Seasons of Change
We are between seasons in this part of Alaska. The mornings hold a fall chill while the sun fights against the oncoming winter by surrounding the afternoons in warm rays. Children throw off their jackets and scamper delightedly in damp grass that is still cool from the previous night’s rain. The end of summer dances with the brief kiss of fall. From the tops of mountains white snow looms, threatening to cover the earth in a blanket of white. “How long?” we wonder, looking up at fat grey and white clouds. How long until we must stuff our children into snow pants and boots? How long until the days recede into mere moments? Collectively we hope for a drowsy, wet October, warm enough to unzip jackets and show off Halloween costumes. Warm enough for cider sipped in sweaters on back porches amidst not yet barren trees awash in orange and yellow leaves.
The weather connects us to our past. It dictates our days and nights. It holds us hostage when it chooses. It sets us free at a whim. Long ago we assigned Gods and Goddesses to the wind and rain. To the Sun and Moon. To the earth and its many complex happenings. To the birth and death of plants and animals. We even created a deity responsible for our very souls that would measure our worth and design our eternity accordingly. Still the weather guides and defines.
Norse Mythology describes a Hell referred to as Helheim ruled over by a giantess Hel, half living, half dead. The region is described as generally cold and lifeless; A place of eternal winter. The Greeks also assigned Godly personages to the changing seasons. The myth of Persephone and Hades explains the seasons through desire, capture and enslavement and an agreement between the deities that resulted in the seasonal patterns we have now.
As Persephone was stolen by Hades, King of the Underworld, from Demeter’s, her mother’s, life giving, fertile bosom and spirited down to the underworld with him, everything above it began to die. Tricked into eating fruit from the underworld Persephone would be forever tied to Hades as her husband.
Ultimately as the story goes, in order to appease Demeter Persephone would spend part of the year above the earth with her mother and these would be the spring and summer months when life on earth would flourish. Flowers would bloom, people would harvest their hearty crops and the sun’s rays would shine down in a delicate balance with spring and summer rains, gentle enough to coax the most fragile bud into a blossom. Then when Persephone would sink below to spend her time with her husband Hades and rule the underworld beside him as his bride, fall would come as the air cooled and the flowers and crops began to die. Winter for the ancient Greeks marked the same lifeless frozen world described in Norse mythology. People were forced to create warmth for themselves with fire and blankets. They prayed to the Gods to survive the winter. This was no guarantee.
As a child I reveled in winter. I dug forts, made snow angels and threw snowballs at my friends. I loved the snap of cold air into my lungs. I loved the way icicles formed on my eyelashes. I loved the taste of a snowflake falling straight down onto my waiting tongue. My daughter also loves the snow. She finds it magical. However she struggles with January and February as do I, the fierce cold overwhelms her. The oppressive darkness and unrelenting cold of those months do indeed invoke images of the Hellheim described in Norse Mythology and the Greek desolation of a world without its maiden Persephone.
This year I plan to hang lights in as many rooms as I can in our house. I’ll have well-placed lit candles, the fireplace burning, two Christmas Trees; one upstairs and one downstairs. My daughter and I will make snowflakes out of paper and hang them from the ceiling so they can swing gaily as we pass by them. The appearance of my sons will fill her with joy. Lighting up an otherwise dark and dismal time. She is already making plans for her brothers. They will make a snowman. Pelt each other with snowballs. She wants them to eat the snow with her. “But not the brown snow,” she clarifies.
We will make our way through the winter taking comfort in the festivity of December. We will hold each other close, as in the last months of winter the season tightens its icy grip in defiance to its eventual melting and disappearance from the surface of the earth. Eventually we will rejoice as we jump in puddles between melting piles of crusted snow and call forth the blessed spring and the promise of new life. We will grow and thrive with all life on earth, nurtured by summer’s golden grace until the circle once again stops its spin and the needle rests in winter’s icy palm.
For now I’m content to relish in these last days of summer. The roses still bloom from their pots on the deck. The tomatoes still grow in the greenhouse. The lawn still needs mowing. And my daughter throws off her jacket and runs barefoot in the yard. These are the times we wish would last forever. At least one can take comfort in knowing that even though it will leave us, like a devoted lover it will return.
This hideous beast inside pretending at destruction
that releases glory suddenly
like a storm cloud that reveals
a single perfect ray.
It is. My obsession that keeps me up long past the turning of keys and the clicking of lamps
and the rustle of sheets on a bed
that misses the weight of me.
An omnipresent loneliness that swallows me whole and deposits me— undigested,
Slick with self loathing and causeless fear
into a place I’d forgotten about.
A pulling up and out of myself the guts of me and spilling them onto computer screens and sheets of paper while unoriginally searching for meaning, perhaps even absolution.
That cavernous space between my lover and myself full of pit traps and mines only recently discovered and not yet admitted to.
The nobility of happiness despite the mundane death after death of all aspiration.
One life with all of its small joys and deceptions—
fragile, perilous, unrelenting and ultimately unavoidable.