720. O, the month of May, the merry month of may… ~Thomas Dekker

Ho! the merrie first of Maie
Brings the daunce and blossoms gaie
To make of lyfe a holiday!
~Old English saying

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Thousands of years ago winter was a time to honor death and the summer a time to honor life. In those ancient times the short days, grey skies, and cold temperatures began to wear people down and that coupled with a gradual decline in food supplies took its toll on their spirits. Indeed winter was a very difficult time for the ancients, and so the coming of summer brought them great hope. As the crops and grasslands became full of life again, the animals bred, and the warmth of the sun thawed out the earth and their spirits, they celebrated the cross-over and coming change in the human cycle that reflected the turning of the seasons. It was a time for celebrating the forces of life overcoming death, light overcoming darkness, and summer overcoming winter.

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Thus began the dancing around the May pole. A kind of maypole dance, with origins in the 18th century, began as a traditional artistic dance popular in Italy and France. Eventually, traveling troupes performed it in London theaters, thus bringing this traditional dance to larger audiences. An English teacher training school adopted the maypole dance and soon it had spread across most of central and southern England. The dance became part of the repertoire of physical education for girls and remained popular in elementary schools in both England and the US well into the 1950’s.

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I remember in elementary school making May baskets and flowers out of coloredl pieces of construction paper and crepe paper. Today May Day has many different meanings, if any, but it eventually found its place in Christianity. And though considered quaint now, in decades past, like dancing around the maypole, as the month of April rolled to an end, people begin gathering flowers and candies and goodies to put in May baskets to hang on the doors of friends, neighbors, and loved ones on May 1st. And there were even rules about the basket tradition:

1.  Giving was supposed to be anonymous. Reciprocity was not expected. One was to leave the basket on the doorknob or doorstep, ring the doorbell, and run.
2.  Children were to give to grownups, instead of the other way around. On almost every other holiday, only the child receives gifts; so they don’t get to experience the true joy of unselfish giving.

He(Jesus) told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near…” ~Luke 21:29-30   ✝

**Images via Pinterest and the Internet; collages created by Natalie

586. And so the Shortest Day came and the year died and everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world came people singing, dancing, to drive the dark away. ~Susan Cooper

They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling and
partaking of the wassail.
~Adapted excerpt from Susan Cooper

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Wassailing
~by Unknown Author

The word “wassail” is thought to come from the Anglo-Saxon “wel hal” which means “be healthy.” The Anglo-Saxons used the phrase as an everyday greeting. “Waes” is a form of the verb “to be.” “Hal” is the ancestor of the modern English words whole and hale. Thus, “waes hal” literally meant “Be healthy.”

The Vikings who later settled in Northern England used a variant of the same phrase, “Ves heill.” Since the Anglo-Saxons and Norse shared a custom of welcoming guests by presenting them with a horn of ale, a cup of mead, or a goblet of wine, the greeting evolved into a toast.

The phrase eventually evolved into the single word that we know today as “wassail.” The use of “wassailing” to mean “caroling” very likely descended from the custom of singing songs while drinking from the wassail bowl during the Christmas holidays.

Cranberry Wassail
1 gallon ocean spray cranberry juice
5 cups apple juice
2/3 cup sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
2 tsp allspice (whole)
1 medium sized orange sliced
20 whole cloves

Combine cranberry juice cocktail, apple juice, sugar, cinnamon sticks, and allspice in a large pot. Heat to boiling over medium heat; reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Strain punch to remove spices. Serve warm in a heat proof punch bowl or chill and serve over ice. Garnish with orange slices studded with cloves. Makes 42 4-ounce servings.

