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Outdoors: May Day mayday

sarradet / Getty Images
sarradet / Getty Images
sarradet / Getty Images

May Day: a day on which, for more at least a thousand years, young people have welcomed spring by dancing and braiding ribbon around May Poles. A day that has inspired fine paintings and a number of musical compositions.

When I was a child, May Day was a marvelous holiday. We would make little paper baskets, fill them with candy and violets, and deliver these May baskets to friends, neighbors and shut-ins.

So, I found it jarring when I learned that the phrase “mayday” has a more ominous connotation. It is used internationally as a distress call.

The expression "mayday" was derived from the French word which means “help me.”

Repeated three times, it indicates an urgent, life-threatening emergency that requires immediate help.

If ecosystems could issue distress calls, the land would call out.

I was taught that if land was left fallow, it would recover through natural succession. Sometimes, it does. But these days, usually it does not.

In his book "Nature’s Best Hope," Dr. Douglas Tallamy explains, “…the rate at which nature is repairing the damage we have inflicted is so incrementally slow compared to the rate at which we keep inflicting damage that true repair will not occur fast enough to prevent the loss of what we now know as nature."

“Wherever and whenever we can, we must reassemble the coevolved relationships between plants and animals that enable ecosystems to produce the life support systems we all need.”

May Day reminds us that our ecosystems need help.

"Outdoors with Coggin Heeringa" can be heard every Wednesday on Classical IPR.