Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Day and Adelma Simmons

Happy May Day!

For me, May Day is bittersweet. It always makes me think of Caprilands, the magical herb farm in Coventry, Connecticut where my mom used to take my sister and I when we were little. Melissa and I spent countless hours roaming the gardens and dreaming up adventures.

For May Day they always put up a large flower wreath on a pole in front of the barn. The pole was wrapped with ribbons in every color: deep purple, red, golden yellow, green. I wanted to join in the May Day dance so badly, but I wasn't old enough.
Photo courtesy of Leslie Burke Fernandes, 1990

I'm not even sure if I ever expressed that wish to my mom at the time. It just seemed impossible, something only grownups could do.

Sadly, Caprilands died with the death of its founder: Adelma Grenier Simmons, also known as the First Lady of Herbs. I will always think of her fondly as a hedgewitch. She had a magical way with plants and an imposing, mysterious air about her. I never saw her without a hat and cape.

At the time, I was convinced that she did not like children. I was a little bit frightened whenever I saw her at the farm, mostly because I wanted to prove that I was worthy of her attention, but had no idea had to accomplish that. I reverently put my hands in my pockets and didn't touch anything. That was all, as a kid, I could think to do to impress her.

Still, I secretly hoped that someday I'd be old enough to be deemed worthy of dancing around her may pole on May Day, with one of those velvety ribbons in my hand.

She passed away in 1997, when I was fifteen. The official reason for Caprilands' failure following Ms. Simmons death involved disagreements over her will and ownership of the farm. But to me, the reason Caprilands no longer blooms as it used to is because the witch is no longer there. Apparently the Caprilands Institute is working towards becoming a non-profit organization, but I don't think it will grow again without a new witch to care for it.

My life wouldn't have been the same without Caprilands. It's the closest to real magic I think I've ever been.

Happy May Day, Adelma Simmons.

May Day
by Sara Teasdale

“A delicate fabric of bird song 
Floats in the air, 
The smell of wet wild earth 
Is everywhere.
Oh I must pass nothing by 
Without loving it much, 
The raindrop try with my lips, 
The grass with my touch; 
For how can I be sure 
I shall see again 
The world on the first of May 
Shining after the rain?”

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