(Because yesterday was Mother’s Day, today we have another “Ghost Post” from Maine writer A. Carman Clark, observing the season from her hilltop in Union. Welcome to Spring, 1991 on Sennebec Hill)
May is a month to savor. Yes, the blackflies are here, but so are the daffodils. Once again dawn brings a chorus of birds greeting a new day and in the evening ponds and swamps are filled with the vibrant voices of frogs.
Two pairs of bluebirds are trying to establish residence in my birdhouses against the assertive nesting needs of a flock of swallows, perhaps the ones which were tenants here last spring and the ones which hatched in those houses built of weathered wood. I asked for and received a dead tree for my birthday, complete with holes bored in soft wood to help birds get started on tunneling in for nesting. This gift has been set behind the vegetable garden, along with two new birdhouses painted in original (and wild) designs by my granddaughters.
May paints the landscape with a wash of pastels. The gentle hues of swelling buds color the hills as each bush, vine and tree verges on the miracle of another spring–the unfolding of green leaves. This colorful haze, a kind of warm, soft mist across valleys and slopes, changes every hour, changes between dawn and dusk, until suddenly there’s a veil of green.
Each spring I wish May could be put on hold so there would be more time to observe and enjoy the
brightness, the wonder and mystery of renewal, time to enjoy fully the pastel flush of promise, to watch the plum and crab-apple trees race each other toward their burst into blossom. Before the first morning rays of the sun chase away the shadows beneath these flowering trees, hummingbirds are darting in and out among the branches. Their rapid wing strokes hold them in position while they thrust their needle-like bills into the blossom cups. These tiny birds give a sense of vibration to every fully flowered fruit tree.
The goldfinches no longer wear their drab olive green. They dart across the lush green lawns like brilliant yellow arrows. I watch for the orioles in vibrant orange and black and wait to hear them sing from a perch high in the blossoming trees. While I’m spading in the garden and hauling manure and old hay, the sleek male bobolinks, in their harlequin dress of black, buff, and white, court their soberly feathered females with rollocking songs and preening struts. I wonder if these songbirds repeat the same musical pairing serenades when they go off to Argentina for a second springtime?
The return of the songbirds is one of the joys of May. I hear music as I watch the soft colors of unfurling buds throughout this valley. This May I’m observing birds with new interest because part of my winter reading included books by Erma J. Fisk. Fish wrote that banding records show that bluejays live eighteen years. From the raucous sounds some jays are making here this May, I think I’m hosting adolescents on spring break. If the bluebirds win out in the housing competition, I’ll have their soothing notes as I garden. If the swallows move in instead, I can be glad they gobble some of the blackflies.
We have ravens uttering their deep crawwk over the abandoned railroad bed behind the house and I’m watching endless puffs of dandelion silk dance on the early afternoon breeze outside the 2nd story window as I work on a new short story before going out to play in dirt. The awareness of natural things, the ability to create a living, breathing story and the joy of getting dirty and outfoxing weeds before they attain godzilla-like proportions are all legacies from A. Carman Clark.