Friday, May 20, 2011

The Green Month

Full Mating Moon

Full Mating Moon 2009: The Flower Moon

Full Mating Moon 2010: Mercurial

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This month is usually called the Mating Moon or the Flower Moon, but this year it came late enough in the season that it is really the Green Month. Each day's walk in the woods and parks near my house is a study in greens. The grass is tall and green in lawns and along trails and so are the weeds on the side of the road. The maples and alders have leafed out and their bright green contrasts with the dark green of conifers on the slopes of the West Hills. Street trees and the canopy above trails filter the light into a soft, glowing green everywhere I walk or drive. The new growth on conifers is making their tips sparkle, a sight that is especially brilliant on a decorative cedar right outside my front room window.

In my calendar summer starts with May Day but that requires a real change in how we define the seasons. We've had record rainfall in the last few weeks in Portland so many of my friends are complaining and wondering if summer will ever come. If you define summer as sunny, warm and dry then you can't possibly see summer starting in the beginning of May. In my view of the Wheel of the Year, though, Summer is the season of vegetative growth and that can happen whether the rains stay until July or we get beautiful sunny days in May. To me, "the heat of the summer" is really the beginning of Autumn, the season of ripening and harvest. I'll keep the rain if it means green trees, green grass and all the other lush greenery we have around here.

Lush greenery is something we have a whole lot of in this climate and I've been noticing all the nooks and crannies of my suburban neighborhood that are full of life. I am re-reading the Percy Jackson and the Olympians books and thinking a lot about the episode in the fourth book where Percy, his hero companion Annabeth and their satyr friend Grover finally fulfill Grover's life mission of finding the lost god Pan. Pan is the god of the wild places and they find him deep in the caves of Carlsbad Caverns. "It is one of the last wild places." he tells them, "My realm above is gone, I'm afraid. Only pockets remain. Tiny pieces of life." He goes on to tell Grover that his spirit, that of the wild, is so faded and broken that it can not be carried by a god any longer, but must be carried by each satyr, hero and human. "You must tell everyone you meet: if you would find Pan, take up Pan's spirit. Remake the wild, a little at a time, each in your own corner of the world. You can not wait for anyone else, not even a god, to do that for you." As I look around me during this Green Month I see the places where Pan's spirit still lingers. The strip of trees and shrubs behind my apartment, overgrown edge of my parents' yard below the lilacs, the median of the freeway full of cherry trees, roses and wildflowers - it may just be a few square feet, but at this time of year the greenery is greening and the plants are growing. The wild is still here, just at a slightly different scale.

What green is greening in your neck of the woods? What are your favorite plants of this season? What is your definition of summer? Where do you find Pan's spirit?


Anonymous said...

I've been anxiously looking forward to your next post, and it's funny because I was just talking with our nephew (whose name is a summer month) about how much he loves the Percy series.

Have you read Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins? There's a lot of Pan there. Tom Robbins was a really important writer for me, growing up. Bigger than Aztec!!! Jitterbug Perfume and Still Life with Woodpecker are the two I would recommend, and should reread.

It seemed like this was connected to Rewild...can you post that link?

Do you know about this group? (Looking that up, I learned I have over 20 blogposts that include the word "wild"!! I had no idea.) I thought this book by one of the main guys there looked really interesting:

I truly believe that we are all wild, as well as civilized, and the problem is an issue of balance...

Women Who Run With Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes is an excellent tool for reviving and valuing the wild woman within.

JayLeigh said...

I love your description of the various "greens" you have seen! That's one thing I love about the Pacific Northwest -- how green it is! You couldn't have that without the rain for sure. I hadn't heard before of the idea of May being the beginning of Summer. That's so interesting to learn about! We go by the regular calendar in our observation of the change of the seasons, but it's beautiful to read about the way you approach it.

Alyss said...

JayLeigh, thanks for your comment. I see the solstices and equinoxes as the heights of the season rather than the beginning of them. That makes the "cross quarter days" in between the "quarter days" the beginnings of the season. If late June is the height of summer then early May is the beginning. When late December is the middle of winter then the end of October is the beginning of that season. I talk a bit more about this view of the seasons in these posts:

Thanks for visiting :)

Alyss said...


Interestingly, I was not consciously thinking about our conversation when I wrote this post. I had actually set out to write just a basic Signs of the Season post and then Pan tapped me on the shoulder and cleared his throat. OK, OK, I'll write about you, too :) I guess it was all at work subconsciously.

Here's the link to the rewild guy we talked about. Links to his book and other like minding folks are all up on there:

The nephew and I bonded this winter over Percy, too. I actually bought him a copy of D'Aulaires' book of Greek Myths for Christmas. I wonder if he's read any of it :) Ah well, he has years ahead of him for reading.

Thanks again for reading!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link! I love D'Aulaires, though I wonder if there are other, more modern options nowadays. D'Aulaires is what I read when I was our nephew's age!! I also read Robert Graves, as well as The Iliad and The Odyssey (don't know the versions, but they were not for children).