Grieving with Demeter

pods2If there is any wisdom running through my life now, in my walking on this earth, it came from listening in the Great Silence to the stones, trees, space, the wild animals, to the pulse of all life as my heartbeat.  – Vijali Hamilton

After too many hours of listening to the sad news about the Newtown shooting, I grabbed my camera and headed out to Reedy Creek Nature Preserve in east Charlotte.  My official task was to capture some pictures of the disc golf course to use in a Christmas gift for my son.  But my soul knew better.  My heart had been heavy for hours, grieving with the mothers and fathers. My intellect was stumped, pondering what type of country we have become, where people collect automatic assault weapons, and those stricken with mental illness cannot receive the help they need.

My soul clearly needed a walk in the woods.  When I returned home to view my pictures, I was struck by some of the images.  The woods in winter appear monochrome, all greys and browns. Dead leaves and fallen branches crunch under your feet.  Only an occasional splash of color breaks the monotony. You must look carefully to find signs of life.  But they are there.

In Greek mythology, the goddess of the harvest, Demeter, lost her daughter Persephone when she was abducted by Hades, the god of the Underworld. Devastated by terrible grief, and angry at her brother Zeus who had permitted the abduction, she wandered the world, searching for her daughter. While she grieved, nothing grew; no seeds were planted.  She cast the world into winter and famine. Zeus, fearful that all life on earth would die, sent his messenger Hermes to bring Persephone back. But Persephone had tasted of death; she had eaten six pomegranate seeds, which sentenced her to return annually to the underworld for three months of the year. So each year the earth is cast into hibernation, into an unfruitful and dead period, until Persephone returns to her mother in the spring.

Those beautiful six year olds will never return to their grieving mothers. There is no Zeus to intercede, no Hermes to bring them back. We can only grieve and wait for peace and understanding.

I have no answers, but when I walked through the forest, all brown and grey and cloaked in the grief of Demeter’s winter, my eye identified signs of her dedication to eternal life. Red buds nesting along with ruby seed pods. A tree continuing to climb toward the sun, its amputated branch healed over. Stout and hearty pine cones, poised to deliver the seeds of growth to mother earth.

Albert Einstein said, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”  Understanding still escapes me, but my soul was soothed by the signs of life among so much death, and the knowledge I was walking in grieving sisterhood with the great mother.

pinecones

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