Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

Persephone’s Fruit Part 2

 

(picture by melissa taing)

 

This is a continuation of Persephone’s Fruit

Whether forced or implored by her husband, Persephone ate the pomegranate seeds. Her fate was sealed. She would spend time with her mother, Demeter, in the Overworld for two-thirds of the year but since she ate fruit from the Underworld, the other third must be spent in Elysium.

The word pomegranate comes from the Medieval Latin pōmum “apple” and grānātum “seeded.” When she took the fruit in Elsyium (or “apple land”), she ate a byproduct of the land and became irrevocably joined. One telling of her story relates how she was starving and finally gave into her hunger. Another that Hades forced the seeds into her mouth against her will.  Whatever reason she ate those seeds, the result was the same. She was now connected to the land of the Underworld.

Persephone became a woman of dual nature. Not only was she the daughter of Demeter but she was now Queen of the Underworld. Another name for her as the Queen is “Despoina”, or the Mistress. She welcomes the new souls of the dead, nourishes them with food and lights the way.  She is a guide and a leader in a bewildering time. She assists many, including Orpheus, Hercules, Odyssus and Psyche on their adventures and labors. The Kore (or maiden) of an earlier time is now a gracious woman, comforting and aiding the distraught, showing them where to go and providing sustenance. She passes from darkness to light, joining her mother on the fruitful Earth above and then diving back down to provide life in death.

 

During this season, I had the special delight of coming across a flaming red oak. Three oaks stood in a circle, each a different shade of red. One oak, in particular, gave out a breath-taking living flickering red. I found it hard to look away, hard to continue on my walk without looking back. If trees have spirits, then this one had decided, for just this season, to reveal her own, urging the other two to do just the same. They responded though not with as much vulnerability as she did.

The glorious red leaves are gone now, stripped from the treetops by rain and wind but I saw for just that day. I saw that tree and I saw the other two because of the one. If a Queen was passing, through my town and through the park, there would be no better herald than the red oak flickering under lead grey skies. And I choose to believe, before the mundanity of logic sets in, that a Queen, leaving her sunlit realms for darker climes, passed through my yard and out the other on her descent down. The pomegranate, seeded apple, resting on my kitchen counter, tells me it could just be true, after all. Possibly. Maybe.

 

flamingoak

 

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The Willows Converse Among Themselves

I look across the river and catch sight of the willows, lost in their own world. They have no regard for me. They are speaking to each other in whispers so I hear nothing clearly but I see their long golden-yellow chains wavering over the water. It reflects their light.

There are presences in this world that are not human but sometimes, a human being comes across one of these presences and this is when poetry happens—when we interact with the strange divinity that moves through the world.

I caught sight of the willows and so complete were they within themselves, so beautiful to behold, that my mind stopped dead in its tracks and my heart eased. In the presence of an Other, human commotion becomes impossibly silly and pointless. The past and future converge into the present and there is only now.

I exhale the stress I’ve held this morning as I watch them. The willows, their long hair hanging over their faces, disregard me totally and completely and talk in their slow tree way, something to do with the air, water, and earth. I cannot hear much but what I do hear makes me recall there were other beings on this earth other than myself, older than myself. They exist in this time, in many times, living, dying, always reappearing. The willows hang their hair over the water as they have done for centuries, listening to the currents and moving with the breezes and eddies of the wind.

With a gratefully diminished self, I thank the universe for the ancient poetry that is the willow tree and move forward, reborn, into the bright day.

 

茶の煙柳と共にそよぐ也

the tea smoke

and the willow

together trembling

Issa

(Trans. David G. Lanoue)

Beautiful Dirty Summer

The thick green groves of cup-plants (silphium perfoliatumare) stand eight feet tall and are in their late summer glory. I look up at their bright yellow ray flowers and shield my eyes, the bright flowers sway so high and run so close to the sun. When I squint, the flowers darken into forms without color like the outline of the sun beating through closed eyelids.

I take a step nearer and peer into the leaves. Tiny pools of still water collect where the thick cup leaves meet the stems. It has not rained in the last few weeks and I’m surprised there is any water here at all. For leaves that are not broken or rotted, thimblefuls of water weigh without movement, rimmed with the detritus of summer: a fly’s wing, a wad of spider web, bits of dead grass and portions of pollen.

These tiny pools are water for goldfinches, tiny birds that flash by like rays of light. It hasn’t rained for weeks and this is left, tiny pools of water full of dirty summer. I consider drinking it. With one quick gulp, I’d drink the essence of a passing summer, imbibe what August means, and taste the bitter part of the growing season. This is living but rotting part that underlines all our lives but that no one likes to see, much less taste.

I shift my weight from foot to foot. The sun beats heavily down. The yellow flowers tumble in overhead breezes and the goldfinches live nearby, finding water where they can as the dry weeks pass. My hands drop to my sides and I pass back through the grass, ready for the shade. Perhaps when it rains and all the cup plants are full, I’ll take my drink along with the many others.