Lost and Found
Coming out of Winter into Spring is so much more than holidays, full moons, and Sundays. Is any transition more important than this? From death into life, lost to found.
You probably know the story of Jesus who willingly died, knowing he would rise. But what about Persephone?
In the classical telling of her story, Persephone is abducted, taken against her will, and swept off to the underworld. Her mother is bereft and inconsolable.
Persephone is lost. Lost to mother and also lost to herself. She did not choose her time away from all that she loved and all that was familiar to her. She felt, I’m sure, very much alone.
Yet, during her time in the underworld, Persephone comes into her power. She discovers her purpose: comforting and anointing the deceased. Persephone finds herself. Only then does she return to her mother and all of earth rejoices. Persephone’s return is the beginning of Spring. For six months she stays, as if on an extended vacation, before she must descend again and continue her work. In her absence, winter comes.
Persephone’s story is our story. Life happens and something - or someone - abducts us; we are carried away to an unfamiliar place. We flail about trying to make sense of it all and find our bearings. This can go on for a very long time. There’s a reason for the term “bottoming out” – when we’ve gone down as far as we can go. There’s nothing else to do but stop struggling. Here is where we find ourselves. And at first look, we may not like what we see. Everything is dark. But if we stay with our discomfort, we see more. Our eyes adjust and what was once pure black begins to show, if not light, shades of gray. We see what we couldn’t before, what was previously hidden yet always there.
Winter is often like this. Winter can be our season in the belly of the whale, where what we no longer need decomposes and falls away. It is the cold and long nights, spent largely alone. Winter is our season to retreat, rest, and regenerate. Our time to sleep and to dream. Like bulbs planted in the soil, our power and purpose need time to take root. Winter doesn’t last forever. Spring always comes.
The crocus are always the first to surprise me. A thaw often happens in February, an unseasonably warm break, and up pop the crocus through the snow. But the nights are still long and the cold returns, regardless of whether a groundhog saw its shadow. The blossoms don’t last – it is, after all, still legitimately winter – but they have served their purpose. They brought color and hope in an otherwise bleak time.
Then come the daffodils, followed by the tulips. And the first sprouting of green grass. And the first buds on trees. Doesn’t it strike you as miraculous every year when green reappears? Bare branches that almost thoroughly looked dead and yellow grass as coarse as straw are suddenly transformed, resurrected.
Spring is not only the end of the cold season and longer days of light; it is the manifestation of hope. Spring brings evidence blossoming everywhere that life really does return. That everything we buried months ago has not decayed into nothingness. Our descent into darkness, our loss and being lost, was simply a rest, a repose, a regeneration. Spring is resurrection.
However you celebrate this time of year—with Hallelujahs!, Christ is Risen!, Persephone Returns!, or simply “pass me the sunscreen”—may you be joyous. In every flower that blooms and every bird that sings, may you acknowledge this tremendous transition and revel in the miracle of the eternal return.
I shared the following poem last year but it is a favorite of mine, one I traditionally read before Easter dinner with friends, so I’m sharing it again. Practice resurrection, my friends. Practice resurrection.
Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion -- put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go.
Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection. - Wendell Berry
Tell me, what is your favorite part of this season? Something that blossoms or something you do… tell me what Spring means to you.
I shared an alternative version of Persephone’s story back in 2021. You can read it here: Persephone Returns! Coming Home to Being Alive.