Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Building Persephone's Glade

I could start this story at the beginning, which would take a very long time. Instead, I am going to start in the middle.

There is a 15 acre plot of land in Marshall, North Carolina. My partner and myself own these 15 acres. It is the both the ending and the beginning of a dream we have long held. The closing on the land was in the summer of 2007 and we spent at least one weekend a month up there after that. When we bought the land in the summer of 2007, we were told there had been a spring, but it had been dry for a long time.

Please follow me on a brief tour of the land. When you drive up the winding, pebble-cobbled road, you come to an old barn, which has been established as “home base”. The barn is old chocolate brown with an aluminum colored roof. The back corner of this barn, we have been told, is the original cabin on the land. The cabin was likely built more than a hundred years ago, with timbers wider than a person. It must have taken days and a lot of real horse power, with real horses, to drag to them to the site. They are rough hewn and pocked with axe marks that tell the story of the old wood. From the barn, up the hill, leads an old logging trail lined with eastern hemlocks, tulip trees and rhododendrons. The trail curves around following the contours of the land and brings you to two different clearings; a small one nestled into the mountain and a large one down a very steep path. The logging trail diverges to climb to the top of the ridge where you can see across the Smoky Mountains.

In the spring of 2008, Matt and I had spent a weekend on our land to do some work. We had, over the course of the previous summer and throughout the winter, explored much of the 15 acres. And yet, there were still places we had not yet discovered. We stumbled upon a secret place that surprised us.

As we walked up the path we heard something we had never heard before, and we had walked up this path dozens of time since buying the land. There was the faint music of the trickle of water into a pool. We followed the sound off the path into a dense thicket of plants. The clear mountain spring was running from a black rubber hose into a basin built with ash colored cinder block. We rejoiced in the discovery of water on our land, water we had been told no longer flowed there. As we stood near the spring, we noticed the scenery around us. Before us was a substantial rock formation next to two black and gnarled trees. Beneath the trees was a hollow in to the earth. The area was overgrown with brambles and blackberries, but it was breathtakingly beautiful. There was a specific presence that couldn’t be denied. Matt said to me, “This would be a perfect place for a permanent shrine to Persephone.” It touched me deeply that he could intuit Persephone’s presence in this glade.

I immediately began the plan to erect the shrine to the Goddess. Certainly a big part of the temple keeping would be tending of it and keeping it from overgrowing. As I learned later, the area was a hotbed for Poison Ivy, and at the very least I had to keep it cleared so I could go back there myself. I didn’t want to place too many items back there and detract from the natural beauty, but I knew I wanted a statue near the rocks. In my head, pictured a large garden size statue molded from concrete. I learned quickly that large garden size statues molded from concrete were not inexpensive. Several weeks of searches on eBay for an affordable option resulted in one find that was too good to pass up. It was a statue carved by Alfonzo Ianelli, who had worked with Frank Lloyd Wright on the Midway Sprites, called “Magdalena”. The sculpture was stunning. It was very architectural, as the form of the girl’s dress became a column at the base of the statue. It appealed to me for its sense of Persephone in springtime, the innocent flower maiden before Hades plucked her from the field. It appealed to Matt for its clean lines and Frank Lloyd Wright style design. I had to buy it.

Soon after, we brought some friends with us to spend time in Asheville. They helped us excavate a large flat stone from the area near the old barn and carry it up to the rocks by the black trees. We carefully placed the stone before the rock formation and balanced it to create a space to place the statue.

We placed the base of the statue on that rock. Reading the instructions for the statue, we inserted the metal rod for stability and spread the concrete adhesive. Then we lifted the heavy female form and gently placed her on the base where she belonged. It reminded me of several years prior when I was part of the experience raising two standing stones to mark the winter solstice at a festival site. Raising standing stones was something that my ancestors did and I felt honored to be a part of that - me and 300 other people with ropes and shovels - just like the Celts. Raising the statue of Persephone connected me on some level to the ancient Greeks as they built their temples on their land. It was truly an act of love and devotion.

Now, to honor Persephone in all her aspects I can go to her glade, read her hymns and pour her libations. I built this glade with my own hands.

1 comment:

  1. That is an amazing story! I'd love to build a shrine to her and her husband in my backyard. But alas, I live with someone who barely tolerates my religion as it is. But good for you! Thank you for sharing this story and the pictures! I can tell even from the pictures it is a very sacred place.