Fluffhead and I are spending whole days outside. The garden looks amazing. From a light brown deadness, there is a wildflower meadow. In the space of a fortnight! Tiny little violets in a patch under the holly tree. Beautiful things: you have to get down on your hands and knees to see them properly. Petals smaller than Fluffhead’s smallest fingernail. Little clumps of pale blue forget-me-nots in several places in the meadow.
In my usual sudden getting with the swing of things, I have planted many pansies of all colours, and some begonia seedlings in the dug flower bed near the living room window. It stretches the whole length of the garden, that flowerbed, and I’ve only afforded enough plants so far to progress down a section of about two and a half feet. I put them there so I can see them when I look out, on days where the weather isn’t so good and Fluffhead and I are bouncing off the walls/ pacing like caged leopards, respectively. So I can see the prettiness outside; and know *I* put it there. Of course, I haven’t bought any slug pellets (and loads of people have told me to), so the pansies flowers are being decimated with horrible speed. The begonias with their delicate white heads may not survive the next fortnight. We’ll have to see. The violas and saxifrage I planted last year in pots have surprised me by returning – white, yellow and royal purple. Also getting munched.
But the wildflowers are doing fine, naturally. The grass moves like water when the wind blows. Ripples and waves. It’s got to that perfect meadow height – about the length of my hand from fingertip to wrist.
The cherry blossom tree that dominates the garden (and half of the nice next door neighbour family’s garden too) has finally stopped being half hearted and broken into violent pink blossom in huge tufty handfuls. It looks gaudy, excessive, and excellent. When the breeze touches the tree at all, we have pink rain. The blossoms are always unexpectedly cool to the touch. Delicious to wipe over your face (as Fluffhead showed me), after a rain shower.
He runs back and forth under the drying clothes on the line, laughing and turning about, pulling at the towels and trousers, much to my annoyance. Occasionally he gets one item off, and tramples it to the floor in a fit of joy (why?! Tsk!). He has perpetually muddy wellies because he is determined to water all the wildflowers and the drier patches of earth where the splayed ground hugging weeds grow. He stomps in great happiness, spraying newly made mud everywhere, necessitating 3 or so changes of trousers a day (and sometimes me too if I don’t step back quick enough). He tramples little bootprints over any washing he has pulled to the ground (shiny manic eyed grin) and runs away – arms outstretched like an aeroplane’s wings, squealing.
Off under the holly tree, where Stanley has cleared much overgrown and dead hedge from a section underneath the tree at the side. It’s created a large shady area underneath, tall enough for me to stand up in, that Stanley says is a den for Fluffhead now. He takes his collections of white feathers, dandelions, and cherry blossoms under the tree and places them all at the foot of the trunk. There’s a hole there, where Stanley removed an old dead tree trunk. Fluffhead thinks this hole is his new seat. I shudder, and wave my arms about, and worry about fox fleas and woodlice and things I don’t know the name of.
But Fluffhead zigzags about regardless, free from the winter living room prison, watering the earth in general, screeching back and forth, trampling through the fresh dug flowerbeds. He wears Stanley’s leather Australian rain hat – a sort of Stetson, but more CrocodileDundee-ish. He runs with it till it falls off his head backwards. Which strikes him as incredibly funny. He has to go back for it, and throw himself on the ground, face first in the hat.
Sometimes he directs me to sit down too, and plops himself into my lap. I smell his hair, all warm with sun, and we listen to the birds calling loudly from all sides. Watch the wind move the leaves and branches. If we sit long enough, the blue tits and robins and blackbirds will come. Magpies. He points his little fingers up at the sky, marking the helicopters and old fashioned looking aeroplanes that go past.
I watch the garden come alive again, and feel the sense of everything pushing through, suddenly in a great hurry, greedy for sun. I listen to the seagulls, and hug Fluffhead’s small self to my chest as we sit. He squeezes my arm, and shows me the dinosaurs on his wellies, barely visible through mud.
I see all this, with sun in my eyes.
I’ve never really got into the festival of Beltane. I don’t know completely why. I love Imbolc, Ostara, Midsummer, Harvest. I have a handle on most of the festivals.
Maybe it’s because Beltane feels so chaotic and riotous? People always bang on about it being a fertility festival, and there’s that sneaky connotation that after Maypoling you’ll be thrown down behind some haywain (observe me confusing my times of the year here!) and there’ll be much SEX. And straw in hair. Wenches. Men in riding boots. Colin Firth, but not posh, and without noticeable morals.
I think it is that. It’s the SEX association of Beltane that puts me off.
It’s a strange thing. One of the things I like best about paganism (as an umbrella term for lots of new and Reconstructionist Earth-based paths), is the comfortableness in your own skin that’s emphasized. It’s ok to be dressed; it’s ok to be naked. Love your body, whatever shape, treat it well: it’s the temple, the home, of your essence, your spirit. Keep it fed and watered, see it moves and stretches enough. The link between body and mind: care for both and treat with respect. And you sleep with who you like. With joyfulness. You are monogamous; or not. As long as whoever you are with is on the same page as you, and you hurt no one with lies or evasive misunderstandings.
