A Long Ways from the Queen of May
Two years ago in the meadow at the Outback Farm, we gathered the clans for a maypole celebration. The kids took turns on the tree swing and the violin danced our feet in circles, the over-under winding of ribbons. Last year I met the first rains of the season on the dunes of a beach in the Yucatan, during a late dusk storm. Today I spent the morning steaming the last of the DiscoFern wallpaper from the walls of a bathroom in NE Portland, the old glue softening off with putty knife and sponge.
That Maypole was magical, a renaissance of the old energies of land, calling back to the tradition of the folk copulating in the fields to ensure a fertile season. The month of May a randy one, and the call of old tradition is deep and lively in the bones. My people and his people, gathered to dance in the face of death. We were fresh and full of life, and later when the sun passed south we pulled a nest of blankets up into the treehouse cradled in the pear tree and offered our histories to each other, our present selves. When dawn came through the gingham curtains, it found us curled together, snug fit.
After a week in Belize on the edge of revolution, where the palm trees lit the night like smudge sticks lining the roadsides as farmers burned their fields to prepare for the rains; that night in Mexico was magical too. We were restless, back in town after so many hot days with only a village river for distraction, and seeking life. We found the travelers cafe, a pulse beneath the skin of the tourist veneer, and they pointed us down the road toward a tiny open air nightclub with a serious sound system and a disco ball. We danced when the power was on, and when it cut out we talked by candlelight to the beautiful motley mix of locals.
The smell of the rains came first into that crackling eve, and I went out into the street to stand and sniff as the first drops reached ground. We hightailed it back to the cabanas as the winds picked up, and out on the coast three storms were colliding. The sky turned green like an electric bruise and I took my shoes off and danced on the dampening ground.
Mostly there was the wide grin – nothing sweet and playful like the potluck back at the Oasis after the Maypole dance, with wine and family and guitars on the side deck of the communal home – this was the Qi charged sea and sky in combat with the land. There was no fear in it; like rough copulation, this essential act of a season changing from dry to wet, fertility returned with the crackling flare of lightning from roiling clouds, touching ground.
All week in the village hut I had been so angry. It leaked from me like sweat, and all there was to cool me down – the slow-turning fan and the river idling past – could only dim the torporous rage. When the storm came I unleashed it to greet the elements and it flowed through me steadily, a faucet opened into the sea. I let the rage of last year’s sour dream drain and I let the storm in to wash me clean. A plow, furrowing the channels of heart, searing them clean, laying the ground fertile for what life was to begin from this moment on,
and this one, and this one.
And this one, which is many worlds away from all the hoopla of celebrations and storms, where the kernel of joy comes from technique of steamer, putty knife, and sponge. The splashy shiny silver green and brown 70s fern designs leave a stringy film of backing, and beneath that layer lie patches of gummy adhesive. The steamer is slow but potent, and in time the wall comes smooth and clean, back to its drywall bones.
I miss the magic. The radio is tuned in to a “first wave” station and all morning the songs I loved in junior high come back to greet me from a less moving and painful place. The words are still stored in my head somewhere, and if I open my mouth, the singing begins itself and some part of me still 13 years old is finding her first salvation and flirting with her own demise. Not all that much has changed – although from each year to the next is a whole different story.