I watch star-shaped autumn clematis blossoms tremble in the breeze. Honey bees stuff their pollen sacks with nectar. One Monarch floats on the wind, a silent traveler moving south. It’s the quiet season on my land. An occasional crow or blue jay squawk or goose honk from the sky, but warbler, grosbeak, and mockingbird serenades are gone.
A soft breeze cools my shaded face. The waning sun warms my legs. Half warm, half cool. On the cusp of change.
It’s just past Fall Equinox. Days grow shorter as the sun speeds south on the western horizon, half way between northern summer pause and slow December dark.
The Earth knows what happens next. So do I.
I see reddening at the edge of the forest. Ten years ago, this was the time of ash tree glory. Most ash are dead or dying now. Their browned leaves drop before turning autumn apricot and luminous maroon. I grieve for the ash and for chestnut, beech, and elm that died before them. I grieve for the struggling forest and my own lost youth.
It’s the season when Persephone enters darkness, abducted into the Underworld by Hades. Her nubile body is forced to leave the world of summer flowers, innocent childhood, and Her Mother Demeter’s safe protection. She must descend.
Red maple turns next, and then sugar maple, hickory, and oak. Cool nights and sunny days spread red, orange, and purple. While the trees scavenge late nutrients to store in winter roots, I watch the show.
Like Persephone, I’m afraid of the unknown dark. I once blamed this on my father’s November death when I was a girl, but it’s more than that. It’s ancient body wisdom. All the animals prepare for the fearsome dark. Gather nuts and seeds. Get in the firewood. Store the harvest. Clean the desk for a winter project. Buy snow tires. Be ready.
“I can’t stay here another winter,” I told my son in February.
“Let’s talk about it in April,” he said with a laugh. “You say that every year.”
“I love being here,” I said in April. “I cherish every sunset and every spring ephemeral.”
“Remember what you said in February?” he asked.
Today, I feel the tug toward darkness, inward turning and a time of hibernation. Although something in me resists, this season suits me now. Quiet solitude, cold low sun, fierce wind and ice, winter soup and dry firewood, a glowing wood stove after following animal tracks in snow. I’ll adjust to night that comes in the afternoon and snow that keeps me close to home.
Persephone’s mother Demeter turns the earth barren and fruitless when no one will tell where Her Daughter has gone. She brings a season of famine and drought, until the gods cry for mercy. Then Hecate, the ancient Crone who stands at the crossroads between the worlds, the one who travels from light to dark and back again, spills the truth.
The King of Darkness stole your Daughter. She’s Queen of the Underworld now. Since she ate pomegranate seeds in the Great Below, she’ll split her time between there and here. She’ll be both Queen of the Underworld and Maiden of the Spring.
Persephone becomes a Queen. In the symbolic language of mythology, she needs the time of Darkness to become her fullest Self.
In spring, the lost daughter and the grieving Mother Earth will meet again. They always do. The Sun will return to warm my body and melt the snow. Once again, I’ll search for flowers and gorge on green.
Persephone will be born again. Just like the Earth. Just like me.
How does the coming winter make you feel? Or the coming summer if you live in the southern hemisphere? Do you have ways of preparing for cold and dark? Do you plan projects for that time? For another post about what Greek mythology means to me see Home with Hestia: Goddess of the Hearth. For another post about dealing with winter on my land, see My Hector Home.