May Days

Since I speak so often of the wind, the wordsmith suggests Breezy Bluff as a name for this place. Breeze sounds a gentle puff to me, part of “warm airs,” but I can see from the National Weather Service website that the wordsmith is accurate in her word use (not surprising). Still, forecasts of “breezy with gusts” seem windy.

Differences in temperature between sea and land or a stronger than normal cold front, can make early May weather unsettled and turbulent. Frances and I wait it out on the window seat on the east side of the house, where I can’t see the wind-whipped whitecaps on the Strait. I do watch the flexible stems of ocean spray and saskatoon, bedecked in new leaves, windblown into shimmering spirals – flush with the color of the Green Man and ready for a new season.

I’m Irish enough to feel kinship with the slightly different calendar quadrants of the Celts. Beltane, May Day, marks the first of the six most light-filled months, and how quickly we forget the darkness – open shades to welcome daylight before six in the morning, eat supper long before sunset.

Catherine Swift, in her rich book “The Morville Hours,” mingles the story of making a garden with an exploration of Books of Hours. She labels May  “the month for Courting and Making Music, for Hawking and Riding, for wearing your best clothes and showing yourself off.” In the agriculture calendar of old, May marks “a pause after the heavy labour of spring ploughing and sowing, and before the summer harvest.”

Our soil begins to reach the magical 50° – the temperature needed for plants to take up nutrients. Air temperature warms as well, and a few days ago, before the cold front, I could shed my jacket and clean up the vegetable bed. Plant spinach, chard, and kale starts.

Replace old thyme grown woody after three years, with new plants of English thyme. Trim back the flourishing, stalwart French sorrel – so tasty in eggs nearly all year long. Plant more peas to replace the ones eaten by birds (they cast aside the little three-inch shoots to pluck out the pea). Cover peas this time.

Plants definitely show themselves off this month: on the woods walk, we negotiate a path become tunnel with arching salmonberry overhead. Sword ferns tickle thighs with each step. Rhododendron, always a surprise to me in the woods but charming in that setting – glow with bouquets of party-pink blossoms.

Clematis Montana rubra decorates the courtyard gate with pearly-pink petals. Pink also blushes pasque flower and a perfect bud on a potted rose. Tiny  blooms of the groundcovers sweet woodruff, starflower, and beach strawberry bedeck every garden bed (perhaps they frolic too vigorously).

Flowers winding around the “sticks” transform the new columnar apples into Maypoles fit for the merry month of May – only lacking ribbons to flutter in the breeze .

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