The Balance Point

Today the day and night are of equal length and we emerge from the cocoon of winter and into the blaring and bright world of spring. Persephone rises from the underworld and the fecund earth bursts with color and greenery; things are growing and bursting into bloom so quickly that if I sit still long enough it feels like I can hear them and see them.The air is warmer and has been slowly warming over the last few weeks, days lingering longer instead of racing away as quickly as they can. The mornings are brighter earlier and I stay up later with the sun as it meanders across the sky more and more slowly.

Equinoxes always feel like a knife point to me. I am teetering along the edge and waiting to see which way I fall. In the fall, the knife point is the dividing line and the turning point which tells me that the world is going to be gradually swathed in cold and darkness. In the spring, the knife is slashing through the darkness and light is pushing through and leaking in around the edges. Despite the fact that it’s inevitable and it never changes and it happens whether or not I notice it or am aware, sometimes I wake up on the equinox or the solstice and wonder if it’s really going to happen this time, or if there will be a sudden reversal which defies science and takes us off on an entirely different trajectory.

The turning of the seasons has been marked in various ways by different cultures for thousands of years and even though we may not be as connected to the world around us as we once were, I note that people seem to respond to it on an unconscious level. Many of us are no longer concerned with the spring planting, not worried about how changing day lengths will impact our livelihoods, but we open up as the days grow longer and we shut down as the days grow shorter just the same. Winter is sharp and cold and summer is slow and languid; the very tones of conversations change with the seasons.

Around a month ago, the garden began to get seriously busy. Stark branches stripped in the winter started to swell with tiny green buds which remained quiet and still and then slowly began to puff up, expand, and leaf out. Bulbs started to shoot out of the soil and they grew stalks topped with buds which shyly started to open even as green flushes of new growth came in on all the shrubs which had been dormant in the winter. The jasmine started to climb and bulk out in earnest as it responded to the rain and the growing lengths of the days. Flowers started to bloom and scents began to emerge and a few bees bumbled around, although not enough bees for my taste. The starlings which live in the roof started to get brisker and busier as they prepared.

The sun was starting to feel anemic, distant, and muffled, and now it seems closer and more real. In the winter, it can be sunny out but viciously cold, even sitting in the sun I still feel cold. Now, the sun feels warm even on a windy day, and the cats warm up as they shuffle to follow a patch of sun across the floor. Soon enough I’ll be complaining that it’s too hot and leaving the windows open all night as I hope for a cool breeze or a foggy day which will bring some relief, although it’s really not until fall that the weather gets seriously hot around these parts.

I’ve always liked spring and fall, the inbetween seasons, the best. Summer and winter always feel too extreme to me, by the end. I eagerly wait for them to be over because I fall into sensory and seasonal overload. All of the events are packed into winter and summer, all of the happenings and gatherings, while spring and fall are left to mosey along on their own devices. There is something less frenetic as the earth is either winding up to burst into bloom and fruit and flower or winding down to prepare for the winter.

And it’s the time when things are at their quietest and most interesting, I think. Summer, of course, is the time of tourists and crowds and bad smells and hiding indoors or in remote locations one has to hike to, places too far away for the tourists to bother venturing to. Winter is the time of the descent of those who once lived here, reconnecting with their families, of various seasonal events and winter breaks, but in spring, I can do my own thing. I can sprawl out on the porch on a blanket and read and no one’s going to suddenly pop by and break the spell, just like in the fall when I can putter around helping the garden get ready for winter and I don’t need to do it with constant glances over my shoulder so see who might be coming up the alley.

Spring and fall draw me out much more, make me want to go outside and do things, in a way that winter and summer do not. I get excited about a world filled with possibilities in the spring and I like going to my usual haunts and watching things unfold in the way they dependably do every year. By summer those trees with new growth and those bright flowers will be dulled, faded, and dusty, ghosts of themselves, while right now they are so alive that they almost seem fake; they are ludicrously and insistently, demandingly, present.