This post’s title and content refers to the old European meaning of May Day.
A festival of ancient origins marking the beginning of summer, usually celebrated on 1 May, around halfway between the spring equinox and summer solstice. Traditions often include gathering wildflowers and green branches, weaving floral garlands, crowning a May Queen (sometimes with a male companion), and setting up a Maypole, May Tree or May Bush, around which people dance.Wikipedia
As a child growing up near Seattle in the late 1950s and early 1960s, I was encouraged to pick wildflowers – dandelions, usually, but maybe an early daffodil or two – and put them into a “vase” made of paper decorated with my crayon doodlings. I’d leave my wildflower offering on the doorstep of neighbors after ringing their doorbell and running away before they opened the door.
Does any child still do this?
I thought about that old tradition as my dogs and I spent a wonderful morning tramping through my neighbors’ fields and woods this morning, this May Day.
In this climate, finding flowers to include in a May Day bouquet would be challenging.
Still, I did see some early wildflowers: coltsfoot (feature photo; looking a lot like dandelions), and wild violets.
More wildflowers will follow, soon. I’m eager to learn about them.
This morning’s walk provided me with several other harbingers of spring/summer: the chorus of frogs chirping from the marsh; the mating melodies of songbirds in the trees; the honking of Canada geese protecting their nesting territory on a pond; the thrum of a small private airplane’s engine flying directly overhead after a long winter sheltered in a hanger. (If you’ve read my book, Growing Up Boeing, you know why the sound of private airplane engines has significant emotional meaning for me.)
It has been a long winter, yes, but no longer than what I was accustomed to in Idaho’s mountains. Winter is why I chose Vermont. I love living through distinct seasons, and the dogs and I all love snow.
Still, by March and April, I’m ready for winter to be done and spring to arrive.
Winter’s long and snowy hush means a greater appreciation for spring’s exuberant bursting of new life: the vibrant greens of grass, tree buds, ferns, and bold bulb leaves bursting through the saturated soil, announcing their claim on the new season; the trilling of newly-arrived songbirds hiding in the trees as they go about their mating rituals, staking their territories; the deep blue skies and sparkling sunlit ponds making the landscape vibrant, shimmering, and alive with possibility.
It’s all amazing.
This May Day, as my dogs and I meandered through fields and woods, temperatures edging into the 50s and even low 60sF, engaging all our senses as winter finally gives way to spring and summer, I realized how lucky we are.
Every day brings us a new gift – in sight, smell, and hearing – if only we’re willing to be still and absorb it. I’m challenged to learn new plants and birds. I love a challenge.
I didn’t dance around a Map Pole today. I didn’t gather wildflowers to leave in paper vases on neighbors’ porches. I did, though, appreciate all that May Day signifies: a celebration of the beginning of summer, or – here in Vermont – a late spring and what feels like a hint of summer.
I did, thought, dance a few giddy steps along our path in the woods after stopping to listen to a chorus of frogs.