Friday, March 16, 2012

Laid low by a virus

Mystraki, a kilometre away across the valley. 12th March 2012

For ten days I have been suffering from a virus.  For half of that time I have been recovering, albeit very slowly, from its worst physical effects.  These physical symptoms, a nasty cough, aching muscles, have not, in themselves, been serious or particularly painful but they have been inconvenient and frustrating, draining me of any creative spark or interest in doing anything; the agony, such as it has been, has been more mental than physical.
The March weather has done little to alleviate my general fedupness.  A few fine days early in the month soon gave way to the generally unsettled, overcast and wet weather that has since prevailed.
This afternoon I felt well enough to take a gentle stroll up the track that leads from the back of the house.  For the effort of booting up I was well rewarded.  While I have been shut up indoors, almost totally inactive, nature has been busy.  Along the track myriad wild flowers including several orchid species have burst into bloom.  Long abandoned land that has not been lost to dense shrubbery is presently carpeted with flowers.
For the first winter since I have lived here the dense shrubbery has become a problem.  From when I first arrived here I had been told that in the more remote valleys hereabouts lived wild boar.  Perhaps they did but I saw no signs of them.  Last spring we began to notice their distinctive hoof prints, they have a pronounced dew claw bracketing their hoofs, around muddy puddles and the imprint of their bristles where they had bathed in the mud.  Late one evening last September, while driving my visiting family back to the house, we saw a full grown boar trot nonchalantly across the road in front of us.  This spring, inevitably, there are more of these beasts about.  A couple of weeks ago as I was driving home in the early hours of  the morning, a huge, black mature boar crossed my path within a few hundred metres of the house.  Although I have not heard of these crepuscular /nocturnal beasts harming humans, I would not like to take my chances with one. They are big, a full grown male can be up to two metres long and a metre high at the shoulder, heavy, up to a hundred and fifty kilos and can easily outrun a man!  I have the good fortune to live in this wilderness, a veritable Garden of Eden, so accept the boar as my neighbour but, unlike all the other animals with whom I share this territory and whom I assume to respect my being human giving me an unequivocal position at the top of the pecking order, I am circumspect of him.
The increase in population of wild boar may be a consequence of, and in direct relationship to, the accelerating decline over recent years of human intervention in the landscape.  During the relatively short time that I have been resident here (14 years)  there has been a marked and rapid decline in numbers of foraging goat herds and donkeys used as a means of personal transport. Today, on the hills around my home,  there are neither goats nor donkeys.  Consequently, within very few seasons, the paths they browsed, trod and kept open have grown over denying access to all but the most adventurous of machete wielders to vast tracts of wild country.  It has also been suggested to me that the forest fires, in Arcadia several summers ago, the fires themselves to some extent a consequence of a decline in domestic animal understory grazing, destroyed the boars’ habitat there driving them south.

Ophrys Spruneri growing on side of track from house