The whole world in balance, yet out of balance
Speeding past the balance point as we transition from one season to the next.
The vast ocean of air above us has been warmed in the north and tropics, swept to Antarctica, and sucked down the funnel of the Polar Vortex and Night Jet, during the long southern winter. Now the north goes cold. At this balance point, the winds aloft run from equator toward both poles, then back along the ground. The northern polar vortex starts to form, the southern fades. It all takes time, so the shift lags a while after the equinox, but now is the time of changing. Now is the moment the whole world paradigm shifts as we pass the solar pivot.
This peculiar state of being happens twice per year. Being in the most balanced and equal state, yet being in the most unblanced point of change. A time to reflect on summer ending in the north, or winter ending south of the equator. Not yet ended as the soil, rocks, water and air take time to follow the sun. Not yet ended, yet the Sun has moved on.
In the garden, life has been growing and enjoying the warmth of summer. Yet now it has been hotter and drier than life really likes as summer reaches its peak (my garden being in a natural desert in California, only surviving summer due to human intervention in the water cycle). The end of summer is hotter than the start. Indian Summer is the term often used for the return of hot after a brief cooling. The cooling came and went, now is the last hurrah of heat before the plunge into cold. Life in the garden then changes, but doesn’t end. But the Sun has clearly ‘moved on’.
My location, being away from the equator, the summer Sun is nearly overhead at the solstice. Biefly we are able to experience a hint of life in the tropics where the Sun is always overhead. For folks in the southern half of the planet, the Sun was as far away from overhead as it could get, then. Extremes of heat and cold toward each end of the earth. We feel it when that changes. At first, slowly, then more swift. Mornings and evenings shifting warmth most, and first, then the middle of the day starts to notice. So for me the Sun has clearly moved away. Gone are the suffering heat of mid-day and the sunburn risks. Instead of gardening outside of the 10-to-2 hours, I garden during those times as the warmth is welcome.
My office window faces the rising Sun. Toward the Summer Solstice it rises nearly straight into my face. The shade must be pulled to see the workspace and screen. Now it rises to the right side of the window, casts welcome light onto shelves and books, warming and lighting the office with shade left up. At Winter Solstice it will be far to the south and a dim soft light will be all I get, and that for a short time middle of the day. But now, at the equinox, the whole world gets 12 hours of light. We are all equal and we all share the same experience.
Yet not the same.
For the north, it is the time of endings. Summer telling us it is headed for the door. Prepare to harvest. Prepare for storms. Prepare for that cold Arctic Air Mass to flow down over the land and freeze our half of the world. For the southern hemisphere, it is the time of beginnings. Cold, snow, and winter are not yet gone, but weakening. That polar vortex is winding down and the cold Antarctic air is abating. Soon a new Spring will arrive. Very opposite lives from the same event.
The pendulum of our cosmic clock is passing the midpoint of its swing, but that is when the velocity of change is greatest, just when things are most equal and most in balance. Life is like that. When things seem the most balanced and stable it is often the time of greatest impending change. Children live in a world of immense stability. Parents are eternal, home a constant. Yet they hurtle through change at an astounding rate. Languages of all sorts absorbed in just a few years of immersion. Doubling in size and ability every few years. As adults, we live in a world of bewildering change. Years pass in a blink. Children are suddenly married and announcing grandchildren to be. Technology changes obsolete what just a moment ago was a magical advance. (From the only phone being a black one on a wire to cell phones the size of a purse, now ‘quaint’ antiques as phones move to Dick Tracy wrist watch sized, with video). We rush toward our end, so near now in perspective. Yet in many ways life is most stable. Size of body and place of home constant for decades. Language and skills mastered long ago. A vast library of memories stabilizing the world view. Seeing our place in a history that spans thousands of years, and knowing that will not change.
It is a constant of the universe. That which is most stable sees the most change, and that which changes most sees the most stability around it.
That is the lesson of the Equinox. Balance and out of balance. Most equal, and rushing to most change and most unequal. Already change is here, yet it will not arrive for another month as the whole atmosphere must change and reverse flows. Now and future and past. Pivot on the balance point.
Ritual Of Equinox
The world has many rituals for the Equinox. Some are timed to the solar event. Others to the actual temperature shift. Germans have Oktoberfest to celebrate the harvest. Druids celebrate the “Quarter Days” Autumnal Equinox but then follow with Samhain (that has become All Hallows Eve in Christian traditions, now mutated into Halloween in the USA and other secular traditions) at roughly the time of the actual temperature shifts. Samhain is a traditional “fire festival” time, while the Equinox is more of a food festival time. Last run to the beach and sun (or ski and fireplace in the southern hemisphere), outdoor altar lit and burnt offerings over smokey fires. Wave offerings from the plenty of summer. (In the southern hemisphere the Spring rituals are similar, but it is more of ‘last time must be indoors’ and ‘last of the stored food and drink’ – preparing for the first out doors “fire festival” that is Imbolc in the northern spring.)
But over the whole world folks celebrate the Equinox and the following quarter days even if they do not recognize it. It is the celebration of change. The ending of one regime and start of the next, and the stability of the cycle of things knowing that “this too shall pass” but also “this too shall return”.
So enjoy a small festival of joy in carbon based life. Burt offerings, wave offerings, and all. And prepare for the Quarter Days fire festivals that must come when change can no longer be denied and balance is clearly moved away from Equal. For now, the Sun is equal for all, and all of us get an equal share of the gift of solar warmth. Last and first hurrah of Sun going or coming to your half of the world. Enjoy what you have now, knowing it will be gone, and plan to enjoy what is coming, knowing it must. Be in the now, and embrace the change in the wind.