The Merry Month of May starts tomorrow, and last week’s warmth and sunshine gave a big boost to May wildflowers. Green is now everywhere, bursting open on trees and branches, and delicate little flowers are coming into the world. I guess all flowers have sweet names, but the tender shoots in spring are especially endearing–buttercup, johnny-jump-up, yellow bell, grape hyacinth, forget-me-not, viola. In my woods, the tendrils of virgin’s bower are sprouting their yellow-green leaves and any day now, the pale lavender bell-shaped flower will appear on the vine. They all bring such delight after winter, and a promise that life, which can feel ever so fragile, goes on, and that we can depend upon springtime.
It’s misty this morning–one of my favorite kinds of days–after some nice rainfall. The water is so life affirming. On my walks, the air is starting to fill with the soft scent of blooming blossoms. When I saw this tiny buttercup, cuddled into soft moss, I thought of the heart-breaking poem, The Ice Cream Man, by Michael Longley, a contemporary Irish poet who writes about the natural world, and the civil war sorrows of Northern Ireland, “The Troubles”. With his lovely Irish voice, you have to really listen to him read it, and you will tremble in its beauty. The American poet, Ted Kooser, once wrote that a good poem will make you see something differently, and it will never be the same again. It’s hard for me to see a delicate wildflower and not think of Longley’s poem, written for his daughter, Sarah, in which he balances the sadness in the world with the beauty in the names of flowers.
Rum and raisin, vanilla, butterscotch, walnut, peach:
You would rhyme off the flavours. That was before
They murdered the ice-cream man on the Lisburn Road
And you bought carnations to lay outside his shop.
I named for you all the wild flowers of the Burren
I had seen in one day: thyme, valerian, loosestrife,
Meadowsweet, tway blade, crowfoot, ling, angelica,
Herb robert, marjoram, cow parsley, sundew, vetch,
Mountain avens, wood sage, ragged robin, stitchwort,
Yarrow, lady’s bedstraw, bindweed, bog pimpernel.