Celestial Time & March
This past Wednesday at 5:58 p.m. EST marked the vernal(spring) equinox in the northern hemisphere. The equinox occurs only twice a year, when the northern and southern hemispheres are both receiving the same amounts of daylight and the night and day are very near equal in length. (For more more information on the equinox, click the image to the left.) This year’s spring equinox was rather unique due to the fact that shortly after the actual time of the equinox a super worm moon appeared in the sky. Super moons, also known as perigean full moons, occur when the moon reaches its closest point to the Earth in its elliptical orbit. This makes the moon appear brighter and larger than regular full moons. Although full moons do periodically accompany the spring equinox, the coinciding of a super worm moon with the equinox is pretty much a once in a lifetime occurrence. To acknowledge and honor this celestial event, I headed to Trader Joe’s to buy some gluten free cupcakes. With a few cuts of a knife and a bit of rearranging, I had a dozen equinox cupcakes ready for the eating. After indulging in several cupcakes, I decided to, with the equinox in mind, balance out my celebration by expending some of those sugary calories by taking my kayak out for a spin on our newly ice-free lake and then returning to our dock to build a moon-viewing fire.
March n. the third month of the year
march v. (cause to) walk in military manner or with regular paces; progress steadily.
(The Little Oxford Dictionary, 1969).
As I sat huddled close to my little chiminea at the end of our dock, I thought of the mind-boggling regularity of celestial time. Incredibly, the equinox always occurs within a two day window in March and September due to the steady and rhythmic progression of the tilting of the the Earth’s axis. Additionally, the revolutions of the Earth around the sun and the moon around the earth are so consistent that astronomers can predict with relative certainty when the next super worm moon will coincide with the equinox. Although full moons do periodically accompany the spring equinox, the coinciding of a super worm moon with the equinox is pretty much a once in a lifetime occurrence. The next time a super worm moon will coincide with the equinox will be in 2144. Amazing!
March’s full moon is traditionally known as the worm moon because generally when it appears coincides with the beginning of the thawing of the earth and the emerge of of many creatures, one of which are earthworms. Although I haven’t spotted any earthworms yet, I have been noticing several other new faces popping up, literally. The bodies of ring-necked ducks and buffleheads, both of whom are temporary visitors to our lake, disappear beneath its surface and then pop up from the depths as if being propelled by a large spring. A quick survey of the lake’s edge reveals the bulbous forms of skunk cabbage breaking through the accumulated leaf litter next to slivers of emerging cattails. Up the hill from the lake snowdrops can be found hanging gracefully over the thawing flowerbeds alongside bright green wedges of hyacinths and daffodils reaching for the sunlight. Sprinkled around the perimeter of our yard, the tips of forsythia bushes, hydrangeas as well as those of the maple and linden trees are all swelling with the promise of new flowers and leaves. The cyclical rhythms of the cosmos are in evidence everywhere and the appropriateness of this month’s name becomes apparent as the moon marches across the sky and the earthworms silently wiggle their way to the surface of the soil. Such magic!
In the days since the equinox, the amount of daylight has increased a bit and inversely the amount of night has decreased a bit. In reflecting on this continual ebb and flow of day and night, I find myself thinking about how fleeting equilibrium is. The reality is that everything in life is continually on a pendulum swing that leads to an apex or point of balance. The lesson, I think, is that if we push the pendulum too far in one direction it is pretty much guaranteed that the system will self-correct and swing in the opposite direction with equal vigor.