Maybe Persephone

Christy Tending

Maybe Persephone wasn’t dragged to hell. Perhaps her seasonal affective disorder simply made her unrecognizable for some months each year. Maybe she took to her bed for weeks at a time, watching Hitchcock movies and waiting out the wet and dark when the veil dissolves to nothing and the expectations for picture-perfect, Currier-and-Ives, 1950s homemade holidays could crush a woman if she let them.

The pomegranate seeds weren’t an accident, of course, because have you ever been able to extricate those seeds without tremendous effort, let alone on a whim? Have you ever been able to pry a single garnet globe (each housing a cement-hard seed) from its cardboard husk without really meaning to? You don’t swallow one of those without intention. You don’t crush those seeds between your molars without purpose.

Instead, maybe Persephone is deeply committed to militant rest; it is an act of self-love to ride out the season soaking in Epsom salt baths and making pie (even if the crust is store-bought). Maybe she told her mother that she’d been dragged to hell as a metaphor, and that mother took it literally and Persephone just never bothered to correct her because it was easier than trying to put on a brave face and answer questions about her career and “How’s your love life?” from neighbors and family friends at Christmas Eve parties. Perhaps she took it as a chance to spring for that long-coveted cashmere blanket on Black Friday sale, and to order her favorite hot and sour soup from the good Thai place, to drink gallons of chai with a cat in her lap, honoring the season instead of fearing it, leaning into the specificity of care instead of letting herself hear from anyone who would offer an opinion that she looks tired. What if she enjoyed the rhythm? What if she saw it as an opportunity to lay down the weight of harvest and endless growth and let herself lie fallow so she had something to show for herself in the spring? Maybe this is what the seasons were meant to do all along. Maybe she wasn’t dragged anywhere but right here, where she’s been in plain sight all along.

Or maybe one day, she walked out into the aloe green spring, and the cute guy at the coffee shop mentioned he hadn’t seen her around in a while and asked where she had been. Hell, she said, casually. It’s a joke, you see. It’s a metaphor for the hard work of wintering through a serotonin drought from bed (clicking “yes” on each passive aggressive “Are you still watching?”) that might have felt like hell at the time. And maybe it felt true enough. And maybe that’s how the story got started and she just never bothered to correct them. It gave her an air of mystery.Or maybe she simply wanted some part of her life to belong only to her, and hell seemed to be a good way to scare off the looky-loos. The ones who yearned for her sunshine when she would rather bake cinnamon rolls and sing show tunes to her cat.

Christy Tending (she/they) is an activist, writer, and mama living in Oakland, California. Their work has been published in Longreads, The Rumpus, and Electric Literature, among many others. Their first book, High Priestess of the Apocalypse, is forthcoming from ELJ Editions in 2024. You can learn more about their work at or follow Christy on Twitter @christytending.