Mother’s Day

Here’s a reprint of last year’s Convivio Book of Days essay for Mother’s Day. I found it so charming when I read it again this morning, I decided to reprise it, especially now that so many of you know my mom Millie so well through her hand-embroidered tea towels that we sell on the website. Happy Mother’s Day! –– John

I’m not very good at remembering important things, but I’m really good at remembering odd things, and often with astonishing clarity. Here’s a good example: it’s me, walking into the basement kitchen one afternoon when I was a kid and finding Mom there at the kitchen counter, making supper. I was watching Bugs Bunny cartoons on TV, and by power of suggestion, I wanted a carrot. Mom stopped what she was doing, pulled a carrot from the crisper drawer for me, washed and peeled it, handed it to me, then went back to preparing dinner. I stood there, munching on that carrot, watching Mom at work, when a very important question suddenly popped into my head. So, I asked it: “What are ice cream cones made from?” My mother did not even pause in her work; she just kept going, and she gave me her answer: “Ice cream cones? They’re made from crackers, Johnny.”

Her answer was delivered with so much certainty, I figured Millie Cutrone certainly knew what she was talking about. And so I did not question it and accepted that ice cream cones were made in some process whereby saltines are crushed and pressed into cones, cones that expectantly await my chocolate ice cream. It was years before I re-examined that answer and whether I believed it or not.

I don’t know that it’s my mom’s fault that she raised a gullible kid, and if that’s one of my worser faults, then so be it. She also raised me to write thank you notes for kindnesses bestowed and to wait until everyone was seated at the table for supper and to love holidays and the traditions that come with each, so if you like this Book of Days, you should probably write my mom a thank you note yourself. It was my mom and my grandma and my sister that really instilled in me a fascination with the kitchen and that, in its way, brings me to writing about these things now. I love sharing these things with you, because of all these people who loved sharing them with me.

And here we come to the late spring day each year when we remember and honor our mothers––those we were given, and those we have chosen. And, I’d argue, all the rest of them that helped raise us: the grandmothers and great-grandmothers, sisters and aunts. To all the moms in our lives, no matter where they are: We love you. Happy Mother’s Day.

Photo: That’s me and my mom. It’s a summer evening and I’m going to guess that I’m about 3 years old, so it might just be 1967. I’d like to tell you that it was around that time that I asked about how ice cream cones are made, but I suspect I was considerably older, perhaps 6 or 7 years old, when I fell for the crackers answer.

At the online shop, you’ll find my mom Millie as the cover star for the current HIGH FIVE SALE: Use discount code HIGH5 at checkout for $5 off your purchase of $35 or more… a sale we’ll run through at least Father’s Day in June, and who knows, maybe all summer long. That’s on everything in the shop: our own letterpress printed books and broadsides, genuine Shaker herbs and teas, all of our handmade artisan goods for all the seasons. Plus free domestic shipping when you reach $60. CLICK HERE to shop, and thank you for your support!


May Day, and Your May Book of Days

And now here is May. Walpurgis Night on the last night of April led us into May Day and Beltane. The conclusion of the Muslim month-long celebration of Ramadan just happened to coincide this year and now it is time to shift greetings from Ramadan Mubarak! to Eid Mubarak!, for now it is Eid, the Sweet Festival. As the month progresses, there will be more and more celebrations of spring and ultimately the spring to summer, for spring is fleeting and ephemeral.

Here now is your Convivio Book of Days Calendar for the month of May. It is our gift to you, a printable PDF, and as usual, an excellent companion to the blog. Cover star this month: a 1913 painting by Iso Rae called “Rogation Day Procession in Étaples” –– and there, in Rogation Sunday, you have another of the lesser known holidays this month. It is a month that’s full of days like this, which is all the more reason to check out the calendar. Happy May! Eid Mubarak! May the month bring many blessings.

Image from our May Book of Days cover star: “Rogation Day Procession in Étaples” by Iso Rae. Oil on canvas, 1913 [Public domain via Wikimedia Commons].



April comes to a close and as it does, we reach the next spoke in the wheel of the year, as this evening brings Walpurgis Night, named for St. Walpurga, whose feast day is the First of May. In the Celtic tradition, the day is known as Beltane. It is the cross quarter day that helps us spring to summer here in the Northern Hemisphere, and the direct opposite spoke of the cross quarter day that helps us fall to winter, which is Samhain, or Halloween. The fall to winter brings descent, life burrowing down beneath the earth, while the spring to summer brings ascent, life springing forth from the earth. It is an aspect of the everlasting mysteries of the planet and its place in the universe: we know these things so well, for we witness them each year with the planet’s revolution around the sun, and yet how these things have all come to pass still has the power to leave us breathless. The very names given to these days are shrouded in mystery, too, for their pronunciations are, for most of us, not of our tongue, and what seems apparent is not: Beltane is pronounced bowl-tan-a; Samhain is pronounced sah-win. Like the names of angels in ancient tongues, to speak the names connects us to a long forgotten past whose embers still smolder.

As such, a fire is appropriate for tonight. In Sweden, there will be bonfires, as well as gravlax and sparkling wine, all through the night. There are traditional songs, like “Maj vare välkommen” (May Be Welcome). We don’t do much celebrating of Walpurgis Night here in the States, but in a place where the extremes between winter and summer are keenly felt, May surely is welcome.

Tomorrow, I will write again with your Convivio Book of Days calendar for May. May be welcome. Summer be welcome. We wish you peace.

Nighttime mysteries abound: our image today is of a Guyana Chestnut blossom in our yard. The blossoms burst forth in spring and summer at about 9 PM in small explosions from pods that are about 4 inches long. There may be one on the tree or there may be ten, but they all tend to pop open at about the same time, filling the night with a spicy air that is most definitely a fragrance of spring and summer, most definitely of this ascending time of year.