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  • Writer's pictureClaire Sandys

The season of May

My Why audio version of this blog available here.

In my ‘To everything there is a season’ blog, an overview of the months of the year that started this series, I said; “May can be beautiful. I say ‘can’ because nothing is guaranteed with British weather. But on the whole it’s one of our driest months.”

Well, after a lovely start to spring, the first day of May was wet, cold and grey. So, there we go, people, the British weather for you.

However, despite the false start, May is a beautiful month and technically the last month of spring in the UK, so the garden is just bursting with new life. There’s the remains of daffodils, tulips and cherry blossom as they fade, and coming through in the next phase of growth are the leaves unfolding, the climbers reaching upwards, the bushes are bushing, the creepers are creeping and a myriad of colour is peeking through the greenery. My next job is to try and remember what is what. I’ve only just remembered I planted some allium bulbs last year for the first time, and as they shot up I thought they were late tulips until I saw some in the garden centre and realised what they were. So nature is certainly continuing to entice us in. If March is when you’re in the theatre and the music from the orchestra starts and you all sit back and take note and feel the magic of a live performance, then May is when the cast arrive on stage and the excitement ramps up a notch.

Chris and I got married at the end of May, and it was a boiling hot day. We booked this particular weekend because my adopted auntie (currently 102 years old) has her birthday on the last day of May and has sworn blind her birthday always has good weather. I know this wasn’t exactly true every year, but she did get a lot of nice birthdays, so it’s generally a safe bet for wedding dates in my experience. This year, Chris and I will have been married seventeen years, which is pretty scary. Last month marked us being together for twenty years now. And if we’d have had children when we thought we might, they’d now be around 14 years old. And I can tell you that time is harder to see moving on when you don’t have a physical reminder of it running around and maturing.

Anyway, back to May in the UK. So long as we get some sunshine soon, Brits will all start to perk up after the winter months. Currently, having been given a glimpse of summer on the horizon (only for the start of May to remind us we do not live in a hot country with guaranteed seasons) we are awaiting the break into warmer days and nights. The present feel is a bit like when a firework shoots into the air and the crowd goes ‘oooohh’, only to find it fizzles out with a tiny pop, and you hear a sad sort of ‘ohhhh’ follow. We were hopeful for the sun, now we are disappointed with the cold, but we will rise again, it’s what we do; endlessly hope for sunshine.

However, I have two bits of good news to share in this episode. Both relating to things I previously mentioned in this series.

In my blog, The season of April, I shared with you (and therefore hopefully with my husband when he heard it) that I had big plans for a hedgehog highway hole in the fence, to see if I could tempt in some passing hogs.

According to “We appear to have lost over half our hedgehogs from our countryside since the millennium alone.”

My motives were to help the little fellas of course, but also slightly selfishly, I love animals, and I wanted to share with them the unplanned breeding site for slugs that I seemed to have cultivated, in the hope they might either scare them away or eat a few. Anyway, I went ahead and ordered a hedgehog highway plastic outline for the hole (in the shape of the hedgehog). When I first floated the idea, Chris was reluctant to cut a hole in the fence because we’re in a housing estate and it’s hard to see how a hedgehog would even find us. I was tempted to agree, but undeterred. My plan was for him to hear on the podcast that I’d ordered the hedgehog highway, he’d chuckle to himself in the car, and I wouldn’t need a serious ‘let’s cut a hole in the fence’ chat. Well, as most great plans in marriages go, it didn’t work that way. The Hedgehog Highway turned up in the post with the branding all over it before he heard the blog and unfortunately he collected the post, shouting out ‘What’s this?!’

As he’s a good humoured fellow and one that is great at focusing on a task once it’s in front of him, and because it was now out in the world on the podcast, we cut a hole in the fence and put out a small bowl of hedgehog food. Yes, they sell that in garden centres. I also put some on the inside and outside of the hole, to tempt the hogs inside. I knew if they came in they’d love it because it’s a very wildlife friendly garden full of delicious things for hedgehogs.

Having also inherited small outdoor WiFi camera’s with our house, we put one of those on a tripod and placed it very conspicuously in a plant pot to monitor the situation overnight.

We hoped, we prayed, and I endured Chris, multiple times, performing the famous one-liner that won at the Edinburgh Festival in 2009 -

"Hedgehogs - why can't they just share the hedge?" Dan Antopolski

And we lay in wait.

Day 1 - the food was touched but I’ll never know what by what and some of it was rudely regurgitated in various places. Slight nervous thoughts that I might have killed one.

Day 2 - we realised a local cat had got in on the act and a water bottle was placed on the window sill on the floor above the food, awaiting his return.

Day 3 - I’d started covering the food with a cardboard-and-bin-liner-makeshift-feeding-station that only a hog could get into. When we woke up the next morning the camera had been triggered three times between 2-3am and it was indeed - a Hedgehog! Chris watched the black and white footage in bed when he woke up and it’s the closest I’ve seen him to shock in a long while.

And almost every night he, she, or another one entirely, have been back since. We even watched one from the patio doors the other night just two feet away from where he/she was eating.

I think it’s a he and he’s now referred to as Herbert, because he likes to be around the herb pots. I’ve since made him a permanent water bowl to use, and Chris very kindly went ahead and purchased a Hedgehog House from NestGuest who make houses for hogs from 100% recycled plastic, here in the UK.

I can’t see how I’ll know if one goes in there, but I’ve put in leaves and straw and I’m shooting high and hoping for hoglets, which apparently were called urchins before the 1900’s, which made me love them even more. I’ll keep you posted on Hedgehog news throughout the year.

