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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Tides of Snow and Ice

This winter has been a continuous series of freezes and thaws: it’s the warmest winter on record, the tenth one in a row. A more usual winter starts with a deep freeze and then stays cold for months. Instead, snow falls, piles up and vanishes; rises up again and retreats, now falling as rain, swelling rivers and creeks. Rain and snow mingle together until everything runs with water; hillsides and flat-sides are coated in a deep, dark mud.

I stopped on my walk today, halted by a sudden flash of gold. The sunset rays were falling into a tiny puddle spanning the space between the root and trunk of a maple. The puddle reflected gold and silver on top and below was dark mud, black and brown, full of microorganisms and other tiny creatures unseen by the human eye. I briefly considered putting my hand to the shining surface. It beckoned, winking like a diamond, but pull of my walk was irresistible and I continued forward. 

Mud is for March and April, mud so thick and heavy that it can pull shoes off and make them disappear like a magic trick beneath the solemn and still brown. Mud in February is a strange slight, an awakening that shouldn’t be occurring yet. It’s all the more cruel because even though the temperatures rise, they inevitably dip into the single digits and everything freezes solid. Many times I’ve spotted squirrels and tiny birds on the creek’s ice, searching for openings to drink from.

During this particular thaw, the creek casts off ice, it’s center opening like a dark cut. The water sings as it cascades over the rocks, proclaiming it’s momentarily relief from the grip of winter. In Scandinavian folklore, there is a belief that given the proper offerings, a creek could teach a human how to play the most bewitching music. I crouch down near the creek, record a video of it singing on my phone and replay its music in the evening while lying on the couch. I should give something in return for the pleasure of its song and I consider. Perhaps some lavender buds I have stored away for a certain recipe, or a small pinecone I keep on a shelf to admire, or birch bark I retrieved from a favorite tree cut down years ago. 

The next day I return, and after waiting for a few dogs and their owners to pass by, I crouch next the side of the creek and sprinkle lavender buds into the small, clear stream. The buds vanish as soon as I drop them into the water– as if they never existed. I drop some more in and the same occurs; they’re gone before I can blink. The current flows by, washing over stones, fleeting by banks of mud, until it vanishes around the bend where the pine trees tower overhead.

As I gaze at the water, first downstream and then upstream, my own self quiets, stills, and momentarily dissolves into the landscape. The relief, though short, is palpable. Alone becomes together and perhaps that is what’s this practice of thanking the creek has been about all along.

Winter in the Time of Climate Change

There is a stream near my home and I walk along it nearly every day; I know its moods and seasons nearly as well as I know my own. We are family and our connections are pure: we’re both made of water.

Every day brings more distressing news about the environment. Big changes need to happen but whatever change that does happen is so slow. Global warming is now being felt by everyone, some more than others. I go out and walk along the stream when the news and all the unfortunate future unknowns press in too hard. Right now, it is running fast. This winter has been a series of freezes and thaws. November hit hard with a heavy, deep freeze and I expected this to lead to a  white Christmas but instead, it’s been a muddy, wet winter, full of more temperate days than frosty ones. The thermometer rides up and down, every day propelled by a bouncing ball rather than a steady progression of tiny fluctuations.

The stream locks and then unlocks. It accepts each freeze and thaw with inestimable grace. After reading the news, it is hard to know what is near or far, here and up in the sky, in the mind or in the present moment. But the stream is always present, it knows no other moment. It lives in eternity; as David Hockney said, “It’s always now. It’s now that’s eternal.”

The creek is still here, I think to myself whenever I see it, it is still living. It runs forward through this strange January, sometimes under the ice and sometimes not. Patches of green moss dot the banks nearby, beyond that the nearby plants are broken, brown, and dried. They are asleep, listening to things I cannot hear, dreaming of things I barely know of.