Fresh Take

The Month of May


The birdsong begins early. It’s better than any alarm clock. Sweeter, gentler, more alive. With the bedroom window cracked open, I ensure that it’s the first thing that I hear in the morning.

Over a decade ago, I moved to a tiny apartment in Paris. Five floors up, the windows of the apartment all looked to the interior courtyard, a view down to the romantic sight of recycling and garbage bins. While not quintessentially beautiful, the main benefit was that since there were no windows that faced out, street traffic noise wasn’t a problem. There was a sense of quiet as soon as you pushed open the heavy blue entry door to the apartment building and stepped into that courtyard. From the window in the dining room — which in tiny apartment style also served as the office and living room — I could look out across the courtyard to the apartments on the other side. One floor down, I could see into the kitchen of a man who every morning read the newspaper and smoked a cigarette by the window. When I looked up, my sight extended past the top floor of the building, up to the sky. A small portal to the natural world.

A few months into living there, I traveled for a long weekend to Lisbon. We arrived in the evening, reveling that there was enough space in the rental apartment for an entire couch. Such luxury! In the morning, while making coffee, I opened the kitchen windows. They also extended out into a courtyard of sorts, an open space in the middle of the block of apartment buildings. But this was much different: verdant and lush, vines creeping up a trellis. I sat there with the coffee, breathing in the bright morning air. Then I heard it: Birdsong. A morning serenade. I hadn’t realized how much I missed it.

We need nature in our everyday lives. Green spaces in urban areas are essential, not just for climate resilience but also for wellbeing. If you’ve been here on the Key Peninsula for a while, it can be easy to forget that. We’re surrounded by it, steeped in it. We don’t have to go far to get to a water view or a park. What impresses visitors — enormous moss-covered maple trees, grandiose Douglas fir and cedar, entire forests covered in a sea of ferns, the flickering sunlight on the bay as you cross the Purdy Spit, the smell of salt water — become second nature to us. We can get so used to them that we forget to pay attention.

Yet the month of May is nature’s call to action. It offers up the kind of flourishes that are meant to draw your attention. This is the month where I keep an eye on the foxglove leaves as they get bigger and bigger. The bright pink of salmonberry blossoms eventually leads to the Nootka rose coming to life. The trilliums fade and the oranges and yellows of honeysuckle emerge. Purple chive blossoms extend from the planter box, and forget-me-nots and buttercups bring color to the ground. If you’re lucky, a patch with downed trees might give the promise of a lupine.

May feels like the precipice, the beginning of a robust season. It’s ripe with potential. That moment when you quickly hold your breath at the anticipation of something big taking place. The mornings start early, and the evenings stretch later. But it feels like a time that you’re sneaking in a little extra. It doesn’t have the pressure of summer.

Instead, the days are imbued with the dreamy landscape of potential. The sun right now rises and sets about the same as it does in August but think of how different these days feel than those late summer ones: You’re not mourning the end of something, you’re anticipating the beginning. You’re surprised when one day you realize how bright it is at six in the morning. You’re equally surprised at how late in the day the light lasts. As we inch our way towards summer solstice, those evenings only get longer and longer. You crave for them to stretch, for them to hold you.

We all know that none of this lasts. May, one of my favorite months of the year, holds as much magic and beauty while marking a reminder of deep loss, the two inherently intertwined. I remind myself that this too is the way of the natural world. The wildflowers fade, the days stretch with dry summer heat that dries out the ferns and threatens wildfires. Everything, always in flux.

But this moment right here? It’s the morning birdsong. What better time than right now to pay attention. Open your window, let it in.

Anna Brones is a writer and an artist who lives in Vaughn.