The Myth of the Flowers

This is the latest in TMN staff writer Allison Maschoff’s collection of short fiction stories.

Once upon a time, Demeter saw her first rainbow. The colors burst across the sky, blending and dancing above her. As she laid in the plain green grass, a strange sadness grabbed hold of her. Demeter wished for such beauty to come down from the sky and into her own realm. Gaia heard her wish and whispered an offer into Demeter’s mind. Smiling, Demeter nodded her head, and the matter was settled.

For the next twelve months, Demeter traveled the earth. She spent one month in each place and granted the gift of a precious flower to each. Her first attempt, in Ukraine, produced a small white flower. Beautiful as it was, Demeter lamented its lack of color. Coming home to Greece, she spent the month of February creating luscious, vibrant violets. They were so spectacular that purple forever became the color of kings and queens.

Demeter carried on her adventures, giving Northern Europe daffodils and Eastern Europe daisies. The flowers sprouted everywhere, wild and delicate all at once. In Turkey, Demeter gave birth to lilies, and in the frozen ground of Alaska, roses took root and bloomed. The lotus flower she created for India was so beautiful that it dominated the art produced in that land for centuries.

For a while, Demeter explored the Western Hemisphere, still so untouched by the gods. To California, she gave the poppy, and to Mexico, the morning glory. Down in Argentina, she framed the pathways in marigolds that created the illusion of setting the earth on fire. She took a brief trip back to the Old World to gift the chrysanthemum to China, but then she returned to North America, coming to rest in the middle of the continent, in an area now known as Missouri.

The year was reaching its end, and back home, the faithful women were honoring Demeter with the festival of Haloa. She imagined the women dancing across the threshing floor, the flowers she had spent the last year creating decorating their hair. Demeter wanted to create something that would finish the long year of labor rightly, something that would sweeten further this bittersweet time of year. Even as mortals praised her, she was about to lose her precious daughter to the Underworld once more. Blasted pomegranates! How she loathed them!

And then, in the midst of her rage, genius struck her. What better path of action than to create a better version of the pomegranate? Something red and fruit-like, yet holding the beauty of the flowers she was so skilled at creating. Dancing across the American plain, she began sprinkling the earth with holly. First Missouri, then the rest of the continent and, eventually, the whole world. There was scarcely a single region in which it refused to grow. Demeter covered the lands with them and then finally returned home to Greece. Sighing as she regarded the fruits of her labors, she felt a sense of peace settle deep in her chest. And she waited for spring’s return.