Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Spring Equinox

Remember at the Solstice, how I said I used to get up for the sunrise on the equinoxes and solstices but I have been lazy and not done it for years? Yeah, I remembered that too and got myself together for the Equinox! Yipee! It wasn't a terribly glorious morning - it was kind of grey - but it was worth it.

Astronomically, the equinox is halfway between the two solstices. It is the time at which the sun is directly overhead of the equator at noon and in most parts of the world this means the length of day is approximately the same as the length of the night. The word equinox is derived from the Latin words for equal night. I am a total science geek and love learning about, and teaching, how our earth works. I strongly believe that everyone should have a working knowledge of basic earth science principles - if you can't explain to an 8 year old why we have seasons then go check out this really awesome video that explains the seasons very clearly. Seriously, we all live here, we should have some basic idea of how it works :)

Culturally, the equinox is a major festival time in most parts of the world. The Persian new year celebration of Nowruz falls on the spring equinox and includes up to a full two weeks of rest and celebration. The Jewish Passover and Christian Easter holidays are also related to the equinox. For more information on the amazingly rich symbols and traditions of this time of year check out Waverly Fitzgerald's article on Spring Equinox traditions or any of her newsletters from around this time of the year. It is a time when winter can be said to be pretty much over in much of the northern hemisphere, and new life is exploding forth everywhere you look.

And boy oh boy is life exploding! Here in Portland the cherry trees exploded into blossom practically over night, the crocuses and daffodils are brightening every lawn or scrap of space they can find and everyone is talking about their garden. We had an unusually cold and dry winter this year but spring seems to be making up for all of that. Rain, rain and more rain. And mud. My mom talks about how she read many accounts of early settlers to the Willamette Valley during her first winter in Oregon and had never been so thankful for pavement in her whole life. The spring rains and resulting mud would swallow whole ox carts and keep pioneer women at home for months at a time.

True to form Equinox morning was gray and drizzly last Saturday. I woke up and drove Tumalo and myself up to Council Crest, the highest point in Portland to see what we could see. Turned out to be not much. On clear days you can see the city and two or three 10,000 foot peaks. We got a glimpse of the waning crescent moon, cloudy skies and the morning dog walk crowd. I did find a lovely patch of nettles and collected some for my breakfast.

After my early morning walk I brought my bag of nettles home, dried some, and sauteed some for an omlette. I spent the rest of my day leisurely relaxing, cleaning the house and planning my garden. Spring is here, spring is really here!

How is spring springing where you are? How did you celebrate the Equinox or other spring festivals?

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