Early Bird Special: Catch the 4:02 to the Vernal Equinox

DSC_0033It’s here.  Well, almost here.  The first day of spring. The day we gardeners dream about.

If you live on the west coast of North America like I do, spring officially arrives at 4:02 am. When I worked full-time, I used to try to take the first few days of spring off so I could start a garden. This year, I’ve rearranged my schedule to attend the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show. I am so excited.

The show opens tomorrow, March 20th and runs through Sunday.  It’s exciting to be among the first to arrive when everything is still fresh. This year’s theme is Gardens Make the World Go Around.  Frankly, I couldn’t agree more!

I’ll be taking photos galore to share with you later in the week. And…guess what?  It’s raining!  (Shhhhhh….we don’t want it to stop).

Ah, spring, how I love you so.

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What is a Vernal Equinox?

An equinox occurs twice a year (around 20 March and 22 September), when the tilt of the Earth’s axis is inclined neither away from nor towards the Sun, the center of the Sun being in the same plane as the Earth’s equator. The term equinox can also be used in a broader sense, meaning the date when such a passage happens. The name “equinox” is derived from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night), because around the equinox, night and day are about equal length.

At an equinox the Sun is at one of two opposite points on the celestial sphere where the celestial equator (i.e. declination 0) and ecliptic intersect. These points of intersection are called equinoctial points: classically, the vernal point (RA = 00h 00m 00s and longitude = 0º) and the autumnal point (RA = 12h 00m 00s and longitude = 180º). By extension, the term equinox may denote an equinoctial point.

The equinoxes are the only times when the sub-solar point is on the Equator. The sub-solar point (the place on the Earth’s surface where the center of the Sun is exactly overhead) crosses the Equator moving northward at the March equinox and moving southward at the September equinox. (Since the sun’s ecliptic latitude isn’t exactly zero it isn’t exactly above the equator at the moment of the equinox, but the two events usually occur less than 30 seconds apart.) – Read more at Wikipedia

Winter Solstice: Near Miss

I guess I missed it.

I’ve been referring to my wall calendar all week and according to the cute little box with the number 22, winter solstice occurred at 6:12 am EST today, December 22nd, 2012.   With all the “end of the world” talk this week, I somehow failed to connect the winter solstice and the end of the world on the same day.  My calendar was plain wrong.

December 22nd, 2012

December 22nd, 2012

It’s no small irony that the calendar producer is a company called Sounds True.

Sounds True Calendar

Sounds True Calendar

The rest of the calendar entries were correct this year, so you can appreciate why I missed it.  Remaining dates are in good working order as well:  Christmas, December 25th. Check.  Boxing Day, December 26th. Check. And finally, New Year’s Eve, December 31st.

Here’s is what National Geographic has to say about the solstice:

During the winter solstice the sun hugs closer to the horizon than at any other time during the year, yielding the least amount of daylight annually. On the bright side, the day after the winter solstice marks the beginning of lengthening days leading up to the summer solstice.

“Solstice” is derived from the Latin phrase for “sun stands still.” That’s because—after months of growing shorter and lower since the summer solstice—the sun’s arc through the sky appears to stabilize, with the sun seeming to rise and set in the same two places for several days. Then the arc begins growing longer and higher in the sky, reaching its peak at the summer solstice.

The solstices occur twice a year (around December 21 and June 21) because Earth is tilted by an average of 23.5 degrees as it orbits the sun—the same phenomenon that drives the seasons.

During the warmer half of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, the North Pole is tilted toward the sun. The northern winter solstice occurs when the “top” half of Earth is tilted away from the sun at its most extreme angle of the year.

Please join me in counting down to the first day of spring; the Vernal Equinox.  For those of us that long to get our hands in the dirt, that’s a date we don’t want to miss.  And for all you computer experts who know that the internet is always right, please help me understand why my countdown calendar (right sidebar) it teasing me when it says March 20th is in two months?

 

Autumunal Equinox: Love for all Seasons

Wedding day

Fall leaves, summer flowers, happy bride and groom

Summer officially turned to fall today (September 22nd). The autumnal equinox marks the time of year when day and night are of equal length. It’s also a personal milestone. I married the love of my life on the first day of autumn 17 years ago. Autumn landed on September 23rd that year, but no matter.  Symbolically, the days feel like one and the same.

We both share a love of the outdoors, so exchanging vows on the grounds of the elegant Wente Brothers Winery was perfect. When I walked down the “aisle,” it was actually a grassy courtyard.  We held hands and declared our love beneath a flower-laden arch. I still have a small pressed flower from my tossed bouquet.

After one night in San Francisco we honeymooned along the Mendocino coast. We hiked local beaches, rode the Skunk Train amid redwoods and toured a botanical garden hugging the coast.

Nature is a great equalizer. Seasons change, life ebbs and flows. The majesty of the earth brings a uniting force to bear.  As the autumnal equinox ushers in shorter days and longer nights, I’m grateful for the love in my life; grateful for my love in all seasons.

Mendocino Coast

Home along the Mendocino Coast

wild hens Mendocino

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens

Mendocino

Mr. Wonderful in Magnificent Mendocino