My second piece of good news is something I mentioned on the March blog. The amazing dawn chorus, which starts in March, but reaches its peak in May. Well, I promised I would try and capture some for you, and capture it I did. Well, we did. My first attempt on my phone, hanging out the window at 5:15am wasn’t bad but the road noise was busier than I anticipated in the background. So Chris set his alarm and got up to start it recording on the podcast microphone, aimed at an open window between 4:30am and 6am, and got a much better rendition of birds singing in the dark and into sunrise.

So, just like I played you some waves in the audio of the Think or Swim blog to enjoy, on the audio version of this blog I play some birds.

[ And because no one should ever miss out or be punished for choosing to read instead of listen, if want to hear the birds, I'll let you into a secret, you can skip to the 7 minute mark on the audio version and hear the birds there.]

On May Among the changing months, May stands confest The sweetest, and in fairest colours dressed! Soft as the breeze that fans the smiling field; Sweet as the breath that opening roses yield; Fair as the colour lavish Nature paints On virgin flowers free from unodorous taints! - To rural scenes thou tempt'st the busy crowd, Who, in each grove, thy praises sing aloud! The blooming belles and shallow beaux, strange sight, Turn nymphs and swains, and in their sports delight. James Thomson

There are many expressions, poems, songs and quotes that talk about ‘the month of May’, maybe two of the most famous are:

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer's lease hath all too short a date. Sonnet 18, William Shakespeare

I've got sunshine on a cloudy day with my girl I've even got the month of May, with my girl. My Girl, by The Temptations

Here’s a few more:

May, more than any other month of the year, wants us to feel most alive. Fennel Hudson

It is now May. It is the month wherein nature hath her fill of mirth and the senses are filled with delights. I conclude it is from the Heavens, a grace, and to Earth, a gladness. Nicholas Breton

Was in the merry month of May When flowers were a bloomin' Sweet William on his death-bed lay For the love of Barbara Allen. Old English Ballad

I have no idea who Sweet William or Barbara Allen were but it all sounds very romantic.

Personally, I’m finding May to be a time of reflection. As the weather warms and nature blossoms I’m drawn outside increasingly, be it the brighter sky or the gentle breeze through the window, or stepping into the garden. I find I get a new perspective the further I look from the ‘norm’ of everyday life. My gaze is automatically lifted from myself and I’m invited to look around and broaden my horizons, and I catch myself reassessing, thinking, pondering and considering my life.

It causes me to look back and reflect on how far I’ve come, acknowledge how disappointed I am that not enough has moved on for me or us, that I want more out of life and that I’m not where I thought I’d be, and I’m not who I want to be, yet. I find myself saddened that there are no small hands and feet in our family to teach about the wonder and feel of nature, and I imagine sharing a moment with a child as they experience some part of nature for the first time, and I get to live that moment of awe all over again with them. I am torn between sorrow and beauty, because for me, for some reason so many beautiful things and experiences are now slightly tinged with grief.

But even as I entertain those thoughts I am distracted by the wonder of now; a hedgehog snuffling round my garden, the loud song of a small robin as it perches on my fence, a water boatman skating across the pond, or a bee fly visiting my cherry tree (they’re amazing creatures!), and the reflection back on winter, on life, takes on a new shape, as if spring is sharpening my gaze, twisting the binoculars to bring things into focus. And I ponder that really, now I’m standing in spring, the winter wasn’t that long for me, nor as dark as it felt when in it, I have survived this far, and that gives me a sense of achievement. And even as I weigh this, I find hope, joy, possibility and wonder fighting their way to the surface. Waving furiously at me as if to say ‘don’t forget about us’. And I find hope is more buoyant than fear, joy is stronger than sorrow, possibility squashes despondency, and wonder wafts away apathy, and I am reminded that the very definition of the word ‘may’ is: ‘To express possibility’ - e.g. I may have a chunk of marzipan to eat after my lunch, and ‘To introduce hope’ - One day, may you also hear a hedgehog snuffling in your garden.

The world’s favourite season is the spring. All things seem possible in May. Edwin Way Teale

I then find my pondering moves from past and present, to future. And that’s where I find there is the possibility of hope, joy and wonder and a whole host of wonderful things that may happen.

I may have a book traditionally published one day.

I may reach thousands of people with the podcast and help them get through loss.

I may make new friends with lives that fit with mine.

I may regain full health and be the person I know I can be.

I may reach that point of complete peace without children in my life.

I may get to see new wonders of nature in foreign countries.

I may get to live many happy years with Chris before one of us dies.

I may get to hear a panda eating in real life (I’ve become a bit obsessed with watching videos of panda’s eating on Instagram for the relaxing sound they make!)

Of course, it goes the other way, I may die this year and Chris may have to do a podcast episode on that loss for you all on his own. But that’s not where I’m focusing today. I may focus on that another time. Probably in dreary November.

So my hope for you in May, is that you find a way to also reflect, see how far you’ve come, find the beauty in where you are, and see what possibilities and wonder there is ahead. No one knows what the future holds, so there’s no point projecting sorrow, sadness or doom into it, you may as well project joy, love, peace, acceptance and good yummy things.

A lovely author said this, based possibly on the saying ‘make hay while the sun shines’:

Make hay in May, for you may never know what June is coming with, and you may never know what July will present! When you see May, make hay! Ernest Agyemang Yeboah

I’m going to leave you with an Irish Prayer, originally written in the Irish Gaelic language, which although not about May specifically, has May all over it:

May the road rise to meet you. May the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your fields and, until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of His hand. Irish Blessing

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