When I say that – some of my readers will be thinking: Oh! License to promiscuity! Disease! There goes the fabric of society! Etc! Fry and Aka Lord Airshaper will be thinking Pornworld made real: everyone up for it all the time: “pizza only ever delivered by handsome teenage delivery boys, to lonely sexy housewives”, as Fry said to me last week in a conversation about this very thing. That’s a shorthand description. You see what I mean.
And there’s lots of reasons (which this post isn’t about), why a situation like that, among anyone into it, would be just fine. Anyone grown up and consenting etc etc etc. Also, in my experience of people, just as likely to occur among the non-pagan minded. In my opinion, I applaud Fry and Lord Airshaper’s fevered imaginations, and how for them, Beltane would be a bit of a happy orgy – in their libertarian heads, at any rate.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this is only a male dream either – I know at least 3 totally non-pagan women who feel that if Pornworld were real, it would also be brilliant. Life would be much more honest, less hypocritical, and we’d all have less body hang ups.
This is the festival where non-pagans imagine us all out, bollock naked in the woods or fields, or back gardens even: an infestation of horny ants! Dancing about and engaging in Sinful Fornication. For fun! The shame! (I am pretty sure there is some envy in with the fear and judgement, of that idea.)
To give my own personal (and obviously limited: I am only one me!) experience of this: I don’t know any orgies at all going on at this time, sorry. I do know a couple of monogamous couples who will do a ritual of joy for the start of summer that will end up with joyful sex, but that’s not all it’s about, loads of other symbolism too.
For myself, I don’t do promiscuity very well, or even one night stands. When I get with someone I have the habit of shacking up with them for many years; or having children; or getting married. I can count my partners with my two hands, less some fingers. It’s just how I am. All to do as they wilt. And harm none, as it goes.
I have a lot of respect, and a bit of fear, for the violence of the growth and fertility energy that starts around Beltane. It was then in 2009, that Stanley and I decided we would make a Fluffhead (after much prior discussion). I came off 20+ years of the pill. We had a ritual for blessing and fertility, ending with sex. On Beltane.
I was absolutely and overwhelmingly knocked up, exactly then, when you count the dates backward from the first scan. Off the pill for less than a fortnight. (You should hear Stanley to this day boasting about his SuperSperm. Tsk!) Considering Stanley is 100% atheist (non-theist, he prefers), anything he does with respect to my personal notions is humouring me. The point is, he has no investment here – it’s despite him.
So Fluffhead is a Beltane conceived boy. (And an Imbolc baby, so its Brighid’s job to keep an eye on him, by the by.) Now, much loved and adored as Fluffhead is, you cannot have failed to notice that I have been informing you since his birth that I haven’t been feeling so very tip-top at all anymore. (The back, the hormone problems, the IBS, yada yada yada; and Fluffhead has his own health issues too, that have meant endless tiredness for me as he cannot sleep properly at night, though he seems usually fine from it; plus, you know what its like to worry over a child: quite agonizing and shattering for the equilibrium.)
So when Beltane comes now, and I think of all that GROWTH, and PASSION ENERGY sprouting about the place, everyone starting to feel a bit fruity and excited…I always start to feel a bit worried. I don’t think I’ll ever do a fertility ritual of any kind for anything at Beltane ever again, just in case I don’t phrase it right. No more pregnancies! Done now! Want some SLEEP!
I shall put my slippers on, take up some knitting or somesuch, and leave Beltane and all the happy dancing and leaping to the, er, younger ones. At least until I’ve had a really good nap.
So this is how I celebrate Beltane now, no ritual: I watch the garden, watch all the flowers springing up. Count the daisies as they multiply across the grass. See the sky shine strongly blue, feel the days warm enough to wear a T-shirt for small patches before the shade comes back.
I watch Fluffhead careen up and down, brimming with joy. Hands to the sky, throwing dandelions over his head. I catch his eye as they shower down, and he runs over to me and throws me backwards with the force of his hug. We laugh, and his little body feels so strong and warm. His top is now too small and the sleeves have crept up his arms. He grows so strongly. He picks himself up and runs off again with the outsize green watering can in his hands, slopping with water.
It all grows. I am with it, helping – I plant seeds of sunflower and sweetpea, tend some small tomato plants.
I watch the birds and the bees.
 It makes you think how much it must have cost people to have their gardens Groundforced – all those ready to be put in plants. Remember that programme? I used to love that, watching the gardens come together so harmoniously (well, sometimes harmoniously!). Send that goddess Charlie Dimmock into my garden anyday. But no bloody decking! I always used to think they covered far too much perfectly good green grass with wood. Anyway.