Apple Blossoms on May Day

“The first blossom was the best blossom” according to poet Louis MacNiece “for the child who never had seen an orchard.”

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Blossom 5 by Jacalyn McNamara

In tune with the seasons on May Day, I gather blossoms from the old pioneer apple tree and bundle them into a blue pitcher for the table. This tree has been threatening to die, but this year the blossoms are profuse, a gift from the river of rain that fell in the last storm. I planted a new tree, a Fuji, five years ago, and it too has finally surged into a generous cloud of blossom.

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Blossom 2 by Jacalyn McNamara

May Day is a coming-of-age and a woman’s feast. I was raised Catholic, a proper pagan. My sisters and I carried armloads of blossoms up to our farmhouse bedrooms, pulling out scarfs and making altars to welcome the May Queen, waiting to find out who we’d become, wondering if we’d marry and have children and orchards of our own. “Oh, Mary we crown thee . . .”

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Blossom 3 by Jacalyn McNamara

In “Apple Blossoms,” Susan Kelly-DeWitt writes of that coming-of-age anticipation, waiting as

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Blossom 1 by Jacalyn McNamara

. . . the secret

and docile buds of the apple

 

blossoms begin their quick

ascent to light. Night

after interminable night

 

the sugars pucker and swell

into green slips, green

silks. And just as you find

 

yourself at the end

of winter’s long, cold

rope, the blossoms open . . .

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Blossom 6 by Jacalyn McNamara

The petals are fragile, liminal—the slightest wind can lift them away—but they are intended that way; they are meant to pass like a breath, the slips and silks of a girl. This gives them their breath-taking power. In Robert Haas’s “Apple Trees at Olema,” we are “shaken by the raw, backlit flaring | of the apple blossoms.”

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Blossom 4 by Jacalyn McNamara

All blossoms are by nature transformative–the apple more so since it feeds us–like the hazel wand in Yeats’s “Song of the Wandering Aengus” which turns into–

. . . a glimmering girl

With apple blossom in her hair

Who called me by my name and ran

and faded through the brightening air.

 

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