The lovely month of May

By Rabbi Julie Wolkoff. D.Min.

In March, I wrote about making my own perfume. I’ve been wearing that spicy blend for the past two months, and I love it. But this month I’m not reaching for spice, instead I crave floral scents. Driving home a few weeks ago, the world was brown and drab.Image

Walking through that world, I can’t remember any particular scents. But suddenly – almost overnight – it seems, the drab brown surroundings changed to technicolor. It really felt like walking out of Kansas and into Oz. The colors of spring – neon green buds on the trees, the vibrant yellow of forsythia, the hot pink, light pink, and white of blooming trees, and the multicolored tulips – all screamed out: “Look at me!” And my nose started taking notice as well.Image

Last week I went to one of the local schools to vote. The trees lining the walk were covered in white blossoms and the mulch around them carried a fungal note. I walked in and didn’t think about my vote. Instead I sniffed and sniffed and thought – mushrooms.

Monday night I stopped at a local farm stand to see what I could find for my dinner. I paused on my way in to look at the pots of herbs. It seemed too early to plant basil or mint; growing up in the upper Midwest, you never planted before Memorial Day. Still, there’s no food smell more enticing to me than basil and I was strongly tempted to start a garden right there and then.

When I walked into the farm stand, I wasn’t consciously thinking about seasonal food. I was thinking about buying something prepared. That is, until I saw the ramps and the fiddlehead ferns. Four days later, after reveling in wild mushroom linguini with olive oil, mushrooms, fiddlehead ferns and ramps, my kitchen still reeks of ramps. ImageDriving the back roads for work, walking through my neighborhood, even going to the cemetery for a funeral, it is so easy to say 100 blessings on a day in May. It may seem too easy, but thinking of blessings helps me notice more than just the colors and scents. I see the way the blossoming trees line the busy shop-filled streets of a nearby town. I realize that the close-to-dying tree in my front yard has more life left in it than I had imagined. I think of so many family and friends who have May birthdays and I want to fill their homes with flowers and sweet scents.

In case the drab colors of the late winter and early spring masked my blessings, the burst of colors of May brings them back to me. Every day I remind myself to look, to feel, to smell. Every day I remember that these colors, these smells, are fleeting. The neon green will change to a light green, to dark green, and finally to yellow or red. The lilies of the valley and lilacs will remain fragrant only in memory and in perfume. The glorious spectacle in my front yard will once again be a tree that is dying. But I will hold the sights and scents of this month in my heart and I will remember that they will return when the year cycles around and comes back to spring.


There’s still life in this tree.



Rabbi Julie Wolkoff, D.Min., CT, is a hospice chaplain in Massachusetts and a past co-president of the WRN. Find her at:

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About wallcough

Trying to find beauty and joy in the world around me . I am many things, among them a quilter, a knitter, and an incessant reader. There is not enough time for them all, so I jump in between them as the mood hits me. Professionally - a rabbi; a hospice chaplain.

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