As I reworked our daily schedule for the next few weeks, I discovered something. I’ve always known that as spring progresses the days get longer faster. I always thought that was true until June 21 when, on the journey around the sun, Earth’s axis tilt begins to cause the northern hemisphere to lean further away from the sun, making the days shorter again.
But here’s what I didn’t know: during May, the times of sunrise and sunset are changing pretty dramatically — about a full minute each day. This is consistent throughout the month. OK, so far so good. But at the beginning of June, everything seems to just stop. From beginning to end, the sunrise change is zero! Here at Bluestone Farm the sun rises at 5:23 AM on June 1, and it’s still rising at exactly 5:23 AM on June 30.
During the month there is a little bit of time wobble, a minute here or there. On several different days the sun will appear three minutes earlier, but that reflects the entire swing. Amazing. There are perfectly good explanations for this, of course. But why is it so? It certainly could have been different — but it’s not.
I was taught that ancient folks were simple-minded and superstitious, and thinking that anything other than another human could “speak” with them was just one more proof of their backwardness. But I imagine early peoples on Earth noticing this little quirk in the sky; its irregularity must have communicated something important to them, as all things in the natural world did.
I’m beginning to learn a few things about Mother Earth myself, and I know for sure that the natural world does communicates with us, all the time. We just decided to quit listening. (Well, mostly … all of you who bake bread know that the dough “tells” you when it’s ready to be set aside to rise, right?)
Somewhere in our past we resigned our membership in the Earth community of life and began to become our own teachers. We just stopped learning from the marvelous planet that gave us life and of which we are one of many expressions. Instead we decided that everything on Earth except us is either unconscious or completely lifeless, unimportant in itself, and available (in fact, meant to be) for our use.
We are a species long on verbal communication, but a little short on wisdom.
So, what about the little strangeness in the sunrise time? I can only tell you what it whispers in my own ear. When something in my life is about to undergo a complete change of direction, I’ve found it best to hesitate on the brink. Wisdom speaks in the midst of that kind of stillness, for one thing. And there is also something delicious about balancing on the knife-edge between surrender and anticipation. I guess that’s why every roller coaster in the world begins with a steep hill that gives one that moment of hesitation at the crest, stretching out the opportunity to think about it before plunging onward, a chance to feel the drag of the upward pull and grab a look at the thrill ahead at the same time.
Before I know it, it will be June. And I’ll have a whole month to think about it.