Tra La It’s May

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.

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

          blazing open

          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,

          their eagerness

          to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are

          nothing, forever?

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. 

4 thoughts on “Tra La It’s May”

  1. Oh Gail,
    How wonderfully woven…this sumptuous lyrical garden of yours…a joyous gift to wander through…thank you.


  2. Gail…
    This is so beautiful; flowers, verse, your recollections and inimitable style of writing in sensory fullness.
    The pics and quotes are so fitting. Thanks
    polly Clarke


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