Sunday, April 15, 2012

Baklava and Beasts of Burden: Tales from the Sweet Side

On Good Friday, my husband and I ventured to a neighborhood church around the corner. Not for services, mind you. No, this was a Greek Orthodox church throwing a bake sale in the basement. We purchased baklava and other treats, which brought to mind a similar shopping spree of long ago.

While vacationing on Santorini Island, we stopped at a roadside bakery to sate my craving for baklava, though I confess the larger draw was the donkey pastured next door. After eating the heavenly pastries that night (hands down the BEST baklava I’ve ever had), I decided the bakery deserved my patronage one more time before we left the island—and I deserved another chance to commune with the darling donkey.

He was the only nonworking donkey I saw on Santorini. All the others were serving the local economy by transporting flowers and produce to market or hauling construction materials and debris down narrow paths that cut between houses built into the steep hillside. I wondered how long the donkeys’ tiny legs could withstand bearing so much weight along such treacherous ground. I also wondered how their spirits could bear the whipping and yelling their “guardians” so frequently dispensed.

Years before the Greece episode, my husband and I drove to Yellowstone. While traveling through South Dakota, we stopped at a quaint antique shop that employed a unique theft monitoring system: a donkey. She was quite small and followed us through every aisle of the place. Truthfully, I think she was just angling for an apple or treat. She certainly diverted any thoughts I might have had about purchasing antiques. Her antics enchanted me.

“If the first thing you hear in the morning is a donkey’s bray, make a wish and it will come true.”
—English Proverb

For some reason, donkeys have been popping up into my life and my reading lately. I’ve learned they have big personalities and a long life span when they’re compassionately cared for. So I guess it should come as no surprise that there’s a critical need for donkey rescues and sanctuaries.

As for the neighborhood baklava, it rivaled that of Santorini, but without a donkey in the yard, the experience wasn’t nearly so sweet.

[Photos of Nigel (top) from Morning Bray Farm and Sparky from Ashington Park.]

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