Sunday, April 29, 2012

Demeter's Grief

"Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned / Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned."
- William Congreve
As a maiden midwife student I really related to the Persephone story- the idea of exploring the underworld, finding magic in the star arrangements of the jeweled red pomegranate seeds. There was a romance in finding out what lies beneath, exploring the unknown and dark. I saw it as the necessary work for creativity, a metaphor for all birth. Going deep and emerging new. Initiation. Now, perhaps it is partly that I am a mother, I see it from Demeter's side. The tragedy of her daughter taken while picking flowers. Both the mother, and the midwife in me can feel under my skin the potential depth and power of a mother's grief. Demeter, so devastated she shuts down the green of the world for the length of her daughter's absence...every single year!!  Now, after my first few winters, I get that that imagery is no joke. Winter, a grieving mother. 

Death was more fun when it was a myth, instead of a season. Winter was new to me when I moved to Sweden. I had never owned a coat or seen the leaves change in Autumn until we lived here. I am from Florida, where Americans go to evade winter and death in their retirement by playing shuffleboard in the eternal sunshine, and lounging on inflatable rafts in swimming pools like Ponce De Leon's fountain of youth. I am not sure I am cut out for these winters. Maybe I am just bad at it, lacking training. Maybe it is just been a part of having babies, being home with kids in a country where few other mothers are. Not having anyone to talk to, not a single soul sister who knows what I mean, if you know what I mean! Maybe I just lost all the sparkle, creativity, or power I ever had and just suck now, and forever. Is it the Vitamin D? Will St. Johns Wort help? These are the questions you ask yourself after a while if you live somewhere where the sun may set at 3:30 in the afternoon. Shouldn't I relish the cozy quiet and warm my hands and heart sipping tea by the light of my wood stove, and knit in my rocking chair? I have the knitting needles, the awesome wood stove, the red cabin the woods, the tea. Why then did I spend my winter asleep, in agony of loneliness, or on facebook looking for something it can never give me? This makes me very cautious of my favorite escapist pursuit, planning alternate lives. If I can not enjoy this one, what makes me think any of my other invented options will help?

Winter is long, hard, and on a psychic level I become immobilized like Demeter, not sure I can have faith in the return of the light and delight. The last days of winter are like the end of labor, when you are lost and not sure you can really make it- it is just too much, it is not okay, it is stupid, and will never end and is probably not worth it a midwife if a woman expresses that in birth, I recognize it as a signpost and feel a little rush of joy, for I know it means she is about to start pushing and the baby will soon come. The babies really do come come, despite the moment of doubt, and winter does end, despite the bleakness  within and without. 

The spring is really, really springing here, a rebirth, and not one that came to us with out labor. Today was truly warm, the first rabbit ears of young leaf buds are showing more than just a little bit, and the rhubarb has hit the point of rapid unfolding where you can see changes in it's growth from the beginning to the end of the day. Really, it is over. I am remember what it is that is okay and even good about this life in Sweden. Words can not say how my body responds to the sight of a little more young green on the birches. 

Now, as spring really comes upon us, I feel the sap running in my veins again, life returning, and can imagine how Demeter felt when Persephone returned. That, is also no joke, the joy a mother feels when her long lost child returns. 

Spring. Part of the cycles. Birth/Growth/Death, Maiden/Mother/Crone.


Jessica said...

This is a very beautifully written post. It made me teary eyed. I can relate to being Persephone in this story in that whenever I visit the US, of course I'm visiting my family and mother. I can easily see her feeling as Demeter does, whenever I return from the "abyss" of not existing in her real life.

Maggie said...

Thank you, that was so beautiful to read! Especially on Mother's Day. So glad your labor has ended and spring is upon you. You are brilliant, that is why you need the life giving light so much...because it is what you are made of.