Ah, the month of May. A month of warming earth, greening trees and blooming flowers. How did you spend the first day of May? Years ago it went like this: The doorbell rings. You stop what you are doing and hurry to answer it. Your hand grasps the knob and you pull, but no one is there. You are surprised and bewildered, but then you look down. There sits a pretty basket filled with candies, nuts and flowers. You sprint out the door, looking to smooch someone, because now you’ve remembered it’s the first day of May: May Day.
This scenario might seem silly to some but we loved it as kids. Nothing made you run faster than the threat of a kiss from a boy. Who wanted cooties just when spring had finally arrived? I’m not sure when we stopped our little tradition, perhaps when we began receiving flowers from boys who we actually wanted to kiss; that sure changes the aspect of things, huh? I have not given nor received a May basket in many years; times change but flowers continue to fascinate and are amazing in their importance to us and to life itself.
Do you know that without flowers our earth would be a very different place? Of course you do; you live on the Bayfield Peninsula in apple orchard country. Apples begin as flowers. A once-upon-a-time without flowers would have filled our May baskets with slimy green plants, no bright blooms. There would have been no nuts, of course, without flowers, and no fruits or wheat, so no cakes and cookies. Forget chocolates—cocoa beans start as flowers; sugar plants and perennial grasses such as beet and cane do as well.
Flowering plants are called angiosperms, and they appeared to pop out of nowhere in a geological sense—which means it took awhile; but what’s a few thousand years to God or the Earth? A mere twinkling. Life is complex and intertwined, geologically and historically. English poet Francis Thompson wrote, “One could not pluck a flower without troubling a star.” The relative popping up of the flowers occurred historically with another emergence—that of a bright and complex creature. You can look in the mirror for this one: Man. Man and his compatriots, the birds and mammals, flourished together with those flowers. Bye, bye reptiles and slimy green swamps, hello mammals and May baskets.
Some think in terms of evolution, some of theology; and some bright minds can see the melding of the two and will reconcile them to form a big picture. Any way you look at it, we now know the emergence of both happened together. Then came the marching seeds, propelled in their varied ways of floating, flying, blowing, bursting, clutching, hitching and flinging—seeds traveling and rooting and bringing forth new life and more flowers; and with them fruits, nectars, pollens, nuts, and all those creatures which utilize them as a form of energy, directly or indirectly. Not to mention, they are pretty! Sit down and think about that one for a while on this spring day in the northwoods.
What’s that? The doorbell? May Day has come and gone, but you never know—someone still could bring you flowers at any moment. How fortunate they exist. If flowers can change your day, your mind, your mood; just remember how they could change the world—and did. Now open that door and plant something…a kiss, that is.
“If our whole lives had not been spent in the midst of it, it would astound us…the true flower—and the seed that it produced—was a profound innovation in the world of life…. The weight of a petal has changed the face of the world and made it ours.”
Loren Eiseley, from The Immense Journey