Johnny Jump Ups

My mom and I lived far away from one another so we looked forward to our weekly telephone conversations. We talked about everything although lately much of what we said was about the Age of Decadence we’re living in and how ugly the world has become. To keep from losing our balance, we decided to focus on beauty and began exchanging memories of things that had given us pleasure. That’s how I learned about the Johnny Jump Ups.

My mom grew up in the post-depression years. Things were tough. The eldest of ten children, my mom had the responsibility of going to the spring to get water for the family. Carrying a heavy bucket back to the house was not a chore she enjoyed. But that changed in the spring when Persephone returned to the earth again bringing with her blossoming Johnny Jump Ups (aka wild pansies). And when my mom saw them, she’d throw down her bucket and race towards the little violet and yellow painted flowers with laughter in her heart. So in love with their beauty, my mom would get down on the ground to look at them tenderly and caress them. The joy they’d given her had been so strong that she could still remember them some 80 years later.

pansies in a Roman courtyard

The other morning I took an early morning walk looking for johnny jump ups—that is, looking for the beauty around me. The village of Parikia was tranquil—no noise, no traffic, no people. Just me and the world. So as I walked, I carefully looked for beauty and easily found it everywhere.

Sometimes beauty is all around us and we don’t even see it because our mind is focused somewhere else. We are often too busy looking for what’s not there instead of simply enjoying what we already have. To keep alive that part of my mom I liked so much, I commit myself to spending more time looking for beauty in my everyday life and giving thanks for its presence.

So posted below are some of my “johnny jump ups” of the day:

Ζωοδοχος πηγή (Zoodochos Pigi) is our neighborhood church and plays an important role in the community. Its bells wake us up every Sunday morning.

“Ζωοδοχος πηγή” translates as “life giving source”. “Πηγή” (“pigí”) also translates as “well” or “spring”. The piazza of this church is a gathering point. Since the church is so small inside, on Sundays the piazza is full of people outside listening to the service. The church often celebrates religious feast days by setting up long tables of food…thus a “life giving source” in this sense, too. And, before covid, there were many festivities held here such as fish dinners with fish provided by local fishermen. After eating, the tables were cleared and the live music began with everyone dancing (myself included). What a thrill to see chubby old grandmothers dancing animatedly with their grandchildren!

Rocks and Ferry…the Golden Star Ferry in the port waiting for passengers to arrive.

The church of Agios Konstantinos that sits high on the hill reigning over rows of oleanders.

Windmill at the port that also serves as tourist info office waiting to be illuminated by the sun.

Part of my walk takes me past the little domed church of Saint Nicolas Thalassitis. On the right is a row of tamarisks where local farmers, protected by the shade, bring their produce to sell. In fact, I bought a watermelon on my way back home.

Taverna with Vines, Livadia…sometimes all it takes to transform something insignificant into something marvellous is to let nature be your interior decorator.

I’ve often sat in the shade of these tamarisks fixating on the horizon in front of me….

Sea view from Livadia…and the magic of the horizon.

Livadia Selfie

Sunrise…something that happens every day but so seldom seen.

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4 Responses to Johnny Jump Ups

  1. Rosa Vito says:

    Beautiful. Thanks.

  2. Jo says:

    I am so sorry for your loss Cynthia. You have a wonderful outlook on life which I hope will help you through the low times. This world is so different now and so many have suffered so much. Go well.

  3. Thanks Jo…a mom’s death makes one look at life from a different point of view, no?…the child in me suffers still whereas the adult is trying to create a dialogue with grief…Yes, the world is getting spookier every day. Hugs from afar…

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