We’ve had our first cool week in Portland in a long time. My youngest daughter started kindergarten a couple weeks ago. I feel like Demeter at the end of summer, and I saw that same look in other mom’s eyes too. And we talk about it. We wear big sunglasses on the first day of school, so our kids won’t think our tears are something to worry about. We are smiling at the same time.
I imagine that at the end of summer Demeter could only think of those beautiful summer days. Soon, she’d have to let Persephone go. Was she sad? Of course, devastated, right? But I also imagine her as maybe looking forward to a little of the freedom and time that winter brings. And happy and proud. After all, her daughter is the queen of the underworld. Think what she knows and is! Think what she can do, she is the queen of souls. She knows what most of us will never know. But the coming days are bitter, too. No wonder Demeter makes the whole world turn to winter. It think I probably oversimplified that story of Demeter in the past. Watching a couple women I know about to give birth has got me thinking. It is dangerous you know, still. It can be, though often it is not.
When I was younger, I guess I always related to Persephone in the story of the cycles of life and death. She is the soul that has to take that journey to underworld alone. I think for most creative people, there is some need to journey into the dark to create, and so, especially as a young woman, I really related to that story of Persephone descending those dark stairs alone in order to renew the world, or in my case, just myself.
Now, I watch people going down whatever dark stairs they have to, as if I am watching from far away in a dream, through water. I feel for them, I know, I know. I have been there, but I don’t go down there much anymore. I don’t have time. I can’t afford to. It doesn’t call. There is a garden to take care of, dinner to make, a small business to run, my husband, friends, can I fit in yoga? And don’t mistake this for a miserable list of chores that hold me back. No, there is lots of creativity. These things make up a life, a happy, full, connected, earthly life. Demeter is my story now. I spend the whole year growing all that, and every fall my two girls turn a year older and there is a week or two in early fall, at the end of summer, where I can’t help but staring off into those golden fields at the edge of summer. Growing anything always has a little taste of loss. As Shunryu Suzuki said, “When you do something, you should burn yourself up completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.”