Poseidon’s Treasure: Colors of the MediterraneanAFRICA, GUEST BLOGGERS, Scenic Wonders — By Paula Swenson on October 22, 2012 at 22:09
Story by guest blogger Paula Swenson. Photos Copyright © Paula Swenson.
FOR THE PAST six months I have been fortunate indeed to live about 50 meters from the sea in Tunisia on the north coast of Africa. Directly below Italy on your map, Tunisia is on the northernmost bump of the African continent, part of what is known as the Maghreb.
Maghreb comes from the Arabic word for Occidental and refers to the western part of North Africa. Somewhat isolated from the rest of the continent by the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara desert, the people of this region have had cultural and trade ties to Europe since the time of the Phoenicians.
Most of its 1300 km coastline faces east, making dawn a long, subtly shifting affair as the sunlight begins to reflect off the sea long before it actually crests the horizon. This is the view I enjoy from my studio as I write and paint each day.
The ancient peoples of the Mediterranean believed Poseidon—or Neptune, or their local version of the King of the Sea—held a vast storehouse of treasure beneath the waves, and it’s really no wonder . . . the water was the color of Chinese jade yesterday as I swam in the Gulf of Hammamet in South Mediterranean Sea. Today it is bands of sapphire and aquamarine.
Sometimes in the hours of dawn and dusk the sea shines amethyst or rose quartz; very occasionally it shimmers golden topaz or brilliant ruby.
One hazy dawn recently is was liquified silver and just last week the blue topaz waters were bisected by a band of gold as the sun rose languidly through the clouds.
The sea here is the center of life—provider of jobs, of salt and fish, playground for locals and tourists, Mother Nature’s air conditioner—as winds both gently waft and boldly bluster across sugary, golden sand and clear warm water.
A typical day by the beautiful sea starts with a slow glow gradually filling the sky with light for nearly an hour before the sun climbs out of the sea.
The morning sea is usually calm as glass, or very slightly ruffled, and empty to the farthest horizon. It gently laps the shore as long-legged waterbirds and morning larks trace a complex calligraphy in the sky with their swooping and soaring. Urban roosters provide punctuation to the ceaseless songbirds and sighing sea as the first fishermen appear in small boats and along the shore.
The day grows brighter and ever warmer and people of all ages filter down to the shore: squealing, giggling children, mamas and grandmamas, teens and tourists. The sea is soon filled with bobbing heads and splashing limbs as boys climb on one anothers’ shoulders to dive into the sparkly sea. Beach stands do a lively business in the very freshest juice.
By mid-afternoon most days the wind has wakened, bringing frothy white waves, sailboats, sailboards and kite-boarders.
Pirate ships (of the touristic variety) ply our waters and provide joyful outings for locals as well as tourists.
Some days there are horses, whose owners bring them for a roll in the sand and a dip in the cooling waters. Other days sheep and goats come to graze.
When evening comes the wind often quiets again while the sky and sea are bathed in reflected sunset glow.
As night falls, flickering lights appear halfway to the horizon—not a far shore but a fleet of sardine fishers working by lantern light, as did their father and grandfathers before them, their lanterns glittering like diamonds in the warm black velvet night.———
PAULA SWENSON is a semi-nomadic artist who uses both images and words to explore and express the world around her. Paula recently spent a year living in the North African country of Tunisia. After that she moved to Bursa, Turkey. You can see more of Paula’s work at www.creativespirals.com