More even than the first official day of Spring, (when most of the time you still have to get belly down and hunt at eye-level for signs of new life straining up from the ground, and even push snow aside this year in Seattle!) May Day marks the passage from darkness into light for me. Seasonally as well as mentally. It also conjures up conflicting images of girls with flowers in their hair dancing around a May Pole, colorful ribbons billowing in the sun, and (sometimes ugly) military marches/protests. I feel deprived that I never got to participate in or observe a May Pole dance while a child, but I did get to see a May Day protest march. It was in the early 70’s in Japan, complete with riot police, water cannons, angry snake-dancing, flag-jabbing, running erratically through the streets, turning over cars, starting fires. We were safe up the hill just outside this beautiful ivy-covered brick building, ComNavForJapan, the Commander of Naval Forces in Japan, where my dad worked on the top floor behind double doors in a vault for naval intelligence. My mom and I met him after work with hamburgers from the NEX snack bar, and stuffed burgers and fries into our gaping mouths as we watched the drama unfold before us outside the base’s main gate. There was a long row of monster-sized black vans with fully armored riot police, Japanese and American, spilling out on our side, running through the gates to clash with the protesters, all black haired and wearing bright red bandannas tied around their heads. It was noisy, smokey chaos, yet we were unable to turn away as we slurped our vanilla shakes, dipped into the fries like popcorn at a movie. One of my more surreal childhood memories… We didn’t know it at the time, but my brother, in high school with a part-time job working at an American club off-base, was actually out taking pictures of the riot. But the best part was that he got caught in the background of a photo of the protesters which was published in the Stars & Stripes newspaper! So, one, he was totally busted by my parents by putting himself in danger, and two, we were all worried my dad would get in trouble if one of his higher-ups saw my brother in the middle of “a buncha commie protesters.” We were on a US Navy base in Japan during the height of the Vietnam war, remember.
May Day is also same-brother’s wedding anniversary. Twenty-seven years today, I believe––good on ‘im! It was a funny/ironic date for him to choose, considering he was a radar-guy (radioman? sorry, I have limited military jargon, and what I do have I take a sinful glee in screwing up on purpose to miff my all-former-military family) in naval airplanes at the time, though I don’t believe he ever had to use the term “may day” as in “the plane is going down,” but it would be just like him to keep something like that from all of us.
This May Day is showing signs of True Spring. Over the past week or so a flicker has managed to drill a hole about as big around as my fist into the columns of this supposedly stucco house across the street at work. Throughout each day you could see a snow-flurry of insulation flutter to the ground all over their neatly trimmed bushes as this bird has built a nest, and today I arrived at the office to the sound of baby birds. Loud ones. All Day Long. But hey, cool! Nature, sunshine, Spring!
I wore capris for the first time this year today, showing off some ultra-white calves and shins. Although, the winter left me pretty pudgy and pasty, like I was separated at birth from Casper and the Pillsbury Doughboy, so perhaps “showing off” isn’t quite the right term. How about flashing? Blinding? Assaulting? I also forgot to wear light-colored undies and have been unsuccessfully jumping up, head turned backwards, to try to see if there’s any evidence of black under khaki in the bathroom mirror.
This weekend there are a couple of big plant sales Joe and I will be eagerly attending. We’ve been prepping the yard and garden for the last month in anticipation of planting, but those who know much much much more than we do about gardening (basically, anyone in a plant store, a couple of Master Gardeners, and the skate punks who scrape by our house) have been adamantly advising to wait until May. We’ve got some heartier things in the ground already, but we need to check out the Seattle Tilth and Center for Urban Horticulture sales to round it all out.
So, yay, it’s May! Because of Hannah’s last post and the fact that May Day is also the Beltane, for those of the more green-hearted persuasion, I’ve been singing one of my favorite T. Rex songs the last couple of days. So celebrate with me and “catch a bright star and place it on your forehead… da da di da“! This one’s for you, Hannah.