One of the many names for the full moon of April is the Pink Moon, supposedly derived from early colonists’ perceptions of spring blooms in New England. In this part of the timber, I’m seeing more lavender, especially in late April and May.
The native redbuds, Cercis canadensis, are the most spectacular. They usually bloom in mid-April before the trees have leafed out. For a couple of weeks, the light is filtered through a cloud of blossoms. The roadsides look like an invitation to enter Faërie. My daughter gathers the blossoms to sprinkle on cinnamon toast and drop into salads. When we first bought this land, my husband and I (both lifelong locals but townies) walked through the woods in March. There were more unfamiliar trees than either of us had seen before. We asked each other, “What are all these trees with the dark red buds on them?” In April the answer became obvious, a delightful “Duh” moment.
The lilacs are next. We planted purple and white Syringa bushes early on. We now have a variegated lavender selection spreading beside the driveway. As far as I’m concerned, the lilacs can be any color they want as long as they smell like ecstasy. The species name comes from syrinx, a hollow tube or pipe. Syrinx was a nymph who escaped the pursuit of the wild God Pan by transforming herself into reeds. Pan gathered the hollow stems and invented his signature instrument, the panpipes or syrinx. My daughter likes to compose flute music in the garden and the woods, where the singing of crickets and spring peepers inspires her. The neighbors sometimes hear distant piping, elusive as the scent of lilacs.
In May the sweet rocket goes off. It’s also called dame’s rocket and lady’s rocket, Hesperis matronalis: Mother of the evening. It was here before we were, favoring the edges of the timber. It moved into the yard with great abandon. One year I bought a couple of plants of the alba variant at a local nursery. They mixed it up with the natives immediately. Now the rocket explosion features not only the native deep purple, but also a random selection of white, pink and lavender blossoms.
So I use a personal name for the moon of May. The light changes as it pours through blossoms, spilling purple shadows on the ground, showering the timber with the Mother’s blessing.
(Listen to "Syrinx" by Claude Debussy:
performed by Paula Robison.)