Today is May 2, and while May 1 is traditionally May Day, I figured the second day of May was close enough to honor the upcoming season of fecundity and the bounty of summer But I must thank Sophie from Agents of Field for not only bringing May Day to my attention but also for providing additional information of the celebration, information I did not know.
May Day, of course, started as a holiday in many pre-Christian European pagan cultures, and it marked the first day of summer. May Day was a time for frolicking and folderol, a time to cut loose after winter’s confines and, I expect, its food scarcity. (Let’s just say that in Maine, May 1 is barely the beginning of spring, and between the cool weather and the blackflies, there’s not much inducement for frolicking. Nevertheless, I admire the spirit!)
In her post May Day Festivities, Sophie writes about “sprinting onto the lawn in my pjs and smearing May Day dew on my face which, according to ancient folklore, will guarantee lifelong beauty…” That was a new one for me, and although it’s probably too late, I sprinkled dew—all right, rain drops—from the cedars onto my face after I took a May Day picture of a hyacinth in bloom.
Then Sophie went on to write about Jack in the Green, a pagan character dressed in a cone of greenery. She tried to get her partner Ade to be Jack in the Green so that she could chase him up a hill and beat him with twigs. Apparently, Ade turned down the role, and after reading more about Jack’s leafy character, whom I knew nothing about, I understood why Ade was reluctant to play this fellow of the foliage.
Ah, the wonders of the Internet. From Agents of Field I skipped to Jack in the Green May Day Festival in Hastings, UK, where I learned about Jack’s dark fate. In Hastings, the Jack in the Green Festival is an annual event and ends with “the slaying of Jack, to release the spirit of summer for this year.” (Readers, if you have a chance, watch the short video of the parade on the Hastings’s website. Looks like quite the parade and one worth seeing.)
Oh, the merry month of May! In Maine, even though the weather is not quite as warm as we would like, it is a month of green beauty trimmed with a veil of flowering trees. It is a month in which to rejoice.
My friend Burni sends May greeting cards. What a lovely thing to do! If I can get my gardening under control, maybe I’ll do the same thing.
And I’ll watch out for Jack in the Green. Perhaps, out of the corner of my eye, I will catch a glimpse of him, streaking through the countryside as he is pursued by a fair woman ready to beat him with twigs.
I live about a quarter of a mile from the Upper and Lower Narrows Pond. I have lived here for thirty years, and I have never been able to figure out why they are called ponds. The catchment area is 8.5 square miles, and the water is 106 feet at its deepest.
It seems I am not the only one who thinks these bodies of water are too deep and too large to be considered ponds. There is a description of the Narrows Pond in Wikipedia, and it is so charmingly written that I can’t resist sharing the entire paragraph: “Narrows Pond is actually two small twin lakes in Winthrop, Maine. They are Upper and Lower Narrows Pond, and are divided by a very narrow isthmus, hence the name. The isthmus is traversed by Narrows Pond Road, and a culvert connects the two lakes. People in canoes or kayaks can travel between the two lakes, though only by ducking first.”
Most days, the dog and I walk to the Narrows, either by road or through the woods. Right now the snow is too deep in the woods, and as I don’t have snowshoes, I must stick to the road. In a way, I don’t mind because the prospect from the isthmus is so pleasing and photogenic that it’s hard to get a bad shot.
Yesterday, when Liam and I went to the Narrows, it was though I was looking at two entities with completely different personalities. The sky over the Upper Narrows was blue, which made everything bright and cheerful.
On the other hand, the sky over the Lower Narrows was gray, which gave it a frowning, moody look. The Upper and Lower Narrows reminded me of two siblings who are complete opposites, as siblings often are, yet each with a special beauty.
I know, I know. One should not anthropomorphize nature, but this seems to be a weakness of mine. While I respect science and facts, my mind tends toward flights of fancy. Fortunately, I do know the difference between fact and fancy and seldom, if ever, confuse them.
And as long as I am able to tell the two apart, I will not feel guilty about letting my mind take whatever fanciful flight it wants.
Yesterday was a rainy day, too wet to work in the gardens. Between showers, the dog and I walked to the Narrows, beautiful in any weather. On the way to the Narrows, I saw a stick studded with some kind of fungi. Unfortunately, I am very ignorant when it comes to identifying fungi, but I loved the pattern of the tan on the dark stick. Also, I liked how the leaves complemented the color of the fungi.
At the Narrows, the bright leaves punctuated the gray sky and water. This time, it was the contrast that caught my attention.
We stayed at the Narrows for a little while, admiring the gray water and bright leaves. On the way back, I saw more fungi, this time on dead trees by the water’s edge.
Then, my fanciful side took over. The fungi reminded me of noses, and I imagined that the trees weren’t dead at all. In fact, they were sentinels—Mr. Straight and Mr. Lean—standing guard over a watery kingdom, and they were at the ready to sniff out danger.
“Who goes there?,” I imagined Mr. Straight asking, as the nostrils flared in the various noses.
“I smells a dog. ‘e’s not far off.” Mr. Lean added. “And a ‘uman as well.”
“We’re friends,” I said. “We mean you no harm.”
By now all the nostrils were flaring, but I could see them relax as they sniffed out the truth.
“Well, go on with you then.”
Now why in the world did these Maine sentinels have a Cockney accent? Too much British television, too many English fantasy novels. No, instead the exchange should have gone something like this.
“Who’s that going by?” Mr. Straight asked. “I smell a dog and a human.”
“Ayuh,” Mr. Lean replied. “What are you doing heeya, sistah? You and that dog?”
“We’re just walking,” I answered. “And looking at the water.”
“Well, make sure that’s all you do,” Mr. Lean said.
“We don’t want no funny business around heeya,” Mr. Straight put in.
“No funny business,” I promised.
“Well, all right then.”
The dog and I passed the sentinels and walked home. Just as we got inside, it started pouring. What good timing!
And I thought of Mr. Straight and Mr. Lean down by the Lower Narrows, guarding the water from any funny business.