The magnificent month of May

Sunday, May 17, began like many days —with my son Leif badgering me to buy him something. This time it was a phone charger for an extra cell phone he got from his friend. When he uses it he sounds like he’s in a foxhole, talking into a ham radio fashioned from a soup can and a safety pin.

It’s his texting phone, he says. When he wants to talk, he’ll switch the card out to his other phone.

I said no. I was not about to get my credit card out to buy him a charger for a phone he didn’t need. “What about Mom?” he said.

“You can ask her.”

She said yes.

So I sat him down for one of those father-son chats that fathers hate almost as much as sons.

“There’s two ways to be happy in life,” I said. “Either you make enough money to buy everything you want, or you limit your wants so you’re happy with what you have.”

I told him his mom and I had chosen the latter path. We drive old cars, live in a small house, buy our clothes off the clearance rack and save our money for cheap vacations. I said I’d support him if he goes in a different direction, but I warned him that if he doesn’t learn to limit his desires, he’ll need to develop a better work ethic, because a lot of other people are trying to get to the top of the same hill.

The day got better from there. I spent it wishing it would never end.

May is like that.

I built a raised bed in the garden and filled it with freshly tilled soil, cut up some fallen logs on my trails, fixed my boat with duct tape (don’t ask), heated up the wood-fired hot tub, cleaned out two of my tents, and drove to the hardware store with the window down.

Every moment was better than the last, and I grieved at the thought of dusk.

Diane was ecstatic about all the birds coming to the feeders. She was convinced we’d never had so many. That’s something I like about my wife. Every morning she’s Rip Van Winkle, waking up to a whole new world.

Most of the time, I’m just the opposite. Every year there’s less and less that strikes me as new or unique or beautiful. Diane’s a sanguine summer girl, ruddy cheeked and full of energy. She gets more done most days than I do in a month.

I’ve always been a melancholy fall type, but not in the month of May. For 30 days, between the dead, gray winter and the long, hot summer, I’m 11 years old inside.

The world explodes with green, and all the riches return —fish, birds, wildflowers, warmth. The horses shed, the meadowlarks and wood thrushes sing, and I just want to shut up and soak in the music and the evening light. I actually look forward to my morning jog.

Isn’t it amazing how quickly the plants come up and the trees leaf out? It’s like a bomb went off under ground somewhere, and all that green comes bursting out of earth’s every pore. The ferns are the most amazing. They emerge all curled up, and within a day they’re 2 feet tall. I eat a meal of them every spring, then take my fishing pole down to the river, hoping for a walleye.

This year, I cast an ugly rubber perch, the only thing that would reach across the rapids to an eddy where I’d caught big fish before. I knew it was a bass when it hit and flashed its side at the surface.

I fought it in across the rapids, where it gave one last fight before letting me have a look. I dragged it onto the bank and let out a whoop. It was the biggest bass I’d ever seen in the river — 21 inches of bronze muscle. A magnificent glimpse into a mystery world. It was out of season, but I would’ve thrown it back anyway. The wood thrush sang me home as the sky turned dark and I knew I could die happy.

If I could live anywhere, it would be in the month of May. In May, I want for nothing.
Brett Larson is the editor of the Messenger.

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