Vail Curious Nature: How will you celebrate spring?
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado –Do feel it in the Vail Valley air? Can you sense the excitement, the magic? It’s coming and there is no stopping it, so you might as well celebrate it – spring!
Tonight visions of columbines and thunderstorms will dance through your head. The familiar buzz of hummingbirds and the rushing sound of the Eagle River swollen with snowmelt are not far off. Spring officially starts on Saturday
So how are you going to celebrate? A long bicycle ride, a stroll along a trail, maybe by drinking your morning coffee on the porch? If you happen to be traveling to Annapolis, Md., join up with the boatyard employees and sailboat owners to celebrate the Burning of the Socks festival.
A trip to Iran would prove educational and fascinating to participate in their most important holiday, Nowruz, the traditional Persian New Year. Iranians and many others around the world celebrate Nowruz with elaborate meals, visits to relatives, and ‘khouneh tekouni,’ which literally means ‘shaking the house.’ This tradition of spring cleaning is celebrated by almost every household in Iran.
If you cannot leave town this weekend, maybe you can partake in World Storytelling Day and incorporate this year’s theme of light and shadow?
But why is all this happening on Saturday? Why does spring start then? The answer can be found by examining where our world is in relation to the sun.
Everyone on this planet is on the same yearly trip around the sun. Yet, as the earth orbits, the poles are tilted at an angle. This tilt causes Colorado to have winter now while Argentina has summer. When the North Pole is angled towards the sun, the Northern Hemisphere experiences summer, while south of the equator has winter. The opposite seasons occur when North Pole tilts away from the sun.
However, two times during the year the axis of the Earth is neither tilted towards or away from sun. At these moments, the center of the sun will pass vertically overhead a point on the equator. At 5:32 p.m. on Saturday, this exact passing of the sun over the equator will happen. This moment is known around the world as the March equinox. It is also referred to as the spring or vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere.
The word “equinox” derives from Latin and translates to “equal night.” Around this time of the year, the days are roughly the same hours of light and darkness. Depending on longitude and latitude, the exact day of 12 hours equal light and dark varies. Called the “equilux,” this date when exactly 12 hours pass between sunrise and sunset is depends on location.
Ancient civilizations built perfectly accurate structures based on the equinoxes and solstices. Famous examples are Stonehenge and the Mayan Chichen Itza pyramid in Mexico. They didn’t have fancy instruments or technology as we have now. Their knowledge came from detailed observations.
If you choose to celebrate the March equinox, you could light a bonfire, throw your old ski socks into it and tell a story about the shadows dancing around you. Maybe Saturday will be the official spring cleaning day at your house.
Even if celebrations are not in store for you, perhaps just take a moment and channel some inspiration from the ancients. Stop. Observe. Notice the arrival of spring in the dripping of an icicle and absorb the heat of the afternoon sun.
The Gore Range Natural Science School’s Curious Nature column appears Mondays in the Vail Daily and on http://www.vaildaily.com. Laura Fritz is the field educator at Gore Range Natural Science School where she leads people on outdoor adventures, sharing her knowledge about the Colorado wilderness and her passion for the natural world. (www.gorerange.org)
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