Tuesday, September 16, 2014

That equinox thing

We are once again approaching the autumnal equinox, the midpoint of the earth's orbit around the sun. We call it a midpoint because the earth is tilted 23 degrees off perpendicular to its orbital plane. In the summer the northern hemisphere tilts towards the sun and in the winter, the northern hemisphere tilts away from the sun. The equinox is the midpoint between solstices.

At solstice, the position of the sun is at it's most extreme. The summer solstice shows the sun at the most northern position at noon, bringing the northern hemisphere the warmest temperatures. The winter solstice shows the sun at the most southern extreme. That is why this time of year is called the equinox, which will fall on September 23nd.

The shadow play at sunrise and sunset near the equinox are a source of fascination for me. The way the light plays around equinox just seem sort of odd, out of place. Like we're not really sure where they are going to go. They are, in a sense, timeless since they reflect neither winter nor summer. In the autumnal equinox, the sun sets right down the middle of a street that intersects at 90 degrees with the street I live on. One of the windows of my house happens to look straight down the middle of that street. So for a few days a year, I get a perfect shot of sunset at the onset of spring and fall.

I am reminded of the movie Thor, and the mythical land of Asgard. In the movie, Asgard is portrayed as a land where the sun hangs perpetually over the horizon, as if in eternal sunset during the day. The light is golden, mellow and warm. The shadows are long and winding across the landscape, turning up the walls in dwellings where the light shines. I get a little of that in my home and it is a thrill to see the light shine across my house to the opposing wall.

I see the leaves turning color, the grass getting greener as it can now hold more water thanks to lower temperatures and less sunlight. In the summer, the grass can dry out quite a bit in the hot desert I live in now. At summer solstice, the temps average 90+, the days are long and the sprinklers run long and heavy. In the winter, we get a bit of snow that covers the grass with a wonderful blanket of soft white. The albedo of snow is so strong that at night, the city lights bounce off the clouds, then to the snow to give the backyard an eerie twilight at midnight.

At equinox, the grass is warm and moist from the sun and the water remaining from the last sprinkler run. Walking with bare feet, the grass reminds me of my source, the earth, charging me with the grounding effect, electrons from the earth. I always feel better after a walk in bare feet on grass. From the cool grass in the shadows, to the warm grass in the sun, my feet are reminded of their kinship with the earth, having spent so much time in shoes.

There is something else I love about that time when the sun hangs over the horizon: the way the sunlight passes through the blades of grass on my lawn. There is a certain magic to seeing the grass light up with sunlight as the light passes right through, but its green. The shadow play, the golden light, and the grass all come together for some incredible scenes of serenity for me.

These are things I will teach my kids to appreciate. The sensation of the seasons, their changes and their effects on the mind and the body, are all important to me. For they remind me that time is of the essence and that the most important moment is now. Since the past doesn't exist anymore, and the future is not here yet, there is only one place to be. To be anywhere else is to be absent from life.
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