When the calendar turns to May, there is almost a collective sigh of relief in the northeast.

The snow melts, the crocus depart, the daffodils bloom, and tulip leaves begin to reach for the sun. The soil in the garden warms, rhubarb pokes through, and the tiny beginnings of weeds are there to let us know there is real possibility for all living things after the long winter.

Somehow, like the weeds, we feel renewed energy and feel the hope and warmth of the spring sun. We breathe the freshened air, walk the dusty roads, and look for shorter sleeves, shorts and bathing suits. It is a ritual that happens every year, and pulls us forward into the new, the good, and the possibilities of life in spring. A few warm days will do that to us.

As I write this on the first of May, I am brought back to reality. After days of planting peas, raking up the remnants of last years flower garden, and cleaning the car, I sit shivering in my shirt. Time to reach for a sweatshirt or fleece. May can be like that.

If a young man’s fancy turns to baseball in the spring, mine turns to cleaning, sorting and donating. Finally, I am aware of the dust on the baseboards; I see a shirt or jacket I didn’t wear all winter; I see that the windows have collected some spots of spring mud; I want the boots out of my way.

Windows are cleaned, and boxes get filled with snow scrapers and deicer. It’s almost like women feel a few days before the birth of a baby; “nesting,” they used to call it. Washing floors, making meals, preparing for a time where you will be busy with all things new and possible. May can be like that, too.

This month has lots of celebrations; Mother’s Day, graduations, Memorial Day. Then there is Cinco de Mayo on the 5th; Nurses Day on the 6th, Lost Sock Day on the 9th; and Dance Like a Chicken Day on the 14th. We’ll find any reason to celebrate after the winter. There is even a National Frog-Jumping Day in May. Who knew?

The Oxford dictionary defines “may” as “expressing possibility,” and in that vein some of us begin to make grand plans for the warmer months. Perhaps, we will walk more, rest more, clean more, entertain more, go to the beach more, read more, garden more or eat more healthy foods. We will renew ourselves though learning and activities. So many possibilities, so little time.

We have a community garden spot near our home. Activity has picked up in the last few weeks, with gardeners greeting each other with pleasantries and lots of talk of planting and fertilizing and who’s got what this year.

It is always fun to see this camaraderie devolve into contests as the season progresses. Who has the tallest tomato plants? Who has the first broccoli? Who will gather the most rhubarb? Did the perennial herbs make it through the winter? What is he/she thinking planting vertically? Etc.

We were the newest gardeners here last year. We built raised beds, carried composted loam to fill them, and planted a few tomatoes, along with some lettuce, squash and beans we purchased locally. Other gardeners filled us in on what worked best in this area, where to purchase seeds or seedlings, and how to fertilize, space and plant. We really didn’t expect much the first year.

After a ten- day vacation, we came back to tomato plants as tall as we are, two, squash plants that were threatening to take over the entire lower garden area, and enough lettuce to feed a village. It was reminiscent of Jack and the Beanstalk, really; quite an unexpected miracle.

Some new raised beds have now appeared at the community garden, with rich new composted soil. We overhear murmured theories and see fertilizer bags arriving every day. And we’re off. The contest has begun.
Hoping May brings you warmth and flowers, and maybe just a little delightful competition. Happy gardening!