I've been a bit quiet on the blog lately, and this morning I realised why. Persephone visited me in the night, some weeks ago. She stole away with my tongue and fed it to the wolves. At first I thought they'd eaten it and it was gone forever. But now I see they've buried it, deep under the earth along with their other treasures.
As the tale goes, the wolves will keep these talismans hidden for ninety days of the cold and ninety nights of the dark. This is the amount of time required for the spiders underground to work their magic, spinning their cocoon-like webs around Persephone's gifts. Their woven threads imbue them with new life, so that when the first light breaks on that ninety-first day, the tongue will have turned to gold. It is said that the diligent wolves will then dig it back up and return it to me.
In the meantime, I am to spend my winter days as a mute, sitting quietly in the watch tower and listening to hidden notes found in the silence.
I wrote this micro story recently about the struggle to find my words through personal narrative; my regular outlet for creative expression. Interestingly, metaphor and myth - which I usually find much more clunky - are coming to me in short bursts of story. Not only that, I've also been enjoying drawing, a medium I haven't played with much for 15 years. It's almost as though I've forgotten my mother tongue but have simultaneously picked up a new language. I'm not entirely fluent yet, but this experience is teaching me about the cycles of creativity...
Winter is a time of the year when we tend to go inwards, and the myth of Persephone symbolises this descent. Persephone is a young maiden who is abducted by Hades and taken to his kingdom in the underworld. Her mother, Demeter, the goddess of harvest, is devastated by the news and turns the land barren with her grief. When Persephone finally returns months later, Demeter's hope is restored and new shoots of life spring from the earth. But Persephone is not here to stay- Hades crowned her as his Queen and therefore she must return with him to the underworld every year at the same time for 3-6 months, bringing us this cycle of the seasons.
This story has also been used to represent those times in our creative cycle where we must have our own personified winter. Everything goes through stages of yin and yang, waning and waxing, inspiration and expression. It's necessary to have this down time, to go inward and reflect. It's as though we need to compost old matter in order to refresh the soil and ready it for new growth.
This is a difficult feat in a world that is obsessed with productivity and linear expansion. But beyond that, it can often feel personally frustrating to lose that flow state of creative expression and mourn the ecstatic realms that come with it. Surely there exists a mid-way point between complete flow and dormancy within the life cycle of our creative fires.
So how do we continue our practice of creative self-expression in a time when the gravity of the season is pulling us inwards? Go sideways. Instead of repeatedly trying to hit the same note and feeling stuck, pick up a different melody. Or a different instrument. Or a different medium altogether! We all carry various dimensions of self and it makes sense to me that at certain points we need to tweak our expression to suit the space we're in.
Temporarily going sideways is a useful exercise for any kind of creative blocks that arise throughout our lives. It takes the pressure off and gives us permission to play- when we step outside of our normal art form, we tend to lower our expectations around what we produce or what our usual benchmark is. This frees us up to discover something we might not have done before if we'd only stuck to a linear path.
When we experiment with our creativity, we see that we're not destined to walk through the deserts of a perennial dry spell. We've just moved into a different part of the cycle and have an opportunity to discover something new, while also acknowledging that we don't need to be productive 365 days a year. And just as Persephone emerges from the underworld carrying Spring's blooms, so too do we find our creativity blossoms more fervently after a period of quiet communion with the great mystery.
// All artworks from the Other-On series by June Kim and Michelle Cho.