I took my sister to the airport this morning. We drove through the early-morning semi-darkness, the mountains just jagged shadows on the horizon, shivering in the desert coolness. After I dropped her off I drove back home on the side-streets, skipping the highway so I could watch the sun rise without risking highway drivers running me over.

Watching the sun rise over the mountains is always a treat. Even after nights filled with sick babies when the snatches of sleep I managed to steal were woefully inadequate to sooth the pounding in my head, I’ve always found solace in walking outside our front door, just for a moment, to watch the sun come up over the mountains. The desert air is always cool in the morning, even in August, and there’s something refreshing about the pale, pearly sunlight and the cool morning air.

This morning was no exception. The sun was beautiful, the air was clear, and a fine yellow dusting of pollen lay over the streets and the sidewalks, reminding me that spring is here.

I pulled out my sundresses a few weeks ago, happy that the season of knee-length, swingy dresses and flip-flops is back. I always find it easy to look nice in the springtime, when I can pull on a dress and slip on some cute sandals, when the salads I’m partial to making in April sit more lightly around my waist than the heavy stews and braises we eat in the fall and winter, but before the sweltering summer heat makes fabric cling and stick and keeps me from wanting to leave the refuge of the A/C altogether.

There’s something magical about springtime. It’s like autumn in reverse; the seasons are turning, the weather is changing, and the freedom of long, lazy summer days by the pool lies ahead. Spring time means summer visits to family are just around the corner, farmer’s markets are soon to be bursting with fresh fruits and vegetables, the sun will stay up late enough for long family walks after dinner, and we’ll once again be cursing the ice-cream man as he makes his hourly rounds, calling all the children out for sugar-induced hysteria much like the Pied Piper, except the ice cream man sends the children back home.

The sunny, warm, fresh days of early spring promise a new beginning. But like all new beginnings, the freshness of spring quickly morphs into the sweltering, unbearable heat of July.

The turning of the seasons always reminds me of God’s grace. Just when we think we can’t take any more, when the cold, dark, short days seem to be more than our souls can bear, the sun breaks through the winter frost and flowers make their way up through the barren ground. Just when the sultry heat of late summer seems so oppressive that we think we can’t draw one more searing breath, the breeze picks up, the sun goes down earlier, the leaves turn gold and red and the sap begins to flow.

I think every culture has a sense of grace, an idea of the power of love to turn it all around. When I was little, I was enchanted by the myth of Persephone. I loved the idea of the innocent girl, snatched from the field of flowers, held hostage by the awful king of hell while her mother searched the earth, causing the fields to turn barren in her grief for her missing daughter. It seemed natural to me that the Greeks, living in a sun-soaked, mild climate, would see the warmth of spring and summer as the natural state of the world, and the cold, harsh winter as a punishment.

But my life since childhood has engendered a greater familiarity with human nature. Nothing I’ve seen has ever made me doubt that as humans, we are essentially good. I’ve seen goodness in everyone, even when I kept company with some truly shady characters. But the choices we make…oh, the choices we make are sometimes so horrible. Humans have an uncanny ability to twist and mar beautiful and good things with our choices. But always, always, always, grace is there. More than anything else, my life has convinced  me that God will always work with our choices and their results to bring goodness out of what once was bad, if we’ll only let Him. 

Yet we still have to live with the consequences. We have to survive the suffocating heat of August to reach the cool breezes and brisk nights of September. We have to shiver through the bitter winds of March to appreciate the gentle warmth of April.

Having lived through painful consequences, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Those are the times in which we learn and grow. Those times are painful and at the moment seem nothing but cruel, but their fruit is sweet. The lessons learned make life so much more pleasant when the storm dies down.

I wrote a poem a few years ago, a revision of the myth of Persephone that ponders all these things: sin, consequences, life, death and grace. I think it says what I’m trying to say here more eloquently, so I’ll leave you with it. I hope that it’s warm, where you are, and that you’re feeling the solace of spring.

Lust: Persephone and Hades
At last she sought to escape the confines of her mother,
the everywhere
and the confines of herself.
The fleeting feet, pink lips and limbs,
surrendering her clothes to the wind.
Enticing the god with her innocence.
(are you tempted? do you dare?)
and then the free laughter, cartwheeling confidence.
Her toes touched the dewed grass so lightly the blades didn’t bend,
breath came in short bursts
(there a thorn jumps out of the way)
(in the farmhouse ahead, the mortal woman hides her eyes)
until all at once her toes were skimming the grass
and she was caught up in Him.
The power of death left her weak and wanting more.
For death it was the daring that was all,
to set his power against the power of life and take her spark,
the spark itself distasteful.
Little more than a nymph and less than a lover,
he tried to cast her aside
but she clung to him,
her body begging to be devoured.
Underground she stood out ruddy,
incongruous against the pale dominion.
Disgusted, he sent her away, up the river
(don’t you know that you are poison here?)
She felt her innocence like lead, a drowning weight dragging her back up
the way she came.
Back down she returned.
Devouring lips red with guilt
stained, stained, dripping. Only then did he want her.
(soiled and ruined, tainted –
O lover, transgression becomes you)
Tasting lust still ripe in her mouth longed at last
For her innocence back.
The glow of the virgin and now I must return.
Pale, pale with shame, transparent in the sunlight.
Will they know me, will they know what I have done
What I have become?
White against the barren earth with red red lips.
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