Celebrating the Month of May
by James Nichol, reposted from his Blog, Contemplative Inquiry
The Irish name for May is Bealtaine. Linguistically at least, the May Day festival sets the scene for a calendar month. As I experience the wheel of the year in my own life, this feels right. May, the merry month, has always been special to me. Born towards the end of the month in 1949, I continue to feel newer and fresher in May, with a heightened sense of life. Changes happening around me, in the rest of nature, feed that sense. I’m part of something bigger.
The demarcation of time might be a product of human counting and naming, but it doesn’t feel arbitrary to me. Counting and naming have a magic of their own. On 14 May 2023 I went on a morning walk, reaching a small wooded area at about 7.45 am. It was a time of dispersing mists and strengthening light. A time of warming up. I enjoyed it from the start, but there came a moment when my experience of the walk changed radically.
I see the wood. I stand at its edge. Hawthorn invites me in, decked in the green and white of the May season. I understand this as a moment for slowing down and shifting into a softer, more intuitive connection with the realm I am entering. I am moving into a kind of sacrament – a communion with nature in a unique time and place. I feel a joyful kind of reverence here, free of solemnity and unction. As I continue slowly on the path, sunlight, striking a slender tree trunk, illuminates my way.
Then comes a tanglewood immersion. Variations in wood. Variations in green. Variations in light – especially light. This place could be dark and dank. At times, no doubt, it appropriately is. But it is May now, and wonderfully backlit. There’s a yellowing of green that points to new light and growth rather than their decay. I have a strong sense of participating in a living world. My own vitality is boosted.
I am now drawn towards water. Again, some foliage is shaded. Other foliage is vividly lit up. On the water, the mist is still clearing. It is still fairly early in the day. It is at times like this that I feel most Druidic, very at home and blessed in this quiet connectedness.
A little later, I crouch at the water margin’s edge. Whereas the previous scene had a spacious serenity, this has intimations of activity, a small but crowded world of its own, with thriving plants and and a thriving sub aquatic realm beside them. Even in this small space, life is complex and abundant. The same holds, on a somewhat expanded scale, to this vulnerable scrap of woodland as a whole. I emerge from my sacrament refreshed and renewed, with the imprint of Bealtaine 2023 upon me.