Category Archives: Book of Days Calendar

Circle of Days, or Your June Book of Days

It’s summer, so maybe I’ve begun to take things slow. Forgive me, then, for the slow-as-molasses posting of your June Convivio Book of Days calendar. The month, as Book of Days ceremonies go, has a slow start, with nothing much going on until the 13th. Once things get rolling, though, they do get pretty exciting. We start with the feast of St. Anthony, progress to Flag Day and Father’s Day. There are a couple of literary holidays in there, too: Bloomsday on the 16th honors James Joyce and his novel Ulysses, while St. John’s Eve on the 23rd is the night that William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream takes place. It is the month of the solstice, and it is St. John’s Day on the 24th that is that Old Midsummer Day.

Midsummer? When summer’s has just begun? Yes, the almanac tells us that summer begins in the Northern Hemisphere with the solstice, but if that is the longest day, wouldn’t that day be the height of summer? Anyway, our ancestors thought so, hence that traditional monicker of Midsummer. There is some sense to their way of thinking, and we will explore that world view as the solstice gets closer.

Cover star on this month’s calendar: another of our native Florida plants, the Coontie, also known as Florida Arrowroot. Coontie is more the more common Seminole name. The leaves are just coming in as June arrives, bright green.

Even the coontie plants we thought were long dead in our yard (like the one beneath the bamboo, near the outdoor shower) have new growth. The plant is the source of an edible starch called arrowroot (as in arrowroot cookies) and is of supreme importance to the atala butterfly, for the atala lays its eggs on the coontie, and when the caterpillars hatch, the coontie leaves are what they eat. The plants get decimated by the caterpillars each year, but then they spin their cocoons on the same plants, and before you know it, atala butterflies are everywhere in the yard. The atala, a small black butterfly with irredescent blue spots and an orange tail, was thought extinct until not all that long ago, and I love that all of this goes on right here under our noses in our sandy Lake Worth yard. Circle of days, circle of life. That’s what this month’s Convivio Book of Days calendar is all about.

 

Top image: the lovely prehistoric looking seed cones of the coontie. Middle image: new growth on the plant. By the way, if you, too, have coontie plants in your yard, don’t go harvesting the roots to make arrowroot cookies; coontie is one of those plants that is poisonous until the extracted starch is prepared just right. It’s a complex process and an old Florida industry perhaps better left in the past. My advice? Buy your arrowroot cookies at the supermarket. Enjoy the coontie for what it is: lovely plant and host of the atala.

 

Your May Book of Days or, Welcome to the Gentle Time of Year

Welcome to May and, by traditional reckoning of time, to summer. Welcome to the gentle time of year. I’ve approached May with a paperback copy of the poetry of Robert Herrick in my hands for the past few days, reading while I walk down sidewalks and up and down stairs. It’s dangerous, I know, but no more dangerous than walking while texting, and I feel so much better walking and reading Robert Herrick than I feel walking and texting. I was looking for a certain poem, the one that Herrick wrote for May Day (“Corinna’s Going a Maying”) and in my search stumbled upon so many that pleased me. Like this one:

Breathe, Julia, breathe, and Ile protest,
   Nay more, Ile deeply sweare,
That all the Spices of the East
   Are circumfused there.

That’s it, just four lines. It’s called “On Julia’s breath.” The book is filled with gems like that. And then there is the book itself: small, thin, flexible. It fits nicely in my hands and is not cumbersome nor at all obtrusive. A simple companion on my walks and what more could you ask for in a book or a walking companion? I am a bit in love with the book and the poems it contains. But this is what May does to us, when it is at its most powerful. May calls us to the things of this world. Valentine’s Day may corner the market on romance commercially, but May Day, if you ask me, is where the passion is at. The rivers are a’running, the bees are a’buzzing, the loving cup overflowing.

May was, in my years in graduate school, the time of year I would leave Alabama and head to Maine. There was romance in Maine and there was work to be done, too: internships with letterpress printers. Some were in Portland but most were with the Shaker Press in New Gloucester, at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community, where I would work with Brother Arnold Hadd. May would come and suddenly my life was immersed in Shaker music, Shaker spirituality, Shaker herbs (“all the spices of the East, circumfused there”)… all things Shaker. Shaker gift drawings fascinated me the most: Images delivered to Shaker brothers and sisters from the spirit world, which they then transferred to paper using inks and paints. One of those Shaker gift drawings, a drawing of an angel, is the cover star of this month’s Convivio Book of Days calendar. It’s our monthly gift to you, a printable PDF, and a fine companion to this Book of Days blog.

But these are the things of my world right now: poetry, spices, angels. If you see me out there, say hello. I’m the guy who could’ve used a haircut at least a week or two ago by now, the one with his nose in a paperback book, falling in love a bit with the little things. Happy May.

 

Your April Book of Days

April First brings All Fools Day, April Fools… and your Convivio Book of Days Calendar for April. The tricks and practical jokes today are traditionally supposed to end at noon, but I’d be wary all day long if I were you. I’ll admit here and now: I’ve got nothing up my sleeve this year. Not a thing. But I always love hearing about your April Fools pranks, so please, share them. The comments below are an excellent place to do so.

Our Lenten journey is fast coming to a close and we come this month, in April’s second week, to Holy Week, with all its beautiful mysteries. Maundy Thursday always is one of my favorite nights: a pilgrimage of sorts. There are years when I don’t enter a church all year and there are years where I go more often, but Holy Thursday is the night when I go, typically, to three of them, in the dark and quiet late night hours, to sit there and breathe in the stillness. My grandmother Assunta taught me this, and each year I go and I think of her. This, to me, the core of tradition: to maintain those bridges across time and space. This year, I will think of my father, too. I suspect it will not be an easy night for me, but it will be an important one.

I know my writings have been few and far between lately, and for this I apologize. I’m here with you, I’m just having a hard time lately getting out of my own way. But folks tell me this is to be expected, and while the pain of losing a loved one never goes away, it does, I know, evolve. And so I am evolving. I’ll write to you when I can. Sometime during Holy Week, I am sure. Maybe twice, who knows? And most likely for St. Mark’s Eve on the 24th, and again for May Eve, Walpurgis Night… as the wheel of the year clicks again by one more cog, this time toward summer. There is magic to be had in all of these holy days/holidays … and my wish for me, for you, is that we all tap into that magic. My dad believed in the value of hard work and a job done well. I’ve got a job to do in writing this Book of Days, and I’d best get to it. He wouldn’t put up with me slacking off.

By the way, if you miss us, well… we do a better job of keeping in touch these days via our Instagram feed: @conviviobookworks. More of a picture book!

 

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