Write…Edit…Publish has been on hiatus, but this week we’re back! WEP is a group of writers, some permanent aficionados, some who casually grab an opportunity to participate as the mood and time allows, and who return or not, but all of us have fun and grow a little more as we craft our entries and are inspired by each other.
Yolanda Renee, a mad keen gardener, came up with the GARDENS challenge. I’m an indifferent gardener, so I drew a wide net when trying to hit on a workable idea.
Writing for WEP this month has led to many influences for me. Inspired by a Marlena de Blasi story I read set in Sicily , inspired by a poem by Matthew Arnold, and inspired by a Greek myth which fits the theme so well. What better atmosphere to set my tale but around the story of the goddess of the Harvest herself?
There are many versions of this Greek myth, so bear with me as I retell my version…with embellishments…
What forms are these coming
So white through the gloom?
What garments out-glistening
The gold-flower’d broom?
Sicily has a long history which is seared into the minds of everyone who lives on this island, part of Italy, yet with its own stories, its own rhythms.
A road paved with sun-bleached stones and whorls of yellow sand leads to the top of the island. Reaching the top, you see a hamlet made of heaped-up stones, huddled in the cleft of a shaly mountain. Beneath, the ruins of a temple. Above the hamlet, a high plateau of wheat forms a bronze curtain. Down on the meadows, sheep and goats graze. The only water close by the hamlet is a metallic smudge where bleached sky collides with yellow earth. The only waves are the wheat with its shuddering golden stalks roaring like the sea and crashing in the goddess-blown winds. There are Stone Age myrtles, wild marjoram and thyme meandering the steep grades.
Life in the hamlet is the life lived for millennia. From time immemorial, nothing has been lost, forgotten or left to languish. Past and present congregate, living together in the harmonic song nature sings.
Here you wander in the ruin of Demeter’s ancient temple. Demeter, the goddess of the Harvest, is responsible for the nourishment of all life-giving plants that grow on the earth. You can tramp amongst the great fluted columns as they lie supine, lustrous under the moon or glinting in the sun, while your feet bruise the wild thyme and marjoram and the air fills with their sweet, spicy scent. But if you look down, far below, you see a miraculous sight.
You see a meadow completely covered in the twining legume, purple vetch. Beyond that, you see acres of gardens amidst turrets and crenelated towers and Juliet balconies. But it is the roofs that catch your eye—the red and yellow porcelain tiles and mansard roofs set ablaze by a fiery sun. As you hurry down the hill, anxious to explore, the gaudy scent of roses and ripe oranges clog your nostrils.
Pausing to breathe in the magical elixir, you are shocked to see hollyhocks. Hollyhocks do not grow in the desert, but hundreds and hundreds of their red satin blossoms line a winding stone path which leads to an ornate iron gate. You press against the gate and see astonishing sweeping gardens—roses of all hues, but predominantly ivory and white and butter cream. They energetically climb trellises, sprawl lazily in beds, spill and ramble and entwine willfully. They are either a sun-struck illusion or…you have entered a fairyland.
It was here in these mountains that the Greek goddess of grain and fertility and motherhood once held forth. She does still. It was Demeter who illuminated the magic of sowing seeds beneath the earth, protecting them, feeding them, growing them into ripeness much as the seeds planted in the female womb grow to fruition.
Under Demeter’s will, the harvests flourished. She conjured the sun, the rain, the breezes at her pleasure. All was Elysium until it happened…
The grim king Hades had seen fair maids enough in the gloomy underworld over which he ruled, but his heart had never been touched. Now he was enchanted. Before him was a blossoming valley, and along its edge a charming girl gathered flowers. She was Persephone, daughter of Demeter, goddess of the harvest.
Persephone had strayed from her companions, and now that her basket overflowed with blossoms, she was filling her apron with lilies and violets. Hades looked at Persephone and was smitten by an arrow to his heart. With one sweep of his arm he caught her up and drove swiftly away where she became the Queen of the Dead.
‘Mother!’ she screamed to the uncaring wind, while the flowers fell from her apron and strewed the ground. ‘Mother!’
But only the immortals heard her cries.
Persephone had been trapped in a beautiful, divine trap. The flowers had been planted to ensnare her. The flowers were the work of Zeus and put there for ‘a girl with a flower’s beauty.’ The trigger for the trap was an irresistible flower with one hundred stems of fragrant blossoms. When Persephone reached out with both hands to pluck the flower, the earth opened at her feet and Hades roared forth in his golden chariot to seize her.
Demeter gnashed the sun, keeping the mountain villages and the fertile fields—and the world itself—in darkness until she made a pact with Zeus. This is what they decided. Half the year her daughter would be restored to her, half the year she would be with Hades in the underworld. With Persephone by her side, the goddess rekindled the sun and tipped warm rain down over the parched earth. For a season, the trees, plants and flowers flourished.
Then Persephone returned to Hades and the earth returned to darkness and infertility.
In Sicily this story is still told, with all the wonder and anguish of an event that only just took place. Allegiance to the goddess with the crown of woven corn husks never fades; each season she is remembered, especially at the time of Harvest.
CRITIQUE: Go for your life!
I hope you enjoyed my tale, my entry in this month’s WEP writing challenge. I’m posting early so you might be encouraged to post for the GARDENS challenge. There is wide-open scope to write, post a photo, pen a poem, write a non-fiction piece…(well, I’ve sort of done all!!) but whatever you like, any genre you like. Sign up in my right sidebar or go HERE for more information.
If you like my story, please hit my buttons…social media buttons!
Thank you as always for taking the time to read/skim/spot check my story! Now, if you still have time, please read any WEP story on the list with a DL (direct link) next to the blogger’s name. That means they’ve posted their entry.
I’m travelling again so may not get right back to you. When I return from my trip, I’ll be attending a 5-day Margie Lawson Immersion Class on editing. Yummo! One busy August for sure.