By Ashley Wahl
May is a blushing bride, lips sweet as plump strawberries, humming an ancient rhyme for luck.
Something old (snakeskin), something new (four eggs), something borrowed (birdhouse), something blue (songbird).
The second stanza starts with honeyed warbles. Tu-a-wee sings the bluebird on the pitched roof of the birdhouse. Tu-a-wee trills the bluebird at the nest.
Verse three is the sound of movement through soft grass. In the black of night — a shadowy flash — four eggs swallowed one by one.
Lucky rat snake, with its new skin, its luscious fluidity, its bellyful of tender life.
Lucky rabbit, nibbling in the garden at dawn, bellyful of baby lettuce, salad greens, Swiss chard, snow peas.
May is a banquet, a ceremony, a celebration.
It is the vow from bee to flower, flower to bee. The sacred oath to give until there is nothing left.
And there is so much here.
An apple blossom for the maiden. Wild berries for the groom. An ancient rhyme. Sweet nectar and the tender, green promise of a full and luscious life — pleasant and bitter, in darkness and in light.
It was such a spring day as breathes into a man an ineffable yearning, a painful sweetness, a longing that makes him stand motionless, looking at the leaves or grass, and fling out his arms to embrace he knows not what. ― John Galsworthy, The Forsyte Saga
Behold the earliest strawberries, fat and sweet. Like love notes from summer, ripe for the picking.
And if ever you picked them straight from the bush, perhaps you’ve noticed that they smell as scrumptious as they taste. Members of the rose family, strawberry plants are perennial. Fruit can be picked green (pickle them) or ripe (you’ll know what to do), but don’t fret if they’ve gone a bit soft. Instead, make wine — or jam.
You won’t need much: Two pounds of fresh strawberries (mash them), four cups of white sugar and one-fourth cup of fresh lemon juice. One heavy bottomed saucepan, too.
Stir mixture over low heat until sugar dissolves, then bring to a full rolling boil, stirring often, for about 15 minutes.
Sure, you can transfer to hot sterile jars, seal and process — or save yourself the trouble. Let cool and eat right away.
The May Wreath
May takes its name from the Roman goddess Maia, midwife of plants, flowers and the riotous beauty of spring.
Speaking of flowers, it’s time to gather them.
On the first of the month, May Day, celebrate this fertile, fruitful season by fashioning a wreath of twigs and greenery. Weave in wildflowers: crab apple, dogwood, painted trillium. Add pomegranate, garlic, herbs and nettle. Hang it on your door until midsummer night.
Wreath-making is an ancient Greek custom believed to ward off evil and invite prosperity. The act itself is a sacred dance between the weaver and the natural world.