23 September 2007

Happy Equinox!

Today is the Equinox, for me the Autumnal Equinox. Today, every part of the world experiences exactly the same amount of daylight and darkness. For the northern hemisphere it marks the slide towards winter, for the southern hemisphere the slide towards summer. Every part of this earth receives the same amount of daylight in a year but depending on your latitude it will be distributed very differently.

Living in the far north I am very aware of how light plays a huge role into my perceptions and memories of the seasons. In the fall the light is changing rapidly, the sun is lower on the horizon, it often acts like a brilliant spotlight, lighting up the landscape as if it were an actor on a stage. The colors, which are bright and many at this time of year, are vibrant under this light as if they were powered from within, and in some way they are, they are the release of all the stored energy that the plants got from the sunlight all summer long. We first see the stars again, darkness comes as a surprise and we have to relearn how to navigate in it, the northern lights start appearing again in all their cloaked majesty.

In winter the light is muted and gentle. This light is very hard to capture by photograph or even by painting. There are thousands of shades of grey, of velvet, of black and purple and pink and white. The only item of color is the dark green of the evergreen trees but even these turn dark in shades of black in the light. The sun barely comes over the horizon before circling and coming back down. It is a time of year for fabulous, long sunrises & sunsets. It is the time of year for stargazing. For skiing or ice skating on a frozen lake solely by the reflection of the moon off the snowy landscape. It is a time of year to watch the breath-taking northern lights that dance and hover and wisp across the landscape more surreal and more amazing then is describable. And everything glitters with ice crystals and ice and the reflection of what sun there is off their surfaces. It is beautiful, it is cold.

Spring brings color to the landscapes. The stems of the willow bushes and the birches turn red with the swelling of sap, the spruce trees start to gain in green as the daylight grows stronger and the sun starts to register on the UV scale again. The sun gets higher in the sky, there is that day when you can actually feel heat from the sunlight and you know that spring is really here. There is lots of great skiing, robin egg blue skies, the northern lights are still out and your pulse quickens as the daylight increases and it gets easier to get out of bed in the morning. At the very tale end of spring the leaves burst forth - here in the north they do so very suddenly, almost overnight. Break-up occurs, large blocks of ice race down the rivers, the nose can smell the earth & the sea again, there is flooding and mud and shiny vivid green leaves, all in the blink of an eye.

And then summer comes, the sun is high in the sky and the darkness fades as do the stars and the northern lights but one can be out and active at any time of day without your headlamp without worrying about when darkness will fall. There are no more sunrises or sunsets, not that one would notice anyway. everything and everyone is busy, this season is short and there is much to do before the colder, darker months return. Light is beautiful, holiday light, the kind of light you associate with good memories and warmth and laziness. There is color from the vegetation & the flowers & the ocean & the sky. And you bathe in it, knowing it will soon be gone.

Happy Equinox!


  1. who needs photos when you can paint such beautiful pictures with your words?

  2. Okay... That was seriously beautiful. Thanks for the mental pictures. We are heading into Summer when everything is silver, grey and parched.

  3. Thanks for such a lovely post. I now live much farther south than I used to, and here the seasons and light shift much less... hot to less hot to hot again. I really miss those long shadows of fall and spring.

  4. from my favorite book about mapping: "At the equinoxes, everything is equal on earth as regards the solar power house - fifty-fifty, 12 hrs day, 12 hrs night, from pole to pole. The most perfectly balanced symmetrical days of the year. If every day were like that we'd all be dead."
    i like your description better, but a day worth celebrating, no matter what. thanks for a thoughtful post!

  5. what a welcome read on a sunday night. beautiful portrait.

  6. You did a fine job without the photos, if I say so myself ~

    I have always wanted to see the northern lights.

  7. A day absent of sunrise and sunset. it sounds like the perfect stage for a children's story.

  8. I am addicted to light, dread the coming of winter and wait impatiently for the winter solstice when the light starts to return.
    And the equinox. Is that why everone is so...on edge these past few days? The moon?

  9. Happy Equinox back atcha Wayfarer!

    Gorgeous writing... again.

  10. painted maypole, sally forth, & pilgrim/herectic ~ aww...thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    matte ~ thanks! well, some people do have perfectly balanced days, they live on the equator, and as far as I can tell they are very much not dead.

    liv ~ thanks, I tried.

    qt ~ the northern lights are one of the wonders of the world. they are nothing short of awe inspiring. I hope you get to see them some day.

    ms chica ~ oh! it does! hmmm...and you can imagine how the children like to manipulate all that daylight to avoid going to bed.

    crazymumma ~ the change in daylight is hard on humans. In Alaska it is always areound the equinoxes that the most crimes are comitted, it's a time of change and not everyone is pyschologically ready for that change and it makes people a little wacky.

    orangeblossoms ~ thanks!


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