All this is true

Remember the beautiful Homeric Hymn to Demeter?  Persephone tells her mother Demeter of the events leading up to her abduction by Hades: “…we were playing and gathering sweet flowers in our hands, soft crocuses mingled with irises and hyacinths, and rose-blooms and lilies, marvellous to see, and the narcissus which the wide earth caused to grow yellow as a crocus. That I plucked in my joy; but the earth parted beneath, and there the strong lord, the Host of Many, sprang forth and in his golden chariot he bore me away, all unwilling, beneath the earth: then I cried with a shrill cry. All this is true, sore though it grieves me to tell the tale.” I think of this ancient poem (6th or 7th c. B.C.) every spring, when flowers return, the trees leaf out, and the bare ground replenishes itself. This year it’s particularly poignant for me as I work to try to restore some beauty to my garden. There are still big heaps of soil everywhere, which is itself a kind of bounty, because it usually seems that there’s never enough soil! In a few months, when I pot up the tomato seedlings, I’ll be glad to have a ready supply of dirt to mix with manure and peat and alfafa pellets. And there are wonderful moments in this project of putting a garden back together. For example, a few weeks ago, I was shovelling some soil for a border and found, buried under several feet of earth, a whole clump of crocuses. I’d tried to remember where the bulbs were before the drain field work began and I dug them up to replant later. But I’d missed these crocuses. Not only had they survived intact under the weight of dark soil, but they were in the first stages of bloom. I carefully replanted them and noticed this morning that they’ve opened completely, none the worse for their time underground.


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