May Day always takes me by surprise. It is one of the holidays we do up big every year, a glorious day with good friends, live music, lots of food, and a spirited maypole dance. We’ve been doing it for so many years now that even if we didn’t plan it, people would still come to our house to celebrate. And perhaps most importantly to me, our May Day party has become a real fixture in the lives of many children in our community. I love all of it, and the joy that is generated from that gathering keeps me going for weeks afterward.
Still, there is this feeling of whiplash that I associate with the ramp-up to a major holiday. I start by making room in my day for the tasks that prepare for the event: sweeping the porch, doing the big Costco shop, cleaning chairs and tables, ordering the beer, gathering ribbonsâ€”it all dices down to discreet tasks. So I start crossing off To Do items as I work my way down the list, and then the whiplash hits me: This isn’t just another chore, not just another errand. I am cleansing and purifying this ritual space, I am stocking up for a great feast of gratitude and shared blessings. Oh right, I have to move into Dreamtime.
That point came upon me today. In between selling a car, managing property, helping Jojo with her science fair report, feeding the elderly father-in-law, and washing our dog who’d just rolled in cowshit, I was attending to some of the many pre-May Day clean-up projects around here. It all got to be too much, and then I remembered, as I always do each year, that these chores aren’t just about making more efficient use of my time. They’re about entering the ritual zone. I had to slow down in order to realize it, but overall I don’t think it’s about taking a physically slower pace but a psychically slower one.
One of our kids’ favorite picture booksâ€”and one of ours tooâ€”was called Nata. It was about a fairy who loses her wings and grows new ones every year on Summer Solstice. But there’s some sort of a spell on all of her garden friends so that no one ever remembers why Nata is so cranky, why Nata can’t fly, why Nata is tearing about in a rage all of a sudden. No one, except the old toad who lives in the garden. The toad tries to tell everyone that this happens every year, but of course no one believes him. Sort of a Cassandra figure. Anyway, the story is humorous and charming, and my internal dialogue today (“It’s always like this, but you never remember”) really reminds me of the wise toad. (Find a link to the book Nata here.)