And the grand tradition of opening puns continues.
Over the past week, I have been marveling at the miraculous transformation that takes place in Michigan in the springtime. Trees that were bare one day may be budding by the next. Animals emerge from their hidden winter homes, of all kinds: I have seen birds, squirrels, swans, skunks, raccoons, muskrats, even turtles and toads.
Everyone I meet makes jokes about the weather.
“Seems nice today – but wait twenty minutes!”
“Is this Michigan, or Tennessee?”
You know what I mean.
Which made me think about the ways we’ve personified spring in our cultures. Some places suffer from nearly constant rain(April showers bring Mayflowers, and all that). Other places may already feel like summer. And yet, around the world, even in different hemispheres, we experience the same cycles of birth and rebirth, of winter’s death and spring’s new life.
This picture of death meeting life reminds me, obviously, of the myth of Hades and Persephone. For those of you unfamiliar with Greek and Roman myths, let me break it down for you: one day, Hades, the god of the Underworld(not death, though that’s a common misconception), was taking a little day-trip up to the mortal realm. While there, he sees Persephone, a beautiful demigoddess, daughter of the goddess Demeter. Hades pulled a standard creeper-move and kidnapped Persephone(though I’m pretty sure there were no windowless vans involved), and dragged her down to his palace in the Underworld.
Demeter, of course, notices that her daughter is missing, and goes all Mama Berry on Hades(she’s the goddess of agriculture; get it?) She demands that Persephone come home immediately, young lady! Everything looks like it will go back to normal, except for one small mistake.
Persephone ate some seeds.
To be fair, pomegranate seeds are delicious(I have a roommate who will attest to this). But would Persephone have eaten them if she knew they would sentence her to a splitting her time between a control-freak mother and a kidnap-krazy husband?
In any case, due to Persephone’s habitual snacking, Demeter and Hades reach a compromise. Persephone will spend half of the year in the Underworld with her new husband, and the other half on earth. This is why fall and winter always look so sad: Demeter misses her daughter. Then, in the springtime, they reunite as the best mother-daughter team ever and make the world beautiful again.
This story has stuck with me for several reasons. First of all, I’ve always found Persephone lack of self-control #relatable. Secondly, I’ve often considered Demeter to be more manipulative and controlling then the myths give her credit for. But also, it’s this idea of compromise, that we must wait through the winter in order to reach the spring. There’s a life lesson in there that can be hard to come by, let alone accept.
Whenever I picture spring, there are two things that come to mind. Firstly, “For the Beauty of the Earth;” I’m a sucker for a classic hymn. But I also think of this sequence from Fantasia 2000 that my family had on VHS as a kid, featuring Igor Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite.”
The complete metamorphosis of the landscape gets me every time.
And it brings me back to my own life. At the point I am writing this, I graduate from college in nine days. My life will undergo a radical transformation, and it’s one that I am eager to start. There is comfort in knowing that things are born, and reborn, new and renewed, in cycles. Where I am today is not where I will be tomorrow, and that’s an exciting prospect.
Now is not the winter of my discontent; now is the anticipation of spring!