ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

Monday, 15 August 2016

#WEPff story, GARDENS challenge. The Coming of the Immortals

Hi all!

To write this entry for WEP, I was inspired by a Marlena de Blasi story set in Sicily , inspired by a poem by Matthew Arnold, and inspired by a Greek myth. 

There are many versions of the myth of Demeter and Persephone, 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?
Matthew Arnold


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.

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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 wilfully. 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.


868 words
CRITIQUE: Go for your life!

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Thank you as always for taking the time to read/skim/spot check my story! I hope you enjoyed my tale. If you like my story, please hit my buttons...social media buttons! 

So this week I'm attending a 5-day Margie Lawson Immersion Class on deep editing. Yummo! One busy August for sure.



56 comments:

  1. Fascinating, Denise. You are having a busy August. Good luck and have fun.

    Thoughts in Progress
    and MC Book Tours

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  2. And thus we have the seasons! Very well done, Denise.

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  3. You are getting a head start on this. Great story to connect with the theme. I enjoyed reading it. Thanks for kick-starting us on this August WEP

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    1. No probs, Lee. Looking forward to reading yours.

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  4. Beautiful! The descriptive your forte! I love this story and have seen the relationship between Hades and Persephone in many a love story. A perfect introduction to the Gardens theme! Thank you for a lovely beginning of the week journey. Enjoy your week and your travels!

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    1. Thanks Yolanda. I'm glad you like it.

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  5. Love your take on this very familiar story. Bargaining with the Gods rarely ends as well as it does here. Thank you so much.

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  6. Great story, Denise. Thanks for sharing it. Have fun on your trip this week.

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  7. Love legends and mythology, Denise, and the way you've woven the legend through with descriptions of a garden of the ancients. Beautiful imagery. The gods sometimes had a nasty sense of humour and justice. . .

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it D.G. Yes, those nasty gods...

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  8. Such a bittersweet story. I could really see and feel it.

    My WEP post went up this morning.

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    1. Thanks L Diane. I've put the DL next to your name.

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  9. Hi Denise - yes ... combining the legends and mythology into the Sicilian landscape makes absolute sense ... the golden seeds of harvest time ... then the earth being riven ... while the pact is settled ... in someways thank goodness - we know we will have another chance, another year ... another time to let the seed develop and our knowledge increase ...

    That Italian sun can do things to one's soul ... cheers Hilary

    Mine is going up late on Friday as I'm away - but the link will probably be need to be brought across - thank you ... I'll ask Yolanda too ...

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    1. Ah. That Italian sun! I love how myths were created to make sense of the world. Now we need to write new myths. Looking forward to seeing yours!!

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  10. This is a luscious post - truly awesome. You are a master of description. And the visuals are stunning. This turned me on to try this - it will be lovely to reconnect with some old Blogger friends. The topic reminded me of a beautiful booklet Hilary sent me a couple of Christmases ago - so glad I haven't lost it. The poems in it are stunning, and what I will use for the post I hope I can get up today. No aide - still. This has been the trial of our life these past 9 years in Virginia, as you know but reconnecting with you via social media is good for me right now. Now I can enjoy the creativity of friends who've linked up ... which I hope I did correctly. Hooray for the gardens of the world that has inspired/still inspires great stories and poetry!

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    1. p.s. hours after I posted the above we got a new aide. I am SO relieved... See you tomorrow...

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    2. I'm so excited for you Ann! Hopefully life will be much easier for both you and Jen!

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  11. Persephone's story was always my favorite. You did an amazing job with this, Denise. :)

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    1. Thanks Chrys. I love it too, obviously.

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  12. That was gorgeous. So sensual, stunning, and sad. Beauty and passion, and tragedy. Very well done.

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  13. This sounds like such a great challenge. Loved your retelling! Also like your new blog design :-)

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  14. The story of Persephone is one of my favorites from Greek mythology, explaining the seasons. I had always heard Hades gave her a pomegranate to eat, which she knew she shouldn't. But she ate 6 pomegranate seeds and that why she had to stay in the underworld 6 months.

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    1. Yes, Bish, I like the pomegranate one too!

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  15. I love the story of Hades and Persephone, I wrote a poem about it back when I was doing my Creative Writing Masters degree. It's one of my favourite Greek myths.

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    1. Hi Laura! Lovely to see you! I'd love to read your poem!

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  16. Excellent, Denise. I have been to many parts of Italy, and plan to move to Southern Italy, but I have never been to Sicily. Through your story, I now have the desire to visit Sicily also and soak in the culture.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Patricia

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    1. Pat, do read Marlena's book. It's amazing!

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  17. I love this story. Already familiar with this myth, I appreciate your attention to detail and find your take refreshing. I also enjoy they way in which you tell the story. It's as though an old wise person or teacher is giving a lecture to a wouldbe hero; instructing him or her on the past so he or she will be triumphant in the future. There is also the great since of pride you get from a particular culture's origin and tales of "how and why things are."

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    1. Ah, so I'm a wise old person...high praise Toi! Love those Greek myths!

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  18. Great writing, really brought it alive, great descriptions.

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  19. A lovely piece, Denise. I love the imagery. It's great to look at Sicily from this perspective. I've been researching the darker side of Sicily and the mafia whilst working on my novel. Indeed it's a beautiful island. Thank you for sharing your words. Have a lovely break.

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    1. Now Sicily and the dark side...that's a whole other story, isn't it? Thank you.

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  20. Hi, Denise,

    Nice take on this story. I ALWAYS enjoy Greek Mythology and your spin is no exception.

    Sounds like you ARE busy... Hope everything is going smoothly with your rehab...

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    1. I love Greek myths. Yes, but it's a good busy!

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  21. You took me on a journey with this piece! Well done! It's so much fun working with myths, isn't it?

    Happy travels!

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  22. What a great story! I have a minor in Classics and love anything related to ancient Greece and Rome. Nice use of images, too.

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  23. Mythology is fascinating! I particularly liked the second person POV in your retelling of this story, reminded me of Cry, the Beloved Country. Lyrical and delicate. Have fun at the course! Busy August for all of us it seems - which is brilliant

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    1. Thanks Nila. I like to play with second person occasionally. Suits some stories. Never bored, are we?

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  24. I love the story of Persephone. Nice work.

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    1. Obviously I do too AS.Glad you enjoyed it.

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  26. That's a wonderful retelling of Persephone's story. Your description of the temple, meadow and gardens is very evocative. I particularly like how you made me "smell" the scents of the various plants. Cheers - Ellen

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    1. Thank you Ellen. 'Evocative' is high praise. Glad you enjoyed it.

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  27. They really still tell it with that much passion? That's epic. Lovely writing.

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  28. Enjoyed this post...look forward to reading about your immersion experience!

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