We love our stories, don’t we? It’s how our small brains are wired. We love stores around a campfire, we love stories before bed. It’s no coincidence that our stories at this time of year are about Nature. Gaia. The seeming return of life from the slumbering earth. As it turns out, we have quite a bit to say about our namesake, Queen of the Dead, Mrs. Hellfire, Persephone Herself. As a collective culture, we haven’t treated her very well, and there may be repercussions. Aretha said it best: give the girl a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
THE WOOD FOR THE TREES
In 1995, while still a wide-eyed environmental attorney, I took a meandering road trip through the magnificence of the Pacific Northwest. One evening at a local bar in Forks, Washington (the filming locale of the Twilight series), I found myself embroiled in a discussion, regarding the vicissitudes of logging with one of the locals, a lumberman who was just as passionate about the need for harvesting timber as I was about the need for the preservation of forests, particularly old growth ones. He repeatedly asked me, as if therein lied the answer to the Gordian knot we were trying to unravel, whether I liked my toilet paper one-ply or two-ply.
“Until you’re ready to have that conversation,” he said, “there’s really nothing to say.”
I remember being incensed that I couldn’t get this guy to see that what he was defending could wipe out years, perhaps decades of potential human existence on this planet. He refused to consider the possibility that trees act as the planet’s lungs and their removal jeopardized our oxygen supply just for a few more rolls of toilet paper. So while I saw his point, I didn’t see the need to wipe out whole forests to make it.
There are few things that speak to you like the towering majesty of an old growth forest. The slant and dapple of the light through the leaves, the song of the birds as they alight and fly, the flash of movement caught in the periphery as nature rearranges Herself, the heady smell of peat moss, representing life and death rolled into one. The bottom of peat moss decays to form peat deposits even as the top continues to grow which is basically how Mama Nature rolls, using the nutrients of the dead and decaying to fuel Her rebirth and regeneration, resulting in, ta-da, Spring, or as a microcosm, every dawning day. Take Persephone, the newly crowned Queen of the Dead, sleeping this whole long, lonely winter underground with her uncle cum husband (gross), Hades. Hades stole Persephone from the earth topside on a technicality and Demeter, her sweet mama and the Goddess of Agriculture was so disconsolate, she refused to let another thing grow until Persephone was returned to her. Such is a mother’s love — fierce, unpretentious, unwavering — just like our collective Mother is with her children, that is until we disrespect her and she turns on us like the Titan Cronus, known to the Romans as Saturn, who ate each of his sons when they were born so none could fulfill the prophesy to overthrow him. Coincidence? I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.
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