Mendon’s May Day

Mendon’s May Day: Mendon May Pole Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Photographer
Mendon May Pole
Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Photographer

Mendon Glacier Lilly Courtesy & © Mary Heers, PhotographerMendon Glacier Lilly
Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Photographer

Mendon Glacier Lilly Close Up Courtesy & © Mary Heers, PhotographerMendon Glacier Lilly Close Up
Courtesy & © Mary Heers, Photographer

Mary's Neighbor's May Queen Crown Courtesy & &copy' Mary Heers, PhotographerMary’s Neighbor’s May Queen Crown
Courtesy & &copy’ Mary Heers, Photographer

Never have I seen the coming of spring celebrated with more flair than Mendon’s May Day.

On the first Saturday in May, Maypoles with 20 foot long ribbons appear in the Mendon town square. By ten o’clock a couple hundred residents have gathered around the poles. A piano in the gazebo strikes the first chords and the May Queen and her entourage step around the corner of the church and onto the green. Suddenly everybody gathered in the square begins to sing. “Come to the woodlands, away, away”. Most people know the whole song by heart.

The queen is crowned and the real showstopper, the braiding of the Maypoles, begins. Mendon’s young girls, grades 1-5, pick up the ribbons. Braiding the poles is complicated. The girls have been practicing after school three times a week since the beginning of April. Last week I dropped in on one of the practices and counted: 3 Maypoles, 64 girls, and a little bit of chaos. There’s a march, a minuet. More songs. Stepping in, stepping out, kneeling, skipping. The girls bob up and down as they sing ”Apples blossoms swing and sway..”

Mendon is one of Cache Valley’s oldest pioneer towns, tucked up against the Wellsville Mountains. Winters were long and hard, and the coming of spring eagerly awaited. The beginnings of May Day can be traced back to the days when the young girls in the pioneer settlement raced up the hillsides to gather spring wildflowers to put in their hair.

The first May Queen, Seny Sorenson, was crowned with a hand woven wreath of flowers in 1863. Since then, every year, rain or shine, a queen has been crowned in the town square, and the maypoles have been braided with the same songs and dance steps. 160 years, with only a few changes.

The queen’s name is now drawn out of a hat from a pool of the town’s high school juniors. And this year, for the first time ever, the young girls will be getting store bought dresses. In the past, the mothers were expected to sew the matching dresses for their daughters. Not knowing about this tradition, you can imagine how bewildered I was when I had just moved to Mendon and answered a knock on my door. A woman I didn’t know handed me a dress pattern and proceed to say something about altering the interfacing. I was pretty sure she was speaking English, but I couldn’t understand a word she was saying. Luckily my good friend and neighbor quickly brought me up to speed. This wonderful neighbor had actually been Mendon’s May Queen over 50 years ago. “Do you want to see my crown?” she asked as she opened the door to her hall closet. And there it was, a tight ring of pink and white flowers, secured to a tiny satin pillow with a fading ribbon.

I had one more stop to make. I hopped in my car and drove up to the Deep Canyon trailhead high above Mendon. A short way up the trail I found it– a whole hillside covered with curly yellow Glacier Lilies, the “early blooming flowers” from the May Day song “Maying and Straying…” And believe me, this was a sight worth singing about.

This is Mary Heers, and I’m Wild about Springtime in Utah.

Credits:
Photos: Courtesy & Copyright © Mary Heers, Photographer
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers AND Courtesy & Copyright © Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections/kevin-colver
Text: Mary Heers, https://cca.usu.edu/files/awards/art-and-mary-heers-citation.pdf
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Mary Heers’ Postings

Mendon May Day, https://www.mendonutah.net/may_day.htm

May Day Celebration, Mendon City, Utah, https://mendoncity.org/may-day-celebration/

Gratitude is Work

Gratitude is Work: American Robin Courtesy Pixabay, Chakraaphotography, contributor
American Robin
Courtesy Pixabay,
Chakraaphotography, contributor
All y’all, I think winter may be over. Here it is, mid too-early yet again, and it’s thawed even the once. Or is it twice now? Do I have a thrice? Either way: woof. I can’t say I didn’t expect this, given the past 30 years, but I was at least hoping to be in error one of these times. Don’t get me wrong, the interludes are nice, but seasonal consistency would be at least in line with what I remember.

Now, I’m only a ripe old 31 and the last good winter, true winter, winter like winter should be, I remember is still lodged in that ever-expanding haze of childhood I once thought only existed with fogies. Once you get that haze behind you though, it seems you’re always nostalgic, at least now where winter is concerned, if you are concerned about winter.

