by Rita Goldner
My assignment on the monthly blog roster affords me the opportunity to learn about interesting holidays that fall on the 1st of the month. No exception here, I’m knee-deep in research about May Day. The history of this commemoration goes back centuries to pagan festivities honoring Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers, and Belanos, the Gaelic god of the sun. When Europe became more Christian, the focus changed to celebrating flowers and sunshine, or springtime in general.
While many countries were merrily dancing around maypoles (as in my illustration), starting in the late 19th century, Communist and Socialist countries earmarked the first of May for a more somber purpose, International Workers Day, to honor laborers and protest their harsh conditions.
My personal reason for applauding May Day goes back to the original celebration: blooming flowers and plants, sunshine, and spending time outdoors, communing with Nature. My revelry is usually confined to plein air painting, sitting with a folding stool and a portable easel, basking in the sun, trying to capture the beauty of the local flora. I’ve recently spent four Saturdays in the Desert Botanical Garden at their annual invitational Spring Paint-out. I’ve participated for more than 10 years, and needless to say, it was fabulous on several levels. This year, my observations have deepened because of being an author. In writing and illustrating my just-finished picture book Orangutan: A Day in the Rainforest Canopy, I’ve been immersed in reams of information about deforestation, plant sustainability; indigenous vs introduced species, etc.
I previously saw plants as only shapes, colors, and textures to paint. Now I’ve read that Dr. Jane Goodall (my hero!), in a speech a few weeks ago, referred to plants as the “lungs of the earth” because they convert carbon dioxide to oxygen. Not only do my painting subjects grow and bloom, but my knowledge and appreciation grow and bloom, too. I’m wishing you all sunny weather and lots of flowers in your May Day observation, and I hope my new book will inspire readers to respect and protect plant life, especially the rainforests.
Rita Goldner is the author of the children’s eBooks Jackson’s History Adventure and Jackson’s Aviation Adventure, both titles in Jackson’s Adventure Series. Rita’s forthcoming book, Orangutan: A Day in the Rainforest Canopy, will be released in print in May 2015. To view additional illustrations and other books in progress, visit Rita’s website. Contact Rita here. Follow Rita on Facebook.