Today is cold and gray and rather more like February than April, but there have been some signs of spring in the last week. We had a few very bright, sunny days with clear blue skies. Raising my eyes from my book I looked out of the window on the top deck of the bus as we passed the nearby graveyard. The trees are still mostly skeletal, but from the upper deck I could see little green shoots budding in the spring morning light, the branches gently scratching along the bus roof.
On Princes Street the blossoms are slowly growing and flowering on the trees in the Gardens (see Xenarche’s Fotolog here for a lovely picture of the blossoms). The rising sun was filtered right through the branches, bathing everything in a warm, golden glow. The tulips and daffodils are bright against a grass which is becoming more verdant – the whole place is slowly re-greening as the Caledonian soil awakes from its winter slumber, the miracle of the seaons; rebirth and renewal returns to us once again. Within only a few days everything is noticeably greener – in a few weeks we will have that incredibly lush multiple mosaic of a thousand rich shades of green.
No wonder our ancestors incorporated this seasonal, natural event into their mytholgies the world over. Birth, death and rebirth litter our collective folklore and mythologies across all cultures and histories, from the very oldest such as Gilgamesh through Isis and Osiris, Demeter and eventually adapted to Christ (sorry to the religious among you – to you it is an article of faith, and fair enough, but to me it is a fascinating adaptation of a mythic archetype as old as humanity). It even enters our more normal, profane, everyday life – we talk about people being ‘reborn’ and changed by experiences, effectively like the heroes and gods of myth, dying to their old existence to accept death/change in order to be reborn.
I’ve been reading A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong this week on the bus, which fitted what I was looking at perfectly. It is a very short but absorbing read sent to me by a chum at Edinburgh’s Canongate books which serves as a primer to an amazing new series they are doing, where contemporary authors will rework any piece of world myth they choose (Margaret Atwood is doing the Penelopiad, reworking the tale of Ulysses from Penelope’s point of view). The series mirrors the world-wide nature of shared human myth by having the simultaneous publishing of the first books by 24 publishers around our little world – a very intersting idea and one I’ll hopefully be able to support at work since these books will, by their nature, appeal to the literary-minded fantasy readers.
Also had the pleasure of re-reading Alasdair Gray’s A History Maker from Canongate, who published a new and revised edition (Alasdair can’t resist tinkering and I don’t think he ever considers any work finished). It is a short but fascinating take on the Utopian SF story by one of the most respected of living Scottish writers, complete with his trademark artwork and notes. Its a great little meditation on politics, war, society, gender roles and human nature and society. Goes perfectly with the recent limited edition Jocasta novel from Brian Aldiss, re-working the Theban Plays by Sophocles