Sunday, June 6, 2010

Prosperpina's Return

In Roman mythology, Ceres was the goddess of growing plants and mothering relationships, though she is perhaps most remembered as the mother of the abducted goddess Proserpina. According to the myth, the god of the underworld fell in love with Prosperina, kidnapped her, and made her his queen in the realm of the dead. Ceres, out of grief at the loss of her daughter, immediately stopped the growth of plant life on Earth and the world plunged into its first winter. Jupiter then intervened, persuading Pluto to return Proserpina to her mother, but not before the young goddess had eaten six pomegranate seeds from a tree in the Underworld. Having eaten the food of the dead, she was subsequently required to return to the Pluto for half of every year. In Prosperpina's absence, Ceres allowed the plants to wither and die, and upon Proserpina's return every year, spring came forth out of Ceres' joyful celebration.

I have an inkling of how Ceres must have felt. I can imagine that the annual wait must have seemed interminable, despite Jupiter's promise. Ceres must have worried that Pluto would renege, that Proserpina might decide to stay, that some chore would delay her daughter's return. This is spring for me on the farm: a season of worry even as the earth explodes with life. Until the first distribution, I am forever afraid that something will go terribly wrong and I'll be left standing by a barren, blighted field. Every little mishap leaves me questioning my skill as a grower--why are the peas still so short? Will the cauliflower recover from the frost? My spinach is growing too fast--what if it bolts before the rest of the crops are ready for distribtion? I'm a mess, constantly swinging from joy in the spring to despair that I will ever reach June.

On Friday, however, we had our first distribution. My spinach was huge, but delicious. The Turnips were sweet (and almost softball-size thanks to our strange, warm weather). We had bok choy and head lettuce and radishes and pea shoots. I was content. Prosperpina has returned to the world and life can go on.