The Block Island Times


By Martha Ball | May 04, 2013

The shad is coming into bloom, almost in protest, refusing to be cosseted any longer by the spring that cannot take hold. It was the faintest blush on the land as April ended, a reminder that nothing holds back the march of the seasons. These few days of intermittent sunshine have turned the pink buds to white blossoms. Lilacs, hardly showing life a week or two ago, are leafed out and ready to bloom with just a bit more warmth.

This is the time of year, this turn from April’s end, Walpurgis, the night of the year on some calendars when the darkness is especially manifest and witches roam central Europe giving over to the celebration of May, the Merry Month of May, that usually brings magic. The grass is as green as it gets, as thick and lush, newly cut, velvet in the sun.

It is warm and sunny in my mind, a time of new puppies and elegant egrets, of a world truly escaped the bonds of winter.
This year it is a battle, as is was in 2009 when the words above were written.

It doesn’t matter how many years I keep at this, I am always surprised to flip back — this time looking for one of my “do you know what day this is?” rants (today is May 4, Rhode Island Independence Day) to copy — and find that the weather that seems so unusual in fact is not unusual at all.

It is May and I go looking for the lyrics to the song from “Camelot,” ones stuck in my head since high school if that is possible, and find them to be not what I recall when I am so absolutely positive I remember particular phrases among all others.

Finally, I search for a clip from the movie, it was the movie I saw, the movie soundtrack I bought and played over and over again and am relieved my memory has not forsaken me. They changed the words from the original, the one that come up wherever lyrics are listed, for the big screen.

There is so much lunacy on the internet, it’s nice to slide into YouTube comments where I find one I could have written did I not think such activity a slippery slope indeed:

“When I was a kid my mum took me to see the movie. I actually enjoyed it and then we bought the vinyl record and played it endlessly. So many of the songs stuck in my brain even 40 years later. When I woke up this morning, being the first of May, I remembered this song.”

It’s May, the lusty month of May
That darling month when everyone throws self-control away
It’s time to do a wretched thing or two
And try to make each precious day, one you’ll always rue

As I recall, the placement of that song made it the harbinger of the less than glorious things to come, and downfall of that dream kingdom when it never rained ‘til after sundown. Nonetheless the words and the music still come to me happily on days such as these when the sun does shine on new grass, when fresh paint on the old hotels shimmer and the whole summer lies before us. It is playing, now, my own old vinyl that every year I am going to discard but do not.

A robin sits in the shad at the border of the back yard, a red-wing perches atop a branch of a long dead tree over the wall, but I am not seeing the egret at the edge of the water. The elegant creature, tall and white moving among the last to turn green woody vegetation rimming the pond should be easy to spot but rarely is, oddly camouflaged when it should stand out like a shining beacon.

It’s May, birdsong is constant these days, in the branches of the trees and the tangle of blackberry vines coming to life. I hear odd noises, birds seeking shelter, looking for places to build nests. One flutters on the window sill, in the space between the glass and the frame of the raised storm window, stuck, it seems, until I close the curtain and the allure of the light on the other side of the room is removed.
Soon enough the birds will be flying around; surely it horrifies some but doors are to be left open come a certain time of year, and I eschew screens that cut out the sun, a bird or two in the house is a fair enough trade; they, too, follow the light and soon enough find their way out.

On the road the other morning, just before it started to rain, there was a sound, a rat-a-tat-tat-tat too precise and too frequent, it seemed, to be anything but mechanical, or a woodpecker. It was where the road is lined with old trees, fallen branches, the repeat was not from that area, instead high, almost overhead, where there was nothing but wires. Finally, I spotted it, at the top of the old telephone pole, maybe not so old, not so coated with the black stuff as they used to be, a woodpecker appeared by shape. The light was dim, a shower approaching, and it was only a silhouette against the sky before it flew away.

We had a maple in the yard when I was a child, where another grows today. It was old, losing life, and we watched over breakfast cereal, as flickers and woodpeckers dug deeper and deeper into its decaying trunk. The higher branches fell. Then one day our neighbor was over talking to my mother and put out his huge hand to lean against it and down it went. A volunteer now grows at the edge of the old garden, unnoticed until it was a yard tall.

It is May, the world is full of promise and even as I watch the Canada geese with little interest, one flies in, feet braced to hit the blue water, landing in a spray of white, and

I have to smile at the simple beauty.

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