. We love to cool the senses on a hot day. We love to be here and be admired.

I am the naiad of this water fountain. Apollo calls me Delfina. Oh stella! I hope my water jar is never empty. My joy will never end!

by Frances Ann Wychorski


Some of the facts for this story were provided by an article in the Quaboag Historical Society Newsletter, Bringing the Ladies Home: A Brief History of the fountains on the West Brookfield Common by William Jenkins. The full text can be reached by clicking on the link.

Some of the facts for this story were provided by Ortigia: The heart of Syracuse Tourist Guide,  OGB Officina Grafica Bolognese June 2013

The photograph of the Temple of Apollo was taken by the writer on the Island of Ortigia in May 2015. Here is a photo of the magnificent statue of Artemis in Archimedes Square. Sicily is a great vacation destination for those curious about Greek mythology. The ruins and sites are well preserved and numerous on the island. Go for the sun, food and history.

Artemis Photo taken in Ortigia May 2015

Destination Sicily ~ Magnolia Grove at Ortygia

Photo by Frances Ann Wychorski
Photo by Frances Ann Wychorski

Sicily is a fascinating vacation destination. Lovers of Greek mythology will be dazzled by a fine collection of
ancient temples all around the coast. The people who built these places valued and honored a wide pantheon of gods and goddesses. A majority of the sites command a spectacular view of the Mediterranean Sea. The houses to the deities still stand today.

On the Eastern side of Sicily is the island of Ortygia just a short walk from Siracusa. This is the old city dating
back to 734 BC and is perhaps one of the most sacred places for the student of mythology or a modern Pagan to plan a visit. There is so much to see here. One park not to miss is the grove of magnolia’s. This is located at the far end of the island to the right of Arethuse Fountain. It can be seen from the fountain but may be missed. On a hot day, wander into this oasis of green and be amazed.

Photo by Frances Ann Wychorski
Photo by Frances Ann Wychorski

These magnolia’s are enormous. This may be their ideal environment as the trees are so wide around the base it
might take ten people holding hands to circle the trunk. How cool and peaceful this shady grove is on a warm sunny day. There are perhaps nine trees. This number would be sacred to the Goddess Artemis who watches over this place.
Indeed, this is her and twin brother Apollo’s birthplace. Their mother Leto, goddess of the night, was transformed
into a quail and came to this island to give birth. She was in labor nine days and nights. The Greek name for Ortygia is Ortyx which means quail.

The magnolia in bloom are exquisite fragrant flowers that resemble tulips. They are pure sweetness on earth. A fantastic idea would be to plan a visit when these trees blossom. As with many places in Sicily, the visitor will believe they are touching a bit of heaven on earth. Visit Ortygia! Honor Artemis and be reborn.

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Destination Sicily: L ‘Infiorata di Noto

IMG_0610A prime destination in Sicily is the Baroque City of Noto. The best time to plan a visit is May. A city wide floral festival, L’Infiorata di Noto draws thousands upon thousands of visitors to celebrate the spring season. A grand floral display is created outside the Palace on Via Nicolaci. Every year presents a different theme with designs made entirely of flower petals. Visitors get in line and slowly walk up the avenue admiring the artwork.

The Sunday festival is also a city wide open house. Music and entertainment from the baroque era take place in many of the churches and public buildings along the main corso. In the afternoon, a grand costume parade winds around the city to the main plaza in front of Municipio di Noto (City Hall). A festival of music and dance IMG_0623from the Baroque period will entertain the crowd and Baron Nicolaci Family. It’s a great day to be in Sicily and be a part of the beauty of this Mediterranean island.

Destination Sicily ~ Planeta Winery

At this time of year, people may be making plans for travel in the next several months. A best destination for lovers of art, ancient history, food, and wine is Sicily. The island is a little Eden with mile upon mile of neatly cultivated fields. Some farmers build dry mortar stone walls around their property. In the spring months, nature plants a live border of red poppies and broom.  Both have a fine sense of order with straight lines curving over and around hill and dale. There are delightful vistas of citrus and olive groves. It is not possible to visit Sicily and not drive by vineyards. Sicily is well-known for growing and bottling superb dry red wines. An excellent destination is Planeta Winery.

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The Planeta family have several estates in Sicily. The winery near Noto is called Buonivini which means good wines. The grapes cultivated include: Nero d’ Avola, Frappato, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Grecanico, Chardonnay, Fiano, Viognier, Carricante, and Moscato Bianco. Besides wine they also have acres of olive and carob trees. Visitors can tour the underground wine making facilities at Noto. The family uses modern and traditional techniques. Buyers can purchase wines and olive oil during the tour. Of course, there will be a sampling to find the right one for the dinner table. My favorites are Santa Cecilia and Plumbago. The wood casks at Planeta are sealed with a large plug of beeswax. The entrance to the production areas are graced with enormous rosemary shrubs. The dry Sicilian air is sweet on the estate. The breezes mellow and pleasing. The eye enjoys a sweeping panorama of green. Every inch of this property feels special.

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There are six Planeta cantina’s on the island. Cantina La Baronia near Messina. Cantina Feudo di Mezzo near Taormina. Cantina Buonivini near Noto. Cantina Dorilli near Vittoria. Cantina Dispensa and Cantina Ulmo near Marsalla. This travel route takes the visitor around the island through some of the most scenic landscapes of Sicily. There are wonderful Greek ruins to visit and baroque cities waiting to be seen.

Click on this link to the website Planeta family and plan a visit. Planeta wines are available at fine wine shops in the United States. Yankee Spirits in Sturbridge Massachusetts offers several varieties for sale. Enjoy good food with good wine.

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