Why should our communion with the beloved dead depend on the coincidental turning of the Earth on its axis? Why should we not always be in touch with those who have crossed the threshold, in touch with our own mortality and death? One might as well ask why the angle of the sun should sometimes grace the crocuses and wet new buds of spring and at other times drop down heavy and hot into the deepest reaches of summer lakes, why childhood should burst with curiosity and buzzing movement and adulthood settle into the long, gentle pull of days one after another beneath a bright, cool sky. The truth is, I suspect, that there is no Other-world. That we live in this one world, together with the dead and the long-departed, drinking in the same gulps of breath as they once drank.
Let's just say that life has been a bit stressful lately with everything going on. Back in high school and college when life was understandably a bit like being high strung on a high wire, I would throw myself into poetry. I spent long hours playing with words and sounds, line breaks and juxtaposition. Now, since writing is kind of a career for me these days, I find that I need some other creative outlet that I can throw myself into head first without worrying about being good at it.
Now it is the end of autumn, I lay my body down. A hush. The hill is still humming with the day's warmth, the sun sinking into the far shore of the lake. For a moment, I can see it, as though with other eyes, submerged, rippling beneath the waters in arcing liquid wings of flame and dusk, flexing, alternating, a thousand of them, wings sprouting from the round, warm body settling into the depths. Then the vision is gone. I creep silently along the shore, my bare feet numb and rustling through the long, dried grasses of autumn. The mud is moist and rough on my soles, each step sending echoes of energy sliding up my calves.
Another gray, rainy day here in Pittsburgh with a week of similarly chilly, damp weather to come, and while it may be good for our newly planted garden, such a wet, cold spring weighs heavy on the soul that longs for the warm touch of sunlight. (And of course, I worry about the Allegheny and the Monongahela joining the Ohio to swell the Mississippi River still further...) Still, the azalea bush is finally blooming in front of the house. That burst of color brings a bit of relief to the dull, gray days. What cheers you up in the midst of chill doldrums?
The significance of Beltaine reaches beyond merely being an agricultural festival focused on fertility and fecundity in service to the community, with romance acting as a bit of grease we can indulge in now and then to keep the Wheel turning. The holy day at the height of spring is also a day of ecstasy in the original sense, a day on which the attraction of life-force can pull us beyond ourselves and into communion with a larger Mystery, beyond tensions that might keep us too rigidly locked into unhealthy or hampering community bonds once they have outlasted their benefit. Along with Samhain, the other hinge of the year, Beltaine serves as a liminal time, a time of thresholds and permeable boundaries. The great ecstatic mysteries of sex and death dominate both these holy days.