Sunday, 11 April 2010

When Persephone Goes Upstairs

There's a moment when it happens. You wake up and the sun is rising, blazing through misty fields. The sky is blue and the whole world has burst out of its winter coat. There are flowers everywhere: primroses, violets, speedwell, chickweed, daffodils. The hedgerows are wearing cherry-plum dresses, the train tracks carpeted with purple henbit. It's a hive of activity.

But it's not just the flowers that are coming out. Last week at our Sustainable Bungay Green Cakes and Tea at the Three Willows Cafe, I went to speak with the two beekeepers of the Bungay Community Bees project, Elinor and Gemma, who are starting up two community owned hives this spring.

There I met a fellow plant person, Rose, who introduced me to her marvellous nature blog about the Waveney valley A Walk on the Wild Side. Later, I read my old friend Adrienne Campbell's Transition blog 100 Monkeys and was moved by her impeccable warrior spirit as she and her fellow campaigners lost the battle against Tescos but at the same time managed to start up a local produce market in their Transition town of Lewes:

I'm not sad, she wrote. Little by little, this creative, collaborative parallel public infrastructure is forming, not just through the Transition movement but in many, many different individual and collective ways, quietly, gently, persistently, beautifully.

Yesterday I went to see Christine in Norwich and we sat on her roof terrace, talking about Transition Norwich (which she began almost three years ago now) and about all the different people and phases the initiative has gone through in its initiatory phase. And the bees hummed in and out of the peach blossom in the dwarf orchard she has up there among city rooftops. And in all these meetings it felt calm, peaceful, harmonious, in a way that our lives in Transition have not always been.

When I was teaching the children about bees at Catton Grove we put our heads together and made a humming sound. Then we walked Indian-file down the corridor and out into the March sunshine. We hung our bees made of larch cones and golden wool in the schoolyard trees and danced a huge figure of eight across the asphalt, laughing.

When Persephone picked the narcissus flower she fell into Hades and was only allowed to return to Earth in the spring. This was the first myth I learned at my own primary school many years ago. I have learned however from life that this is not the whole story. The classic tales never talk about her return only her fall. But underneath this Greek myth you can find fragments of another (Minoan) one, from a time when female beings danced in honour of the bees and the sun. When the patriarchal Greeks overtook the female world they covered this dancing floor with an architectural prison and called it a labyrinth. When Rhea saw what civilisation and agriculture (Demeter) were doing to the wild earth, she sent her granddaughter down into Hades to rectify the balance.

Sometimes when I go and lie above the bones of my ancestors among the wild dancing daffodils, bees humming all around me, I remember that dance I used to do with my bee-loving sisters and I feel that another world is possible. On a quiet day I can hear her breathing, wrote the writer and activist, Arundhati Roy.

Quietly, gently, persistently, beautifully.

Above: among the wild daffodils at the tumulus; Mark crossing the alder bridge en route to the tumulus.

1 comment:

  1. beautiful! Thank you for your wonderful group writing about transition.