This month’s blog writer, Gail M. Murray, explores the month of May as it appears in both history and verse.
May reminds me of Scarborough Music Theatre’s production of Lerner and Lowe’s Camelot. I’m securing silk daisies in my hair before bursting on stage to perform our dazzling production number “The Lusty Month of May”. As members of Lady Guinevere’s court, we frolic among the flowers, as we go a-maying. Guinevere, more sensuous earth goddess than regal queen, meets celibate Lancelot at the end of this romp.
Tra la, it’s May, the lusty month of May
That darling month when everyone throws self-control away
It’s May, it’s May that gorgeous holiday
When all the world is brimming with fun, wholesome or un-
Earliest known May celebrants revered Flora, the roman goddess of flowers, as well as Dionysus (god of wine, fruitfulness and ecstasy), and Aphrodite (goddess of beauty, love and gardens). Italian Renaissance artist Botticelli’s iconic Primavera symbolizes spring with Flora as centerpiece. Our dancing is joyous, full of spins and lifts. At one point the men entwine arms and lift the maids off the floor mimicking the ancient circular maypole. Exuberant revellers delight in nature’s abundance.
What’s in bloom? May blooms are richly scented. Guinevere sings “Whence this fragrance wafting through the air? Whence this perfume floating everywhere?” Inhale the heady lilacs, lily of the valley, waxy white magnolias, and pastel apple blossoms. Relating and reflecting on nature inspires many poets, artists, and photographers, myself included.
Peonies’ luscious layers of petals combine with a heavenly scent. Could a bloom be more decadent? Does beauty come with a double edged sword? Just look at Mary Oliver’s Peonies:
This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers
and they open
pools of lace
white and pink
the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air
all that dampness and recklessness
Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot into the garden
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers
with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
Author Gail M. Murray posing with peonies at Oshawa Botanical Gardens
After the grey brown barrenness of winter, we’re starved for warmth, color, activity. Living through this pandemic, we can rejoice in parks and gardens, resonate with nature’s resilience. Perhaps this month turns many into Romantics. Can we pass a planting of daffodils without a nod to Wordsworth:
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils
Beside the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
This most certainly is the month when like poet Sara Teasdale we feel her joy:
I catch my breath and sing—
My heart is fresh and fearless
and over-brimmed with spring.
May the beauty of this month resonate and inspire us all.