After the thick mists which regularly obscured Watership Down at dawn last week, it felt as if, following an unusually warm summer, we were in for a more Keatsian autumn. The trees and bushes are bent under the weight of abundant fruit, the leaves redden, and days grow shorter.
The ancient Greeks (and several other early civilisations) tell the story of how the goddess of the harvest, Demeter, sees her daughter Persephone abducted by Hades and taken to the underworld. In her grief, she forsakes her agrarian duties, causing the onset of winter and the accompanying withering and death of vegetation. The resultant disruption led to some tricky negotiations within the pantheon and bout of underhanded trickery involving pomegranate seeds, but eventually a compromise solution was reached whereby Persephone would spend half the year above ground with her mother and half with Hades, her new husband. The daughter’s return heralded the return of warmer weather as her mother’s joy was restored, usually coinciding with spring.
I was in North Yorkshire this afternoon so picked up a sweater and light jacket before leaving with my camera, first for the beautiful village of Osmotherley, and then to the former Carthusian monastery of Mount Grace Priory. It wasn’t cold as I left Durham, but over the 45 minutes of my journey the temperature rose by about three degrees and I arrived to find myself bathed in sunshine. The Three Tuns, a noted pub in the village was empty; not because they had no customers, but because every one of them was taking the opportunity to sit outside. It’s very nearly October; these were the last weather conditions I, and clearly many others, were expecting.
And so I have two galleries of images here; the autumnal fruits that are the last efforts of Demeter before she neglects the world, and the bright, golden hues of an unexpected burst of summer. Persephone had clearly forgotten to pack something.
By Carol Ann Duffy
Where I lived—winter and hard earth.
I sat in my cold stone room
choosing tough words, granite, flint,
to break the ice. My broken heart—
I tried that, but it skimmed,
flat, over the frozen lake.
She came from a long, long way,
but I saw her at last, walking,
my daughter, my girl, across the fields,
in bare feet, bringing all spring’s flowers
to her mother’s house. I swear
the air softened and warmed as she moved,
the blue sky smiling, none too soon,
with the small shy mouth of a new moon.