BALTIMORE's windows open for the month of May when th curtains come down for washing and crisp blue shades are hung in their place. Designed to ban hot sunlight, the old-fashioned shades are still visible in some row house neighborhoods. The shades are a beacon of good weather; in May, humidity is but a four-syllable world.

May in Baltimore -- relish the thought. Young children play each evening on city stoops or in front yards, dreaming up money-making schemes; perhaps washing auto windshields, or selling lemonade among the tulips in Sherwood Gardens. College reunions lead everyone to slouch into youth again, while high school graduates practice standing tall.

Yes, spring for all its pleasures brings with it certain obligations. Now is the time to put in tomato plants, to select lemon basil at the Herb Festival in Leakin Park, to support the neighborhood flea markets and strawberry festivals. But spring delinquents always find a little time to call their own; an hour to slip away from the office, an afternoon off from the children. Sometimes, there is nothing more important in life than slowly strolling through Canton with an ice-cream cone, watching the water -- or rambling through Selsed House, the old country estate that is the Symphony Decorators' Show House. Bicycle enthusiasts may also enjoy watching world class cyclists take on the suburbs as Tour Du Pont spins through Baltimore, Cecil, Carroll and Harford Counties.

Short of a a two-wheeler, you could hop in a convertible, wind in your hair. Taking the slow road past horse farms in Monkton brings you to Ladew Topiary Gardens, re-opened for the season and flowering with dogwood, azaleas, coral bells and foxglove.

Art blossoms indoors too, as the Walters Art Gallery opens its Hackerman House to highlight the museum's Asian art this weekend. At the same time, the Baltimore Museum of Art holds its gala antique show, followed the next week by Silks and Saddles, a benefit dance where riding habits are proper attire.

The horse, of course, is the center of Maryland's premier event: the Preakness. But the fleet-footed fillies have just a minute or two of glory, while the party goes on for days. From ladies in pearls and silk dresses sipping Black-eyed Susans to yahoos in the infield with their beer mugs, this is the time for toasting the good life -- and good luck. The waltz of anticipation starts two nights before at The Triple Crown Ball, a gala that attracts the best-dressed from town and country.

May is a chance to flounce around in lighter, brighter clothes. All month, children make their debut in sailor suits, women select new bathing suits and men bring their Madras plaid slacks out of storage. From head to toe, May looks dandy.

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