Jim McGuire: Hooray! It’s May!


Hooray! Green and glorious May has arrived! The last full month of spring.

Spring is nature’s most celebrated transition—a verdant journey taking us from winter’s bleak cold to summer’s lush heat. And that daily-witnessed miraculous change is truly fulfilled upon May’s ascendancy.

May has been called a treasure, “the most lovely, exuberant, inspiring month of the entire year!”

Nature writer Hal Borland speaks often of the “profundity of May.” He further points to the photosynthetic boom now exhaustively underway in everything from grass to weed to unfurling leaf. A natural process, more mysterious than atomic fission—fundamental, abundant beyond measure, employing the secret alchemy of sunlight and water, along with earth’s rich nutrients, to produce life and growth.

In a most wondrously visible metamorphose, May turns green—or rather, a vast array of greens, from emerald to chartreuse, kelly to jade, plus a thousand shades in between. An entire mind-boggling palette of greens!

May’s varigated green cloak is the fulfillment of April’s promise, the widespread reality of what we only imagined back in blustery, chilly March.

“All the world is glad with May,” wrote naturalist John Burroughs. A few lines later he proclaimed May the “joy-month” of the year.

Who would disagree?

May is indeed the merriest month—the weeks when birds sing their loudest, country brooks burble with high-spirited gaiety, and myriad wildflowers dapple fields and forests in festive dress.

“Fish bite best in May!” my old pal Frank insisted—though that didn’t stop him from heading a’stream at every opportunity during the other eleven months of the year.

The sun shines warm in May. The air is sweet. And even a cloudy morning or a rainy afternoon cannot darken the mood or dampen your enjoyment.

May is when spring’s promise becomes manifest, the season’s definitive reign. And it’s doubtless this seasonal magnificence Wordsworth was getting at when he wrote of the “sovereignty of May.”

Some years back, in a rare pragmatic moment, a thoughtful friend said to me that come May, only an egocentric fool could go anywhere outside and not be “immediately overwhelmed by the absolute certainty of his own insignificance.”

True enough, I suppose.

It doesn’t require a close look at the bursting countryside to realize mankind’s role in all this energy and growth is minimal and entirely dispensable. Life proceeds just fine without us. Our technological omnipotence is absolutely meaningless to either a bluebird or a buttercup.

A walk in May is like studying a vast night sky from the deep darkness and pristine clarity of a far-north campsite. Or standing on a lonely, windswept beach watching thousand-mile rollers come undulating shoreward.

Both confront and confirm the haunting triviality of our importance.

Birds sing, trees grow, and wildflowers appear in the meadow. Box turtles amble through the burgeoning woods. Bumble bees investigate snowy dogwood blooms. While backyard woodchucks nibble succulent green grass.

All goes on in perfect complexity without our lifting a hand.

Pawpaws trim their still-barren branches with a profusion of maroon blossoms. Canada geese lead fuzzy yellow-brown goslings in waddling parade.

None of this resurgent life and growth requires our help—or even our blessings. In the grand scheme of things, mankind too often enters into the equation only negatively when we construct and meddle. Otherwise, we are but a single insignificant leaf adding our piffling bit to help cloak a stately oak.

However, May is not the month and spring is not the season for pessimism. To miss seeing, hearing, smelling and savoring May is to miss experiencing this glorious green month in all it’s permutations—and to thus miss the best reason I know for remaining an optimist.

May is for getting out, slowing down, and taking the time to enjoy the splendid surge of life. A time for allowing the profusion of this verdant green season to wash over and cleanse our weary souls.

I adore May! It is the month of my birth, so I guess you have to assume a certain measure of bias.

Yet over the course of my lifetime, with each successive May I’m privileged to enjoy, I’ve realized it’s the also my month of rebirth—the time where my love of nature and the out-of-doors somehow gets magically rekindled and enlarged.

Thankfully, I’m not alone in my opinion. From poets to fishermen, gardeners to bird-watchers, May in its entirety is beloved by one and all.

May is here! Hooray!


By Jim McGuire

Contributing Columnist

Jim McGuire, a nature columnist, resides in Englewood, and can be reached at [email protected].

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