May Day rehearsal 2019

What I’ve always loved about spring in Minnesota is that people emerge out of the isolation of winter. No longer sheltering inside from the cold, I will see neighbors that that I haven’t seen for months. Unbundled from our layers of parkas, scarves, and hats, we see each other anew. As the kids in my neighborhood hatch out of their winter clothing I am often struck by how much they have grown. Frolicking is in the air. The beginning of May marks the opening of the Season of Festivals which will continue through September.

This year is different in so many ways. What is spring when we are still encouraged to be home and insulated from each other?

This weekend is traditionally the May Day Parade and Festival produced by In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre. Colorful puppets fill the street, throngs of people press against each other on the sidewalk to cheer, and then a cast of hundreds perform in the park, raising a spectacular Tree of Life puppet. For the past few years my daughter and I have performed together in this ceremony. Being part of the community running around to zany music with skunks, bees, and frogs makes this day one of the most significant holidays in my year.

Even before this pandemic, the planners for May Day determined that it was essential that May Day take a year of rest. They are doing a deep re-evaluation of all the relationships that create and support May Day so that it can be more equitable and accessible. A version of May Day is happening online. It turns out that they were ahead of the curve, intentionally heading into the chrysalis stage – something the rest of us have now been forced to do as well.

As the first weekend in May arrives, I find myself pondering what I will do with myself. Our global mood is decidedly un-spring-like right now. But I also can’t bear the idea of living like its winter during our precious warmer weather months. Spring is happening around us despite our dampened spirits. In some ways it feels more glorious than ever – the morning is now filled with more birdsong than airplane noise.

I’m finding that many things can be adapted to the pandemic. To do that, I have to tune into the essence of whatever I’m trying to do – how it will make me feel, the change I hope it makes. Usually there is a way for the essence to come through in a different form. I keep asking myself what was the most important thing for me that happened in May Day. I have so many memories: the many puppets I’ve made and all the times I’ve been in white clothes crawling in a muddy field under some enormous piece of fabric getting ready to burst out running at full speed. My daughter was reminiscing about how after the parade and ceremony, exhausted but deeply satisfied, we’d bike home and watch a movie and eat takeout.

One feeling rises to the top. For me, May Day is about helping raise the Tree of Life. The tree enters the field where we are performing folded up under a shroud with the crew of twelve puppeteers needed to bring it to life. We surround it and give the tree our energy while we watch the sun flotilla paddle across the lake. If there is a headwind this can take quite a long time. As the sun gets closer we stand up and directed use our hands to direct the sun’s energy into the tree. Then, as the giant sun puppet finally reaches the shore, we ululate and run as the tree rises up to its full size. I love dancing under the tree with my daughter and singing, “You are my Sunshine.” I love it when the narrators announce “The Tree of Life – Gift for us All.” Everything in May Day has been leading up to this moment. Every year I feel how desperately we yearn for this renewal and how much community it takes to physically raise that tree. I feel an exhilaration at closely participating in the mystery of spring.

This May Day, I will be figuring out how to connect with the Tree of Life. There are so many ways to do this. The blossoming trees all around us are eager to remind us of the extraordinary power of spring to burst forth. I could go hug a tree. Plant a tree. Honor my family tree. Go for a walk among the trees. I will be intentionally welcoming the Tree of Life this Sunday and in a small way, May Day will happen for me.

May you, too, find creative ways to continue expressing what is most important in your life.

Happy May Day!


Weekly practice groups for aligning with nature

Bring yourself into harmony with Mother Earth through either of the two community practice groups I offer each week. Healing Waters Qigong is a Spring Forest Qigong practice group. The Wisdom Dances Circle is based in Laura Shannon’s research on women’s traditional dances as tools for healing and transformation.