According to the old calendar Beltane marks the beginning of summer. Around these parts it barely feels as if spring has started let alone summer! But remember the old British saying ‘Ne’er cast a clout til May is out’. Roughly translated this means ‘Don’t go out without a coat until May is out’. Most people assume this means the month of May but in fact it refers to the May blossom of the Hawthorn tree, found in every British hedgerow.
The blossom of course responds to the weather so is a much better indicator of when summer is fully upon us. When we rely on the calendar rather than what we see around us we are often confounded, we think it should be so because of the date rather than what the natural world is doing. Last year April was hot and May even hotter, spring came early and we all rejoiced in the unseasonal warmth and freedom it brought.
This year we have ‘enjoyed’ a long winter and a cool spring. King Winter doesn’t seem to want to go to his long rest and despite Ostara’s best efforts he keeps resurfacing and brings cold winds, hail and snow with him. We’ve had some reprieves, some blissful warm spring days but they have been the rarity and we are all longing for the warm season to be fully underway.
This weekend we celebrated Beltane by working on our land. Due to the kindness of a lovely friend Stephen and I were able to spend Saturday afternoon working together, clearing the debris of the burned down barn that has been sitting for at least a couple of years. We had planned to put our tractor here but the plethora of nails and precarious trees makes this too big of a job for us right now, so we contented ourselves with making the area safe and set plans for a garage right next door. The gift of time, given by a kind heart, allowed us to plan and make decisions that are very important to us. Sometimes it can be hard with the little people around just to get to the end of a sentence never mind a plan!
So on Sunday we returned (with the little people this time) with a new vision and a set of bolt cutters to take out a chain link fence that was overgrown and partially fallen down right where our tractor needs to be parked. We are reusing the fencing (of course) so we snipped carefully, removing poles and pulling away hay to release the fencing and clear the space. We dug, carried, raked, clipped, snipped, pulled, dumped and sweated until this little corner was cleared.
A casual visitor would not know what has changed. They would see some rolled up fencing (and more that needs to be cleared). They would see piles of hay and wood. They would see a 5 foot pile of charcoaled wood, most of it full of nails, and a raked bed where the wood used to be. It may not be a total transformation but it is a beginning. Each effort we make moves us a little closer to our home farm, to productive earth tended by us, yielding our food and provisions for years to come. The energy we expend is a message, showing the earth that we are willing to work and nurture her, that we love this place and want it to be home.
As we took a final break from all our work I noticed an eagle above the next field. I was fascinated and walked over to where she hovered, turning at whim on the thermals above. She drifted closer to me and, for a moment, was silhouetted above against the bright circle of the misted afternoon sun. I wondered if she regarded me at all, as I did her. Probably not but I fancied that she did. I fancied that she wondered about this creature down below, looking up at her and marveling; that she wondered for a moment why we were there when we had never been before.
But then she drifted away, seemingly so gently but too quickly she was over the field and away. She was fixed on the horizon that, above the trees, was apparent to her; my gaze was shortened to see only what is immediate, the near by world of the here and now. I wondered what she saw, her far reaching eyes looking off into the future. I wondered if she saw summer unfurling across the land, moving inexorably towards us. A gentle tide of green that eventually will surround us all.