Kieran Shields here, checking in at Maine Crime Writers’ in the coveted May Day spot. Okay, maybe “coveted” is too strong a word. But as an almost, sort-of, honorary kind of holiday, at least May Day provides fodder for a blog topic. I am talking about the holiday here and not the “Mayday!” distress call.
Although, now that I think about it, the distress call might be a more fitting topic of discussion for a writer. I’ve just finished writing a new book, a process that sometimes it feels a bit like steering an unwieldy ship that’s battling the waves, taking on water, and could go down at any moment. I’m hoping I can bring it in to a safe harbor somewhere. Hoping someone will hear my “Mayday” distress call, or see the flare shot off in hopes of getting the attention of publishers and readers. But then I turn on the ship’s radio and hear hundreds of other writers calling “Mayday!” And I look into the night sky and am nearly blinded by the thousand other flares arcing through the air. That’s when I briefly wonder if there’s more sense in selling flares than in writing.
But I digress from the topic at hand–May 1st. Truth be told, I had to do a bit of research to make sure I got my May Day facts straight, since typically I don’t give this day much thought. In The U.S., May Day has fallen by the wayside, a victim of its Cold War era association with communist worker’s movements. Clearly, though, the holiday ought to get more attention. After all, it was once banned by the Puritans, which pretty much constitutes proof that it’s a day worth celebrating. Now I just have to figure out how I should commemorate it.
May Day celebrations date from pre-Christian times, with the festival of Flora (no, not Maine Crime Writer, Kate, but the Roman goddess of flowers) and events like the Celtic festival of Beltane. The latter involved huge bonfires to banish the cold winter nights and herald the arrival of summer. Warm weather would certainly be cause for celebration around these parts, where winter just refused to admit defeat well into April.
Options for celebrating include traditional British May Day events such as crowning the May Queen, and dancing around the Maypole. According to Wikipedia, these traditions came down from old Anglo-Saxon festivals held during the month of May, which they called “Thrimilci-mōnath,” aka the Month of Three Milkings. Clearly such a banner month would be cause for celebration, because let’s face it, months filled with only one or two milkings are just the worst.
Since I don’t own any cows, or a milk pail, or a Maypole, I need a different method to celebrate. I’m going with an option inspired by the old-fashioned May Baskets, which would be filled with flowers or treats and left on the doorstep of someone you wanted to impress. Then the basket-giver would ring the bell and run away. That’s what I’ve chosen to do this year, in a manner of speaking. Being a writer, instead of an actual basket with treats, I’ve sent off the email equivalent. Attached to that email is the first draft of that new book I’ve been writing. It doesn’t have a home yet. It’s not the latest in a series or a book that anyone has requested or even talked about. It’s just something I’ve been working on and hoping I could steer into a nice, safe harbor somewhere.
Now I don’t have to ring the doorbell and run away, I just have to wait for a response. But it pretty much amounts to the same thing. Waiting to see if someone likes what I left on their digital doorstep. Did they consider it a May Day “treat” or more of a Halloween variety doorstep “gift,” the kind that often shows up in a flaming bag. Only time will tell whether I should be celebrating or sending out louder distress calls. But, for the moment, it’s May 1st and summer’s on the horizon in Maine, which is about as far from distress as you can get. Merry May Day!
Neat column and best of luck with the new manuscript. Some of us were permanently scarred by never getting May baskets when we were kids. I guess it was a major contributing factor to becoming a writer of dark and evil tales.
John, your comment made me chuckle and picture Charlie Brown repeatedly checking his ever-empty mailbox on Valentine’s Day. On the bright side, if the May Baskets were the worst of your childhood traumas, then you’re doing alright.
Kieran, this blog post has such a fascinating combination of lore, whimsy, truth, and momentum it was a joy to read.
Wishing your manuscript a successful landing. Perhaps we should build a nice bonfire to celebrate when it does.
Happy May Day to you.
Thanks, Kate. Now get back to work–and no more of those martini lunches! 🙂