In my Latin class today, I shared a reading about Proserpina and Ceres (Persephone and Demeter, in Greek). I find it necessary to debunk all that the scientific mumbo-jumbo about the seasons, relating to planets and stars and orbits. Forget, I tell my students, what you may have heard about the tilt of the earth on its axis. The seasons change because of a mother’s cyclical happiness and sadness. It’s getting cold and grey outside because Ceres is not doing her job.
As you probably remember, Pluto, the god of the underworld, took a liking to a mortal girl and snatched her into his realm. Proserpina’s poor mother, whose charge was keeping earthly things green and growing, was distracted from her work, mad with worry over her lost daughter. People began to starve for lack of grain and complained bitterly about the gods’ injustices.
Jupiter at last brokered a deal: Ceres could have her daughter back for half the year. Because she’d eaten of the underworld’s fruit—pomegrate seeds—Proserpina must return to Hades (with Hades, in the Greek) for the the season we are just entering. The leafless trees and graying lawns outside my window betoken poor Ceres’s grief. She can’t be bothered right now with taking care of plants.
The earth revolving around the sun, leaning toward or away from that majestic body, is, I admit, a pretty magnificent story. But I relate more personally to the classical explanation. My daughter comes home for the Thanksgiving holiday. I look forward and clean and cook. Then, all too soon, she leaves on a jet plane, and I let the dishes and the dust bunnies pile up, sullenly occupying myself with games on my phone and YouTube videos.
I can’t be bothered with completing my appointed tasks right now. I’ll perk up during that December “spring” beginning in a couple of weeks, when my Prosperina is returning home.