Now I guess I'll never know

By David Grima | Nov 30, 2018

The recent and unwanted early arrival of snow and freezing air,puts many of us in mind of the annual calendar of the seasons.

Normally I count them according to the astronomical calendar, in which each season arrives according to the three-month cycle of the sun: late June for summer, late September for fall, late December for winter, and late March for spring.

Here in New England, that all seems about right, especially as most people have little or nothing to do with the agricultural cycle any more.

But medieval people observed a different seasonal calendar, and I was reminded of this while reading Pater Ackroyd’s book from 2011, about the early origins of England, called “Foundation.”

Spring in those days began Jan. 6, if you can credit it, and lasted through Easter sometime in April. Candlemas on Feb. 2 was the signal to begin sowing crops.

Summer followed, lasting from the second Monday after Easter (called Hocktide) through Lammas, which is the beginning of August.

This helps explain those cultures in which Midsummer’s Day (when the hay was harvested in medieval days) is still marked on the calendar as happening around June 21.

For example, in Sweden Midsummer’s Eve is a holiday; and in England, we think of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” while pseudo-Druids wearing white sheets hang around at Stonehenge in Wiltshire to watch the sun rise through the great stones.

That description of late June as the middle of summer never made sense to me until I read this book.

Aren’t books awfully helpful for explaining things?

Autumn is when the corn (not American corn, I should add) was harvested. This season began in August and lasted through Michaelmas at the end of September.

Winter arrived at Michaelmas and lasted through the Twelfth Day of Christmas, which works out to be Oct. 1 through Jan. 5.

Obviously, this means that the seasons were not divided evenly into three-month stretches, but rather coincided with the practicalities of farming and were marked by the church calendar.

* * * * *

Meanwhile, as the seasons turn in their modern way here in the U.S., we are apparently bracing ourselves for what NPR has described as a “tight Christmas tree market.”

But there is no need for panic buying, the news broadcaster assured me on Thanksgiving Eve, as I motored my way happily toward a small town near here, carrying an unthawed turkey in the back seat.

(I say “unthawed” in what I have been taught is a traditional local way of saying that something is actually no longer frozen. Perhaps this manner of speech all goes back to ancient Michaelmas? Possibly not.)

My mind struggled to grasp the implications of the idea of panic buying of Christmas trees. What would it look like? The only picture I could conjure up for panic buying is what happens at Hannaford when people think it is going to snow.

We all rush out to the supermarket and fill our carts with toilet paper and gallons of milk, in case the store never opens again.

So panic buying of Christmas trees might mean that we, the people, show up at tree lots driving vast pickup trucks, and madly rush about killing everyone in our path in a frenzy to buy three, four, or even five trees, rather than the one we really need. Just in case.

Cuz you never know!

* * * * *

Speaking of supermarkets, why do I always get the cart with the squeaky wheel? And why, despite all the wisdom in the world, does that wheel never get the grease?

* * * * *

Speaking of holidays, I am beginning to wonder about that photo on the back page of The Courier a couple of weeks ago, in which several Rockland veterans were shown aiming their ceremonial rifles up in the air on Veterans Day.

We all naturally assumed this was a volley in respect of the honorable dead, but part of me couldn’t help wondering if perhaps they had also been tempted to shoot a few damned squirrels out of the tree at the same time.

* * * * *

Speaking of things, I see we have managed to land another hunk of metal on Planet Mars.

The news guy announced the impending arrival of this thing by explaining it is supposed to sit around for the rest of its natural life measuring Marsquakes.

And then, apparently unable to just shut up and leave it be, he went on to explain that Marsquakes are the equivalent of earthquakes. Only they happen on Mars. I wonder if I could have worked that part out for myself without being told, but now I guess I’ll never know.

* * * * *

Speaking of holidays, how on Earth do you manage to survive them? (How on Mars…?)

I heard from a reader a few days ago who explained how she has made the holidays a much simpler time, and greatly feels the benefit of it.

For the good of humanity, I invite readers to share their holiday-toleration tips with the rest of the world.

However, in the case of my dear friend Terrible O’Meara, late of the Bangor Dreadful News, I already know how he does it. He falls asleep on his couch around the first week of December and wakes up in the New Year. Never fails.

* * * * *

Speaking of gifts, I wonder whatever happened to the late Ed Coffin’s house in Owls Head?

Ed died this May and, in an act of generosity that surprised and delighted many, he bequeathed his house and its contents to Rockland Public Library. Yet there is no sign at all that the house has been moved to the library grounds on Union Street. Maybe this is not the library’s intention?

This is another case of a story that started on the front page, then apparently vanished from the face of the Earth. Possibly also Mars. What is happening with the Old Coffin House?

Time for some sleuthing, I think.

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