But that last ‘normal’ winter I recall, I can’t even give you a year, or my age to be fair. I just feel like it was back there, way back. The kind of winter that used to make glaciers seed and grow, that was more than just some storms. If I remember correctly, I remember remembering. Now that I think of it, it may have actually been a story my parents or grandparents told me about how winters used to be. Cold and snow from stem to stern, pillowy white nivian firmament blanketing every ski hill, and quieting every night, all the way until the very edge of spring when a great melt would rise up and make the world descend into mud. To be honest, I would even expect that my last memory of a good winter was a tale I was told to placate me when we had even poor winters back then that made my folks nostalgic. But even those off winters which rubbed my folks into remembrance it appears take me, too. Even my poor childhood winters are perhaps truer than those I see today. That certainly lifts the spirits. Woof. It makes me miss even more that which I’ve never even had.

But then the better of me gets in, and I look out my window and see that it’s not gone yet, as rickety as it may be. I recall that it is disingenuous to pray for something imagined as gone and not to thank it when it’s actually here. That’s how I was raised at least. Gratitude is not rocket science. But it is work.

By that I mean that work is the greatest gratitude we can show. Work towards winter and water and snow means more than utterances and nostalgia and certainly desperation. And I’m not afraid of the work. I wasn’t raised to be. Work isn’t hard, it’s just difficult. I was taught that just because we do not inherit the blame does not mean that we do not inherit the responsibility. But if we do not take up this effort, then the blame shall be more ours than even those before. Do we want to be the people who could have done something, or those who did?

Now, I know at this point the next generation will likely too only know a world with whatever-we-call-this being considered a “good childhood winter” in their grand arc of life, but I refuse to let them see what could’ve been get in the way of what can be once more. All it will take is many years of nonstop intergenerational gracious work by all of us. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

I’m tired of praying for snow because I remember remembering what it once was. Even though I’d rather see than believe, I’ll be thankful for what is here. From grief there is a pathway to thankfulness, and from thankfulness there is a pathway to action. It may be that you cannot see the way, but that does not negate that it is there. So, even in the waning days of another rickety winter, let’s mold our dourness to be thankful for what we do have, and turn our gratitude into the work necessary to make our prayers increasingly more often in thanks rather than in desperation.

I’m Patrick Kelly, and I’m Wild About Utah.
 
Credits:
Images: Courtesy Pixabay, , Photographer
Audio: Courtesy & © Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://www.logannature.org
Included Links: Patrick Kelly & Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Posts by Patrick Kelly

Stokes Nature Center in Logan Canyon, https://www.logannature.org/



To Be a Dog in the Sun

To be a Dog in the Sun Courtesy and Copyright Katarzyna Bilicka, Photographer
To be a Dog in the Sun
Courtesy and Copyright Katarzyna Bilicka, Photographer
Every winter comes with its ups and downs, and the downs are not always on the slopes. Sometimes we catch a bug or a nip. Sometimes we get those winter blues. Sometimes it’s even not safe for us to be outside and take a deep breath. Those are my most down days I feel: when you look out your window in the morning and see… thickness. Those are the days where we must hunker down indoors, though we long for the out of.

What I tend to do on these days in order to build that down into an up is lean in. I’ll do chores, bake something, stew something up, and make the most of it. If I must be indoors, then by god I shall be indoors. I keep myself busy so that I am still doing something. But what does one do when it’s been days or over a week of staring out that window at the thickness? What does one do when the house is clean, more bread is imprudent, and the stews all begin to form a beige film on your palette? What do you do when making the most of it becomes completed?

Now, I’m sure for every person there are different strategies for these issues. Maybe some folks don’t ever run out of steam. For them, that must be lovely. For the rest of us, though, Plan B is truly where creativity can shine, can it not? For where does imagination come from when our habits can no longer be relied upon and we must remember a bit of play?

I have found that my Plan Bs on those lingering thick sky days are a countermeasure to my Plan A, naturally. What I have discovered, from peering about my home, is that when the air is so bad outdoors and there is no more work to be done, the next best thing you can do is be a dog in the sun.

Me and my partner have three dogs, and from them we get so much. Endless fur on our clothes, large vet bills when they chase porcupines, barrels of love, and life lessons aplenty. When the air is too poor out, even for our dogs who typically love running and wrestling about in the yard and on hikes, they all do one thing which for its naturalness makes incredible sense. What they do is they find any ray of sunshine which peers into our home, even if dim and gray, lie squarely within its frame, and sleep like they’re storing fat for spring. What this means to Plan B can be straightforward. Have I ever plopped myself on the carpet alongside the pack and also napped in the light which happens to peer through the smog? Absolutely. It’s delightful. I highly recommend it. It’s warm, and soft, and the gentle snores from all make it an especially delightful respite. But what this also means to me is to be cozy in the light. Natural when possible, lamplit when not.

