Relentlessly, silently, new growth and promise creeps from what long appeared dead growth.
Equinox has come and gone, with only TV meteorologists paying attention. Spring has arrived, they claim, but it is still cold, and the land remains dormant. Oh, the sun is brighter, and longer, and there are moments of warm hope. Birds arrive from the south, chipmunks come out of hibernation, any time now pockets of insects will float on the breeze.
But an industrial culture hardly notices. No flags, bagpipes, or marching bands down city streets. No wild party celebrations. We’ve had Mardi Gras and St. Patrick’s day and soon the (anti-festival) of Income Tax Day. Equinox goes by with less of a whimper than even Summer or Winter solstice.
Sky winter grey, air February cold, but bright hopes shine for those who know where to look.
In ancient, agricultural and hunter days, there were rituals for the various moons of the seasons, careful calculations of solar events, occasional sacrifices to the various gods. Especially on the great Northern land masses, it was critical to know when the days reached certain points, for the stars, sun, and moon guided when to plant, when to do other preparation for the climax of natural cycles.
Spring signs are often confusing. Crocus, forsythia, greening grass, animal mating ritual all occur to their own needs and rhythms. Appearances deceive, for water can be warming, ice thinning, earth reawakening with almost no outward sign. The sun, however, provides a relatively stable fixed point from which farmers and hunters can confidently say _ in one locale _ that this is likely to happen now.
All that is lost to us. We have a rich and interesting culture, but it is not oriented to solar, nor even terrestrial, events. Equinox hardly matches the excitement of basketball tournaments or the start of soccer and baseball training.
Seagulls rule the dock until the masters of absent vessels try to take it over once more.
Clocks and watches and automobiles and electricity and indoor malls and electronic entertainment and … well the list is endless … have destroyed our sense of cosmic time. We live seconds and hours and even days that are artificial. Seasons have little meaning, for work continues with only scattered interruptions. Besides, almost anyone can escape to another climate anytime for a weekend or longer.
I am not complaining. In the “natural order” of not long ago, I would have probably been dead over thirty years ago, certainly dead ten years ago, and if I had somehow managed to attain my current years I would have been a lonely and pain-racked cripple, unable to do the simplest tasks of the culture. Today I eat well, I drive, I live a life that is “normal” for these wonderful times.
Paradoxically, that means I am one of the few folks who have the time and energy to actually enjoy seasons, nature and the old-time celebrations of a sun-based seasonal calendar.