Spring Rites and a Dead Queen


I took the dog for a walk last night, just before twilight on Monday evening of the Victoria Day weekend. Those of you who live in most provinces of Canada (except Quebecers, who scratch their head bewildered, and wait for Saint Jean le Baptiste Day) will understand the implications. Those of you who own a dog will instantly flinch, and sympathize. The May “2-4” weekend is an annual rite, some say to celebrate the birthday of a long dead and very fat British queen. I think it’s a thinly disguised rite to welcome spring, an instinctive reaction to the return of the growing season buried deep in our pagan little souls, urban though they may be. Traditional activities include the consumption of copious amounts of beer (a case of 24 — or a “2-4”, is appropriate), and fireworks. In particular, families with small children inflict terror on small animals by gathering in the thousands at every park, school yard, and green space in the province to launch arsenals of fireworks purchased at corner stores, waving sparklers in the air like little fairy lights. Ambulance sirens scream and rush by to respond to the teenage aftermath of dumb antics with minor explosives.

If you find yourself out walking with your dog at this magic hour, as I did, hold on tight to the leash. Jake practically dragged me home, panting and straining and quivering, a wild look in his eyes. I passed a woman struggling to hold on to a bucking German Shepherd, and called out in sympathy. She said, “this is nothing, one guy had to CARRY his dog home”. I replied that I hoped it wasn’t as big as hers, and she shook her head and said, “No — bigger”. I can only imagine.

In spite of the noise and panic-stricken animals, I understand the urge to celebrate. Walking the neighbourhood streets while it was still light enough to see, I was awestruck by the lushness of it all. Just weeks ago the trees were bare, and signs of life in gardens were hard to find. Now, the expression “spring is busting out all over” doesn’t begin to describe the richness and absolute decadence of heavily treed streets and the thick canopy of leaves. I silently give thanks for the widespread conversion of front lawns to perennial gardens, which are at the height of their glory right now and close at hand to enjoy from the sidewalks. Lilac, poppies, iris, creeping flox, colour!! Colour and flowers and the thrill of green everywhere, so heavy and full you’re wrapped in it. I suppose this a good enough reason to bust out the fireworks and party.

As for the dogs, well, I suppose every good pagan ritual requires a (figurative) sacrificial creature. It’s nothing that can’t be remedied with a cookie and the morning light.

Happy spring!!