This has been an unusually cool and rainy month in northern Virginia, as recorded in the average air temperature and the rainfall total, which should surpass 8” for the month before the end of the day. Nights have been cool, many afternoons so chilly that I’ve worn a sweater over long sleeves. The cats have had little sun to loll in, neither on the screen porch in the early morning or late afternoon, nor by the storm door in the front.
When we got home from recent travels we had long grass, encouraged by the cold and wet, and hard to mow because it was wet. But we attacked it and got it done. Not, however, without the mower leaving big clumps all over the lawn like an incontinent cow.
I was working clean-up duty, raking the clumps before they matted and spot-killed the lawn, on a rare sunny afternoon when I realized the other day that May, which Elizabethan composer William Byrd called the “sweet and merry month,” is truly just that. Hot, and sweaty in the sticky air, I stopped to rest on the porch steps for ten minutes. First, a tiny butterfly, looking for all the world as if it had commandeered a piece of sky to color its wings, fluttered leisurely across the patio, exploring random small weeds, leaves, clumps of dirt. It was almost certainly a Spring Azure, though different butterfly sites provide very different structures of classification. Next, a fox kit trotted nonchalantly into the yard from the back hedge, angled over into the neighbors’ azaleas, and was on his way. He saw me, but neither paused in surprise nor hurried away in fear. Then there was the “wild rose tree,” actually an ornamental holly tree that is now full of rose vines and looked simply splendid in the bright sunshine. This simple wild plant is a free bounty, just eager to express its own beauty with its deep pink blossoms and yellow center, and with its gentle rose scent.
Finally, sometime after my rest, I found a small bird’s nest in the arbor vitae. It was a shallow concave thing, woven together with grass and pliable twigs, neatly and securely. It evidently had served its purpose, but was a symbol of the simplicity of the needs of songbirds, the care with which they use what nature provides, and the procreational urges of the season. Much to be thankful for in the “sweet and merry” miracles of nature, right in my own back yard.
©Arnold J. Bradford, 2017