Rough winds indeed shook the darling buds of May this year.
In late April, May’s flowers fought for light through overcast skies, weathered rollercoaster temperatures and endured a drenching. After the April showers moved on, the flora flourished for a moment in the sun before being crushed by the heavy rains, harsh winds and leaden snow of early May; they are currently deciding whether to keep striving upward or just stay down and give up. Perhaps plants aren’t so different from people.
On a weekend outing in Colorado’s high country, we encountered pretty much every form of atmospheric moisture and precipitation possible—fog, drizzle, rain, sleet, hail, snow—within just a few hours. In Denver, a damp, brooding, Portland-like week capped itself with a snowstorm as heavy hitting as those lawyers who advertise on TV1.
Multiple times over the past month, I’ve found myself thinking or saying, “I’ve never seen weather like this in the ten-plus years I’ve lived here.” Looking back, I find I’ve written about April snow showers and May blizzards the past two years. Uncommon weather is becoming more common. It’s the type of thing climate-change deniers prop themselves up with in defiance of science and logic. It’s also the shifting baseline syndrome in action, as discussed by George Monbiot in his provocative book Feral; people tend to perceive the state of the ecosystem and climate they encounter in their lives as normal even though extreme changes have occurred and are in the process of occurring.
While this particular May has been active climatically and personally (our outdoors excursion was part of some weekend R&R prior the humans beginning new jobs), the catchy, summery ditty Lazy May by the underappreciated band The Essex Green always gets stuck in my head this time of year:
Careful, I’m a cloud
Lookin’ down upon it now
Whoa, oh, my lazy May
When the winter comes
You’re beatin’ your own drum
Whoa, oh, my lazy May
Then it’s summertime
You say you’re lucky to be mine…
May is more than a month in this case (“You’ve never seen a rose / More guarded than those of / Oh, oh, my lazy May…”). If songwriters have largely missed the boat when it comes to examining the many faces of May, Shakespeare, as usual, was able to reflect every facet of this occasionally tumultuous and often invigorating month:
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
In King Henry IV, Part 1, the Prince of Wales and his cohorts are said to be “As full of spirit as the month of May.” Of the young gentleman Fenton in The Merry Wives of Windsor, it is said “he speaks holiday, he smells April and May…” In As You Like It, Rosalind tells Orlando “men are April when they woo, December when they wed: maids are May when they are maids, but the sky changes when they are wives.”
Some people are complaining about the wild temperature swings, frigid rain and bursts of snow, and to them I say, “Go back to Texas2.” Soon enough we’ll all be grousing about the heat.
Within hours of this mighty May storm’s final flakes, the sun again shone bright and warm; the snow began to melt as quickly as it fell, and battered blooms peeked through the icy crust. The darling buds of May, it seems, are pretty tough after all.
1How can so many of these attorneys be “The Heavy Hitter”? “Heavy Hitter” is a weightless nickname, though most of the lawyers who bear it look as if they could afford to skip the occasional meal; it manages to be even more generic than “Red” or “Whitey,” which are at least ostensibly linked to someone’s hair color. When you hear a nickname like The Georgia Peach or Lady Day or Old Hickory or Satchmo, you know whom someone’s talking about. When you hear “Heavy Hitter,” you’re like, uh, oh yeah, that tubby ambulance chaser whose lame commercials are always on TV. I propose a round-robin cage match or legal-off to determine the one true Heavy Hitter.
2I feel the same way about most Texans that most Texans feel about most Mexicans. Does that make me racist?