In the day I’ll put on the kettle, make some tea, and do any work I must in the sun with the aroma of spring leaves seeping into my nostrils and pores. When the sun is poor and my work is through, perhaps I’ll sit under a good lamp, maybe even stoke a fire, I’ll have a wee dram of uisce beatha fresh from aged shores and pull up a good book. I’ll read about a land where the air is clean but the company kept not even fiction can muster better, for that is another perk of having dogs: the good ones are good company, and those that aren’t are not themselves truly to blame, and therefore are good still the same.

So, when you find yourself noticing that the air once more is beginning to yellow, which makes your blues turn to gray, do what you can to keep your mind at ease while giving your lungs not their daily dose of PM2.5 and 10. And, if you find yourself like I often do after these long winter stretches, of having a cost benefit analysis of mind or lungs, remember that there can be a Plan B. Remember, that you can also be a dog in the sun. Find a book, have a slow down, drink something hot, warm, or neat, and gather yourself to the sun. Find your square of white light on the carpet, and give it a lie. Soak it up, feel the warmth, and remember that even on those days where to be in the wilds of Utah would do more harm than good, good still always may visit you from the wilds themselves.

I’m Patrick Kelly, and I’m Wild About Utah.
 
Credits:
Images: Courtesy and Copyright Katarzyna Bilicka, Photographer
Audio: Courtesy & © Shalayne Smith-Needham AND J. Chase and K.W. Baldwin. https://upr.org
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://www.logannature.org
Included Links: Patrick Kelly & Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Posts by Patrick Kelly

Stokes Nature Center in Logan Canyon, https://www.logannature.org/



Vinegar Honeydew

Vinegar Honeydew: Cucumber Pickles Courtesy Pixabay, CongerDesign, Photographer
Cucumber Pickles
Courtesy Pixabay, CongerDesign, Photographer
Winter is the season of withholdings come free and taboos undone. Those things we tell ourselves which are not for the warm months come to roost, and our allowances to ourselves grow as the season’s light shrinks.

Winter is when we get to have a sit by the fire and exhale from our work like young exhausted parents, listening to the world’s sleep because of our good labor done. It’s when we can crack open our stores and taste the results of our year on this earth from the gardens and fields; the flavors of hope without fear of waste. Vinegar truly is the honeydew of the long nights.

It’s also when we can have freedom in the snow. The snow is that sweeping medium which allows us to climb mountains and then descend at speeds which in any other season would be a cause for concern, even if moderate.

Each mode of winter travel has its partakers and dissuaders, though none is surely the best for all. Cross country, sitski, telemark, downhill, snowbike, snowskate, snowboard, sled, tube, and contractor bag all each have their place for us to slide at speeds too great to pass up. Some have edges for control, some have fewer for fun, yet all allow for wind to blow through your hair and to dance with gravity, more apparent than ever in the cold.

Winter also gives us stories not available elsewhen. Many skilled naturalists have given many good lessons to me on how to read the snows over the years, yet not one lecture can compare to what happens when you go out by yourself and see what the world itself has to say. I’ve spent good hours finding a good track and following it, whether it’s a hare to its burrow, deer to the nearest alfalfa field, or my eyes wandering skywards to see whose wings caught the vole which once did scurry all a tither. The words though melt in the sun, and so the snow is the rarest of books. Perhaps it is also the most precious. Stories carved in stone seem mortibund to those on paper, and so those tattooed upon tree pulp seem to the cuneiform in the nivian ether.

So this winter, do not forget to enjoy the allowances you’ve worked all year: warming your bones by the fire; reading the precious snows; sliding down hills; and vinegar honeydew from your stores.

I’m Patrick Kelly, and I’m Wild About Utah.
 
Credits:
Images: Courtesy Pixabay, CongerDesign, Photographer https://pixabay.com/photos/cucumbers-pickle-jar-preserves-886036/
Audio: Courtesy & © J. Chase and K.W. Baldwin. https://upr.org
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://www.logannature.org
Included Links: Patrick Kelly & Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Posts by Patrick Kelly

Stokes Nature Center in Logan Canyon, https://www.logannature.org/

Strand, Holly, Snowshoe Hare, Wild About Utah, February 18, 2010, https://wildaboututah.org/snowshoe-hare/

Larese-Casanova, Mark, The Shape of Wildlife in Winter Wild About Utah, January 26, 2012, https://wildaboututah.org/the-shape-of-wildlife-in-winter/

Larese-Casanova, Mark, Utah’s Rich Skiing History Wild About Utah, January 23, 2014, https://wildaboututah.org/utahs-rich-skiing-history/

Strand, Holly, A Utah Skier’s Snow Lexicon Wild About Utah, January 29, 2009, https://wildaboututah.org/a-utah-skiers-snow-lexicon/

Nummer, Brian, Getting Crisp Home Pickled Vegetables, Extension, Utah State University, https://extension.usu.edu/preserve-the-harvest/research/getting-crisp-home-pickled-vegetables

Food Safety & Preservation, Extension, Utah State University, https://extension.usu.edu/saltlake/home-family-food/food-safety-preservation