Kate Abbott: May Day returns with signs of warmth


'I was spading up the earth in the dahlia bed when the children came up, a shouting band of them just out of school, and noticed that the angleworms were 'out.' This first indubitable sign of spring in Vermont always suggests to adolsecent Vermonters the first fishing expedition. But 10-year-olds and under think of the early brood of first-hatched chicks."

Dorothy Canfield wrote in 1923, in a collection of essays called "Raw Material," about her young neighbors. I first read those lines more than 10 years ago. My friend, Mary Lawrence, showed me the book. Mary was in her 90s then, and I used to cook dinner for her once a week. We would look through her newest "Common Reader" catalog at the out-of-print volumes they had rescued, and she would ask me to go out and see whether the bloodroot had bloomed yet in her backyard.

Those few lines from her old hardback Canfield stayed with me for years. Maybe it's the simple warm-evening energy in those children shouting to each other to come get worms to feed the chicks. Maybe it's the warm season coming.

When I was a child one of my neighbors came over on May Day morning to bring me a basket of freshly picked flowers and a small gift. I haven't seen a May basket in years, but it can feel good to remember the season has moved a step.

So if you don't dance a May pole today, or drink a May cup of white wine, strawberries and sweet woodruff, or light a Beltane candle ... you might rake out a garden bed or look for a crocus in bloom.


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