‘The month of May in England , so long awaited, is the flower studded crown of spring, the final rising of the curtain on all we’d been promised, the shimmering threshold to the mansions of summer’
This weekend sees the 1st May, which marks the midway point between the spring and summer solstice. It is, in essence, the very height of spring; the culmination of weeks of blousy and heady growth in the natural world; of flirtatious blossom and the unfurling of leaf.
We have this year, been blessed with an immense amount of blue skied backdrop to all of this celebration. The light of the mornings have been a particular joy, dancing as they do on the floorboards by my bed, but the glory of spring is that even on the duller days, when the clouds offer up a more sombre pallete, there is always something heart lifting that draws the eye; stray bluebells in the hedgerows, clumps of cowslips, that electric green of new leaf.
But much as I love the flowers- and who doesn’t- my favourite thing about this time of year are the trees. Most have begun to leaf, some more fully than others- but almost all are in this liminal place, where there is enough leaf for colour, but not so much that the structure of the tree has been rendered invisible. The thoughtful mother of a friend pointed out this particular window to me, when I was eighteen and - I thought- unconcerned by such things, but I have never forgotten it. Nor failed to notice that for a very short time it makes every tree look like a painting.
For the spiritual rather than the religious, and those still wedded to the cycles of the land, May 1st is a big celebration. Across the world traditions abound and have always done; ritual fire lighting and even leaping, the making and offering of flower garlands, parades and dancing abound. It is in many places, a day of merriment and off work.
Many of our own rituals have been lost to the passage of time and our disconnect from anything that doesn’t offer up a consumer opportunity. But in rural England of old, it was always the norm to go May walking, to crown a May King and Queen, to dance around maypoles ( a tradition happily resurrected briefly by my children’s little village school for several years and which was pure delight) and to feast and frolic, ritually and with abandonment.
Spring itself was being celebrated, but also all the things we associate with it; abundance, beauty, fertility and creativity- an acknowledgement that life, at this very point is at its zenith but also a marker of all that is still to come. Because as beautiful as the start of May is, it is also the window on the rest of the light part of the year and is celebrated as such. In a sense it is not just the leaves are unfurling but our capacity for hope too.