Reckling: Embracing the new season
Today marks an official change on the calendar, the vernal equinox. It is one of the four great solar events of the year celebrated by mankind and this world’s earliest civilizations. Simply put, it is the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere — a time that signals the shift in seasons as days begin to lengthen, plants begin to bloom again and animals emerge from hibernation. It’s also when the sunrise is due east, the sunset is due west and the daytime and nighttime equal each other in length.
The word “equinox” is derived from two Latin words — “aequus” (equal) and “nox” (night).
The precise moment of the equinox is when the sun crosses the equator going from south to north. For our fellow global inhabitants of the Southern Hemisphere, it denotes the beginning of their fall, as they have the autumnal equinox on this day.
There are many traditions and festivities associated with the spring equinox, and these observations go as far back as the pagan Anglo-Saxons in Northern Europe, who worshipped a rabbit-loving goddess named Eostre, which evolved into our modern-day Easter.
For other cultures, the spring equinox signifies the start of a new year. The festival of Nawruz, the Persian New Year, is a celebration of love, life, beauty, health and prosperity. This time of the year also is marked with different observations involving newness, fertility, rebirth and resurrection.
If we look at the magnificent ways our predecessors have hailed the arrival of spring, it is impressive. The Great Sphinx, constructed more than 4,500 years ago on the Giza Plateau in Egypt, faces the sunrise on the vernal equinox. Stonehenge, the arrangement of massive monoliths in the English countryside built more than 3,000 years ago, houses the position of the rising sun on the vernal equinox. The ancient Mayans built the Caracol Tower and the immense pyramids of the sun and moon to align and coincide with the sun’s position on the vernal equinox.
Historians believe these ancient efforts to be indicators and “technical support” in the decision of when to plant crops each year. These are not mere calendrical coincidences, but they are huge projects that were built to pinpoint an astronomical event. These large-scale equinox calculators were inspired by the importance of this annual event.
Here in the mountains, it seems more like a battle between Old Man Winter and the youthful Spring Maiden. As more snow gets thrown on the earth and intermittent days of warm, sunny weather taunt us with the delights of spring, we seem to witness a tug-of-war between the seasons. The winter-weary can’t help but root for the young, fresh maiden after the fourth or fifth spring snowstorm.
It makes sense that the farther north one resides, the more one anticipates the break away from winter. We welcome the longer days, the arrival of migrating birds, the promises of spring and the actuality that winter will end. The thick blanket of snow is shrinking now, and to feel one’s feet upon the damp earth is a brand-new experience after months of navigating the white stuff.
I have a love-hate relationship with spring. Yes, I appreciate flowers, sunshine and singing birds, but it also means mud, wind and new responsibilities. Sadly for me, it is also the time of year that both my parents passed on to another place — my mother a week before Easter and the day of her 60th anniversary of marriage to my father; and my father a few years later the same week. It cast an ugly reality on Easter those two separate years, even though I tried to frame it as a beautiful time of year to die. It’s hard to rejoice in any season when you lose the ones who brought you into the world and those you relied on the most.
As my friend Cindy eloquently said, “When you lose your parents, you lose the last straw of being a child yourself.” That physical role vanishes, and you realize it’s 100 percent up to you to take care of yourself and, of course, take care of the goodbyes, funeral-izing and legalities that accompany death.
Laying these personal experiences aside, I welcome spring and have begun to plan any work to be done this year before winter rolls around again. I’ll savor the goodness of this season more than the last time. Earthly pleasures will abound in longer evening walks with my big white dog and the gratefulness of being healthy and alive.
So today, March 20, 2014, is that special day when the vernal equinox occurs and you and I step into spring. Spring will make us delirious with her colorful palette, the rivers will swell with the healthy runoff from the big snows we received, and plump buds will unfold and open. Let us begin anew.
Margaret Reckling lives in Woody Creek and welcomes your comments at email@example.com.
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