There are many ways to divide up the days of the year. There are many ways of understanding the meaning and significance of what happens during those phases: who is born, who dies, what arrives, what vanishes. These are touchstones for human existence: always have been, always will. You could do it by the movements and arrangements of the constellations. This way of understanding the changes of the days by way of the sky changes is still alive in what we call “horoscopes.” Some people who study this more than the average person are called astronomers. Others who do the same are called “wackos.” This morning I was watching an interview with the Golden State Warrior (basketball) player, Klay Thompson. I find Klay humble, quiet, intelligent, funny and his story is moving. He was out for 2 years because of a blown knee. Two years. Then the pandemic on top of it, so 4 years of inertia and pain and grief. When he talks about it, his shoulders jiggle and he bends down and touches his nose as if to tend to a strong tingling feeling (how tears announce themselves to our faces before they arrive). Golden State just won Game 5 of the NBA 2022 final series. It didn’t look good after Al Horford sank the 4th 3-pointer in a row for the Boston Celtics, but the Warriors are, well, magical warriors on the basketball court. They have incredible pluck and talent. Among them now, again, is Klay. In the interview, someone asked him how he got ready for Game 5? “I went out to the Bay” he said. “The Ocean is so powerful and healing. It’s not like a pool or a hottub or a “cold tub routine.” When I am in the Ocean, I am with something bigger than all of us, maybe God. I look up at the sky, I feel total calm. When you get out, your whole body tingles. It’s freezing!!” Then he said: “You know, I am an Aquarius, so I’m happiest in the water.” I smiled at that. These tough guys. This overpaid athlete superstars. And there he is talking about God and the zodiac. Everyone reading this is a human. Everyone of us was born. Everyone of us both hurts and celebrates. Everyone of us will die. The way that the Earth, the Sky, the Water is the home we find ourselves in, and cradles us in all those moments: that is common to us all. It always has been. It always will be.
It is June now. Look up. How is the sun moving in its arc in the sky? How is it behaving?
Get up in your pj’s and see: What is the moon doing tonight?
What did you eat for dessert, whether it was in the fields after long, sweaty hard work, or in one of the finest restaurants in the whole world: Noma, for instance. Or, in Guelph, at Artisinale or Mijiida? I bet it was strawberries.
There are many ways to name what I call “months”…. “moons”…. “seasons”…. And there are many ways of giving those months names. In the calendar of the white people in the Northern hemisphere, we say “June” maybe without knowing that this month is a tribute to Junius, Roman Emperor. Hmmm. Really! How about July? Julius Caesar, anyone? Histories weave or maybe push their ways forward like rivulets, into any fabric. There are many stories, many fabrics.
I write this on June 14th, 2022, just south of the lands of the Ojibwa, though I lived from age 7-16 in Ojibwa territories. In Ojibwas teachings, there are 13 Grandmother Moons of Creation. There are 13 plates on Turtle’s back. There are 13 moon phases, between the months we name and days we count to 30 or 31. I used to count them to 28 because my period came every 28 days, from age 11 to age 52, “like clockwork” my mother would say, but truly, it was like moonwork. I know the moons in my body, whether I pay attention or not.
Personally, I pay attention to June because of three things: 1) my older sister’s birthday is on June 13th, and it was usually the first time we went camping as a family in one of the provincial parks that dot the North of Ontario. Blackflies and mosquitoes notwithstanding. For me that meant endless swimming. Endless. Like: until my lips were blue and I couldn’t feel my hands or feet. The mineral feeling of the water. The way that it smells even when you are underwater, it has a special aroma that your whole body takes in. And that you are floating! With this bony awkward human body: an upright two-footer! Fins and scales and smooth darting like a minnow, bones notwithstanding. So: first swims in freshwater lakes is #2. I would only come out of the water because it was dinner time. Dinner time on June 13th meant there was cake. We got to choose what kind of birthday cake we wanted. My sister always wanted “angel food cake”… and I still don’t know if angels eat cake. This was a theological riddle arriving as a culinary moment that baffled me. Nevertheless, the cake was so wonderful. What made it wonderful was not the weirdly poufy texture (clouds? Air? Heavenly ether?) but what went on top: fresh strawberries and whipping cream; so, #3) Strawberries. If you were blessed to have been born anywhere near wild strawberries, and you found them (I used to find them by scent in the bush and on the open paths of the meadows), and ate them, then your whole life is blessed. It will never be unblessed thanks to the strongest most magical taste and smell of those first fruits of the season. I have written a poem about missing school (Grade 1!) because I never quite made it there, having been drawn by the scent of wild strawberries further and further into the woods, i.e. further and further from Miss Morrison’s Grade 1 class at English Catholic Central School in New Liskeard. I ate so many. They are tinier than my adult pinkie fingernails, and squish oh-so-easily as you pull them from their green spider-like crowns. Nothing could stop me from eating them and following the paths they made in the open meadow and the welcome finally-warm sun of mid-June on my blond head. (Poem is in During, Gaspereau Press, 2005). Did you notice that they are shaped like the human heart? Not like the heart of a Blue Whale. Not like the heart of a yellow warbler. A human heart.