Welcome Merry May! Juicy, open-wombed May beckons to Jack-in-the-Green, “Come hither my love.” May Eve invites us to stay awake all night to witness the first bird calls of dawn. The world is created anew, year after year, as if for the first time.
When last I wrote, the lawn beneath my window was dotted with clumps of melting snow. Today dandelions sprout there like yellow stars in a green firmament. The lusty month of May is upon us. The ancient Celts welcomed this growing season with bonfires and celebrations for the returning sun, venerated as the god Belenus, whose name is preserved in Beltane, the Gaelic word for this cross quarter holiday. Throughout Britain and Ireland even today, people build bonfires and dance around beribboned May poles to bring in the May.
One legend says that if a young woman bathes her face in the dew on May Day morning before sunrise, her beauty will never fade. I think I missed that opportunity, for I have begun to grow old. What beauty is left comes from an inner grace rather than the elasticity of youthful skin. Yet, the earth’s outpouring of new growth quickens my spirit. I begin to imagine the possibilities of the decade of my seventies, a decade that was hidden from my younger eyes. What once seemed desiccated and moldering, now seems verdant and alive.
As we welcome the merry month of May, there are questions for us crones to ponder. As the time before us shortens, what choices are ours to make? What responsibilities to ourselves and others do we still need to fulfill? Within the fertile ground of our souls, what seeds must we tend and encourage to blossom? What sweet or pungent fragrance are we called to contribute to life’s bouquet? The deeper our roots grow toward death, the sweeter the blossoms sent forth by our old branches to perfume the May.
In late April, I spent a day in retreat to commemorate my wedding anniversary. It was raining, but I set out for a walk anyway. My mind was occupied with its ordinary buzz of thoughts when from the corner of my eye, I saw the flash of a heron’s great gray wing disappearing over a pond. Ah, I thought, that is my husband’s spirit reminding me to be present in the moment.
I stand—along with a lone horse in a paddock—to bear witness with gratitude and joy to this day. I can feel the energy of the trees rising deep from within their roots and inching their branches toward heaven. Mesmerized, I watch rain drops queue up for take-off from the tips of pine needles. Overhead birds are filled with purpose. Crows are feeding their fledglings on mice, and robins feeding theirs on worms. Nearby, the bells of Mount Saint Mary’s Abbey ring the call to vespers. In this moment, time is kissed by eternity.
The Maypole brings together not only earth and sky, male and female, life and death, but also the inner and outer dimensions of our being. We weave the pole as a community. Who do we include in the dance? Our ribbons are of many colors. Is that diversity reflected in the skin hues and political views of the dancers? Let us dance together, one people, our souls radiating divine love. May this love plant seeds of peace in our hearts.