Most of us live in a time and place where the seasons are relatively irrelevant. Or are they?
Let’s look at some basic science. “As the earth spins on its axis, producing night and day, it also moves about the sun in an elliptical (elongated circle) orbit that requires about 365 1/4 days to complete. The earth’s spin axis is tilted with respect to its orbital plane. This is what causes the seasons.” This is from the National Weather Service website so let’s take it as fact. On an even more prosaic level, seasons are the result of the earth’s relationship to the sun.
If we look at time and space from an early Taoist perspective, we come to a similar conclusion. Time occurs as a result of the earth’s rotation in relationship to the sun. Space occurs as a result of the earth’s orbit around the sun. Thus, seasons are space markers rather than a time factor.
Now we come to the complexities of the modern mind. Most folks are under the impression that the equinoxes and solstices are the beginning of the seasons. Unfortunately, this misconception and its subsequent propagation has way more to do with the selling of merchandise than with seasonal rhythms. As Westerners, the last time we viewed February 3rd as the beginning of spring, we were covered in woad, hanging out in trees lobbing things at the Romans…
So consider this. Winter solstice is the shortest darkest day of the year. From that day onward, we have more sunlight. How can this be the beginning of winter? The ancients, Western and Eastern, all held this day as the height of winter darkness. From this day forward, the light and yang increases. When we take the solstices and equinoxes as the height of their relevant seasons, the starting point then shifts. Seasons begin at the cross-quarters, the halfway point between the solstices and equinoxes. The Celts knew this, and as we haven’t quite figured out how they managed to construct Stonehenge and other sophisticated astronomical observances, let’s chalk one up to them.
So this leaves us with three questions.
If it’s spring (i.e. February in Western New York), why am I still shoveling snow?
Don’t confuse the climate for the season. If you were living in Nashville, you would be admiring your daffodils. Spring is a movement, best monitored by watching Nature- check out what the animals and plants are doing, not the human beings. We have a slight tendency to lose the plot. The question of why one is living in Buffalo versus Nashville is not currently up for discussion.
What if I’m living in Hawaii?
Then you will be eating papaya for breakfast and drinking mai tais on the lanai in the afternoon. It’s still spring. It just looks a little different. Until you cross the equator, it’s the same game.
Why should I care?
Each season has a different invitation. Missing the beginning of the season is like showing up 2 hours late to a formal dinner at the best restaurant in town.
- Folks will be looking at you as you squeeze past everyone to take your place at the table.
- You will have missed at least 2 courses of an extraordinary meal.
- You will have no clue what everyone is talking about.
- You may drink or eat too much in order to make up for what you missed.
- You will inevitably stay later than any other guests, wearying your hosts.
- You will spend the next day wondering whether you said anything stupid.