Thursday, May 1, 2014


"For it giveth unto all lovers courage, that lusty month of May."
—Thomas Malory, Le Morte D'Arthur         

What a marvelous day for beginning a new month!

There are multihued warblers flitting among the treetops, tree swallows wheeling and swooping above the Cottage Pool, and a rowdy gaggle of mallards and Canada geese up from the river and keeping a wary eye on one another as they share the scoops of cracked corn I tossed out earlier.

The sky, a dazzling oceanic-blue, is spattered with puffy white clouds, and a king's ransom of honey-gold sunshine is streaming down. 

Who cares if the temperature is only 55˚F? 

Not me…and not the Carolina wren who's been filling my morning with song from his perch on the deck rail. Or the young groundhog, recently waddled forth from his snug burrow on the driveway bank, to sort through the latest scraps of leafy greenery, vegetable peelings, and bits of fruit I've left for him on the compost heap.

It's been years since I've seen a decorated Maypole; decades since I've witnessed a group of boys and girls actually weaving those bright ribbon streamers as they circled one. And about the same length of time since I've heard about anyone having gone a'mayin'—though when I was growing up, on this first day of the month, it wasn't at all uncommon for country folks to head for the woods and fields with a basket under their arm for "bringin' in the May."

Given the schedule, work, issues, and general nonsense I've endure these last couple of weeks—chilly temps or not, going for leisurely tramp in the woods this afternoon sounds like a pretty dandy idea.         


The Weaver of Grass said...

Friends and I were saying this yesterday Grizz. When we were young May Day was such an event and every village had a Maypole. Sad that, like many other country customs, it has disappeared.

Grizz………… said...


Sad, indeed…and irritating. I just don't understand why so many things like this—customs, traditions, bits of our history, who we are, where we come from—suddenly get relegated to footnote status in a dusty textbook—or its equivalent pigeonhole on the internet.

George said...

I share your sentiments about May, Grizz. I think those maypoles and the related activities of "bringing in the May" were mindful celebrations of the gift of life itself, and its sad when such reminders disappear from culture. Great shot of the Carolina wren. Here at my new home in South Carolina, the Carolina wrens that swarm the bird feeders outside my kitchen window are first live creatures (other than Derry, my dog) that I see and hear each morning.

George said...

P.S. You might want to check out Rowan's current posting on Beltane/May Day at Circle of the Year ( Among other things, she points out that Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan government banned Maypoles and related May celebrations as early as 1644.

Grizz………… said...

George X 2…

When I was a kid, the elementary school I attended always put up a Maypole. And classes, grades 1-8, celebrated the day with various activities, including interweaving ribbon streamers while dancing/marching (depending on attention span and group coordination) around the Maypole.

In fact, our May 1 school event was pretty much an full-day outdoors deal, with games, sports, music, cotton candy, popcorn, a hot-dog stand, clowns and local magicians walking around doing tricks (teachers in disguise, maybe?) kids in costumes, etc. Kind of a cross between a carnival and a picnic, with some softball and assorted goofiness mixed in…but a much anticipated mini spring break, and probably as much beloved by teachers as students.

Too, many of the smaller rural towns and villages held fairly elaborate May Day celebrations—Maypoles, ribbon-dances, electing a May Queen, etc. That's gone now, too.

Plus I well remember many of the older folks actually taking their baskets and heading afield to gather wildflowers, ferns, and bits of greenery which was often used afterwards to weave a small garland for the door, table, or to wear atop the head. "Bringing in the May," they said.

Of course most communist and socialist countries, in the name of labor and freedom, choose to use May Day to parade their armament and goose-stepping troops through downtown squares. Talk about a paradox!

I hadn't read Rowan's excellent and lovely post about May Day when I stuck mine up, but I have now. As always, she's covered several bits of it's old history very well. I've written any number of articles and columns on the same, over the years, and found most readers are surprised to learn how long and rich its history is among various cultures. One interesting thing I remember noticing during my research is how many of the really old Scottish poems play up the lusty aspects of the day…which, as I came to learn, rightly implied that many of the celebration's details were, um, rather bawdy if not downright X-rated. Obviously those kilt-wearing, ruddy-cheeked citizenry of yore were doing more than gamboling about their highland glens, listening to the distant sound of caterwauling bagpipes, while sipping Laphroaig and Glenlivet. Nope, red deer and salmon weren't all they stalked come May.

KGMom said...

Scribe--I wonder if some of the demise of things such as maypoles doesn't have a bit to do with how our cultural center is shifting. I do not decry the shift--after all, there were many celebrations and ceremonies in place when the first European settlers landed here in the New World. They pushed aside such celebrations as pagan or whatever.
Now we see the rise of other celebrations--some faux, it's true--but celebrating other cultural origins. So we have Cinco de Mayo (not really celebrated in Mexico) but associated with the rising numbers of Latino people in the U.S.
Next it will be some other newer immigrant group that brings its traditions along.
On the other hand, May give us all reason enough to celebrate--whatever our inheritance. Blue skies, balmy breezes, singing birds, etc.

Grizz………… said...


[Sorry to be slow in posting this and replying…but I've been having some computer issues these last few days; doing anything online has been problematic.]

As our nation now seems to be shifting toward some sort of impious socialism, practically all our history and values are fast eroding right along with so many of our freedoms. Precursive of the eventual decline all cultures experience given their particular allotment of time, I guess. Yet I wish we would have been wise enough as a people to see the worth in saving more of our heritage while still embracing new ideas and experiences.

Cinco de Mayo, like St. Patrick's Day, are both essentially American inventions in the sense that neither is paid much attention to in their "home" country—certainly not to the trivializing partying extent we annually demonstrate. As to those people already here when waves of Europeans began arriving, they did have their own forms of worship ceremonies and meaningful celebrations, too. And wouldn't it have been wonderfully enriching if we'd paid attention and learned something? But, as they say, "new brooms sweep clean." Mayday along with its centuries of tradition and meaning, is now all but swept into oblivion.