Summer flowers and strange stories
Maytime is the nicest time,
Birds are loud,
Trees are green,
Ploughs are in the furrow,
Oxen in the yoke,
The sea is green
Lands have many colours.
When cuckoos sing
On the tops of fine trees
In May it really feels like summer is shaking off the last of the winter chills and stretching itself into warmth and richness. There is a sense of promise. There is already a rush of new life – I saw my first fledgling blue tits a few days ago, all fluffy and optimistic on a branch – and
now the swallows are here and swifts are working their way north
Traditionally, whole communities seem to be following that seasonal pattern and revving up for a lively summer. After the solemnity and wonder of a Christian Easter, there comes the revels of Mayday and the older echoes of Beltane. Then Rogationtide arrives with its processions and Beating the Bounds and Ascension Day when the oldest surviving Well Dressing in Derbyshire at Tissington takes place to accompany the Blessing of the Wells. May isn’t finished with festivals, managing to crowd into Whitsun at the end of the month Oak Apple Day, Arbor Day and the Castleton Garland parades and more.
share a Maytime poem or prayer or blessing with us!
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In these days of distance and not going to local festivals, simply enjoying the flowers on your walks is a good entry to summer. Take time to appreciate them and really notice the colours they bring: from forget-me-nots dusting lawns with blue to cherry blossom like late snow falling. Look at the intensity of a dandelion’s yellow, savour the scent of bluebells under the trees. Try to just look and not judge…don’t wander along muttering “weeds, weeds and another weed”. Use your nature eyes and see what visits different flowers. The hoverflies are picking up just now, those cheerful little wasp-striped but harmless insects who hang poised above bright blooms. The bumblebee queens of April have hopefully established their colonies and a first wave of workers will be visiting flowers now. Flowering cherries and berberis in parks are great places to do a bit of bumble-watching
Play with your words again…a good game to try with a friend. Describe the flowers you see…if you don’t know a plant’s name simply build a description:
Pirate gold yellow,
Stolen promise yellow,
Dragon’s eye yellow,
Bumblebee’s delight yellow
(add a contrast)
But soft yellow,
The yellow of gentle delight
It is May. A time for faerie tales, too. With the flowers come Hawthorn, the Queen of the May, carrying stories in her branches, secrets in her blossoms and winter richness on her haws. And, of course, there are bluebells, enchanting the woods. Faerie flowers. Flowers to tempt you into the deep woods. Flowers to lull you into a century-long sleep under the oak leaves. Flowers of wonder and danger
Try skipping your way through the old singing game "In and out the dusty bluebells...". there are many variations of the words and different versions of its origins. I like to feel the company are being quietly spirited away...until, like the Pied Piper's children, there is only one left to tell the tale...
Let’s finish this stepping into May flowers and stories with a blessing prayer to St Magnus from the Northern Isles
“Lift our flocks to the hills,
Quell the wolf and the fox
Ward from us spectre, giant, fury and oppression
Sprinkle dew from the sky upon kine,
Give growth to grass and corn and sap to plants,
Watercress, deer’s grass, ceis and burdock and daisy." (2)
1. Black Book of Carmarthen, trans Meirion Pennar, Llanerch press, 1989
“hermit poetry – incandescent pieces created out in the open, in the God-created wild…” describing this 12th century Welsh poem
2. Carmina Gadelica, Vol 1 or No 72 in the Floris Books reprint. No-one seems sure what “ceis” is!