And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and day and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on earth.” And it was so. ~Genesis 1:13-15   ✝

** Image via Pinterest

335. Here are the sweet peas, on tip-toe for a flight: with wings of gentle flush o’er delicate white, and taper fingers catching at all things, to bind them all about. ~John Keats

By helpful fingers taught to twine
Around its trellis, grew
A delicate and dainty vine;
The bursting bud, its blossom sign,
Inlaid with honeyed-dew.
~Hattie Howard

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Between each row of houses in Belmont Shore, California, where I grew up ran an alley which was the way to get in and out of the rear facing garages; it was also a favorite place to ride my bike or skates as well as being a frequented path to the homes of neighboring friends. Besides the garages the alley skirted the back yards of the houses and on many of the fences grew Sweet Pea vines. Not only were the flowers of these vines lovely and fragrant, but for a curious and imaginative child born in and of and wedded to one of the few remaining years of innocence the world would ever know they were the home of enchanted and magical fairy creatures.

Hauntingly unforgettable indeed have been the gardens in my childhood, but it was more than just the colors, the beautiful flowers and the lovely fragrances. Along with being mesmerized by all that splendor, I was courted by the Holy One, Yahweh, whose sole intent was to capture my heart and reveal His own. Though the world and its deceptions fought long and hard to turn me away from Jesus, He would not and did not give up on what had always been His.

The world is very old;
But every Spring
It groweth young again,
And fairies sing.
~Author Unknown

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With their richly colored, yet small, delicate flowers, the sweet pea’s history can be traced back to 17th century Italy when a Sicilian monk, Franciscus Cupani, sent its seeds to England. Then Henry Eckford, a Scottish nurseryman, cross-bred the original flower and created the colorful and intensely sweet scented blossom that became the floral sensation of the late Victorian era.

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The Song of the “Sweet Pea Fairies”

Here Sweet Peas are climbing,
(Here’s the Sweet Pea rhyme!)
Here are little tendrils,
Helping them to climb.

Here are sweetest colours,
Fragrance very sweet;
Here are silky pods of peas,
None for us to eat!

Here’s a fairy sister,
Trying on with care.
Such a grand new bonnet
For the baby there.

Does it suit you Baby?
Yes, I really think
Nothing’s more becoming
Than this pretty pink!

~Cicely Mary Barker

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My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:15-16 ✝

Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you save, you heal, you restore, and you reveal Your Father’s heart to us! You have captured me with grace and I’m caught in Your infinite embrace!

**My sweet pea vines are climbing but not blooming yet so I’m using images here that I found on Pinterest.

156. I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a fresh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere behind the morning. ~J. B. Priestley

I do believe in an everyday sort of magic–
the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience
with places, people, works of art and the like;
the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity;
the whispered voice, the hidden presence,
when we think we’re alone.
~Charles de Lint

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Rose Fyleman (1877-1957) was an English writer and poet of exceptional talent who was best known for her works on the “fairy folk” for children.  She also translated many rare children’s books from French and German into their first English translations.  She eventually became the editor of one of the first children’s magazines called The Merry Go Round.  Rose was born in Nottingham, England, and there is speculation that it could have been the magical setting of Nottingham which led her to believe in fairies.  Whatever the reason, she blessed generations of readers with her lovely fairy poems.

It was one of Rose’s poem, Fairies at the Bottom of the Garden, which prompted my post last night about toadstools.  I loved her poetry as a child and I love it still.  I am passionate about gardening and its lore, and when I see creatures like the one in my photo I see how easy it would be to invent stories about “fairies.”  Besides what he said above, Charles de Lint, explained childhood this way:  “It is easy to believe in magic when you’re young.  Anything you couldn’t explain was magic then.  It didn’t matter if it was science or a fairy tale.  Electricity and elves were both infinitely mysterious and equally possible — elves probably more so.”  I believe Creation is both miracle and magic, and the more we try to explain it the more we see how miraculous and magical it is.  R. A. Salvatore said “a world without mystery is a world without faith,” and so it is because it is our faith that tells us what magic is “waiting somewhere behind the morning” and whose is the “whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.”

There are fairies at the bottom of the garden!
It’s not so very, very far away;
You pass the gardener’s shed and you just keep straight ahead.
I do so hope they’ve really come to stay. . .
~for more of Fyleman’s work go to:  http://www.fairyamber.com/rfyleman.html

By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger: he persevered because he saw Him who is invisible.  ~Hebrews 11:27