In the Northern Hemisphere on March 20, 2012, at 1:14 A.M. (EDT) Spring officially arrived on this part of the planet. When I learned about the Southern Hemisphere many years ago, I wondered how the good people there connected Spring to Easter. I am not sure I still understand it completely, but having been in the Southern Hemisphere recently, it seemed to me that the folks there don’t worry about it all that much. And the fact is that this March 20 is the autumnal equinox in the Southern Hemisphere. So much for that!
We know that vernal refers to that which is fresh and young, like the new growth that occurs so much in evidence everywhere in nature. As I look out on the nearby fields, I see new baby calves, lambs and the baby chicks are arriving soon on our own small acreage. However, we didn’t hatch them this year, we ordered them to be delivered by U.S. Mail! Spring is a reaffirmation of hope and it’s a time for planting seeds and welcoming new growth on all kinds of trees and plants. It’s saying good-bye to Winter and a entering a 3-month transition period to Summer. Some of us remember the vigorous rituals of Spring housecleaning. My mother washed all the curtains and hung them out on a stretcher to dry and the entire house was given a thorough cleaning, top to bottom, scrub a dub dub. The place even smelled clean.
Equinox is Latin for “equal night” and refers to that time when daylight and night time are of equal proportions. At the equinoxes, the tilt of Earth relative to the Sun is zero, which means that Earth’s axis neither points toward nor away from the Sun. (However, the tilt of Earth relative to its plane of orbit, called the ecliptic plane, is always about 23.5 degrees.) So much for that. To try and make some kind of adjustment, we go through this rather silly exercise of trying to save a little more daylight by changing the clocks to have more light at the end of the day. The history of Daylight Savings Time is interesting and illustrates our feeble attempts to manipulate time to our advantage. Since 2007, daylight saving time starts on the second Sunday of March and ends on the first Sunday of November, with all time changes taking place at 2:00 AM (0200) local time.
So what are we to make of this seasonal shift? Perhaps Alexander Pope said it best:
Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
An Essay on Man, Epistle I, 1733
Find your own special ways to celebrate Spring whether through ritual and planting, embracing new growth both external and internal, or simply stopping for awhile to observe all that is near and dear. Then choose to participate in this annual renewal of hope, growth and the buds that signal flower and fruit. We are all part of this wonder filled creation that we call Nature, thus it is that we are connected to that life-giving force that renews and regenerates. As Robin Williams said, “Spring is nature’s way of saying, let’s party!”