As you well know, dear reader, yesterday ushered in the month of March, 2011. For as long as I can remember – and certainly including kindergarten and early grade school – March has been gloriously associated with lion, lamb, wind, kites, maple syrup, and, finally, the Arrival of Spring.
The old saying, of course, is that March generally “comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb.” But not here in the high desert of Southern California yesterday. Rather than ferocious, ravenous lion-like, stormy weather, March 1 at last brought the spring weather that we were largely denied all through February. Temperatures returned to the 60′s; it was bright and sunny; and belying the month’s reputation, there was virtually no wind – and we get quite a lot of wind in the desert, with the combination of the mountains and miles and miles of open country devoid of trees for the most part. For the first time in I don’t know how long, we had lots of moths come to the light from our windows last night.
Not so with my old home territory of the Upper Midwest. One of those fast-moving “Alberta clippers” (see my post on this blog for February 5, 2011) descended from Canada in the classic “howling out of the northwest” fashion and has swept over the area with its high winds. Late-winter blizzards and lots of wind are typical, of course, for March. March tends to be one of the windiest months of the year – statistically, the windiest in Washington, D.C., but with all the “hot air” generated there, combined with phenomenal blustering, that would seem to be a foregone conclusion.
The reason for March winds is well known; it’s due to the more rapid shifting of the sun toward the northern sky, more direct rays of the sun starting to warm the northern hemisphere, the warming producing rising air currents, generally moving air masses around. And when I was a kid, it meant kite-flying on windy March days….sometimes even when snow was still on the ground.
I still have a kite here in my outside closet that I’ll fly with my 11-year-old grandson. And while it’s a very pretty, stylized, commercially-made kite, in my childhood we usually made them with inexpensive balsa sticks and cut-up brown grocery bags. A ball of the ubiquitous string that Mom always had, some knotted-together strips of scrap cloth for the tail and we were in business for wind-borne adventure.
I remember a poem about March wind that when I checked, I found on DLTK’s “holiday activities:”
March wind is a jolly fellow; he likes to joke and play.
He turns umbrellas inside out, and blows men’s hats away.
He calls the pussy willows and whispers in each ear,
“Wake up you lazy little seeds; don’t you know that spring is here?”
Corny, I admit, but cute, too. And very fitting for March windiness….but not here again today.
And as I anticipated and announced in a post that I was surprised turned out to be so popular/highly viewed (see on this blog for February 9, 2011), a phone call to my maple syrup people in northern Michigan this morning verified that they have just started the “Sugar Bush” season – hard maple trees are tapped, sap is starting to flow – particularly on sunny, slightly warmer days; and while they haven’t actually boiled down to make any syrup yet…..when they have it, they’ll send me a nice, big jug of their very best, prize-winning syrup. It is one of the means I have used shamelessly to spoil the above-referenced grandson. It’s what he has to have on his waffles and pancakes now.
Spring will officially arrive soon – first day of spring is Sunday, March 20, for 2011. It is, of course, the day of the vernal equinox. And while the well-known derivation is from the Latin “equi” for “equal” and “nox” for “night – meaning equal amounts of daylight and night on that day – technically the Equinox is a precise moment in time when at the Earth’s equator, the sun will appear directly overhead. And since that moment will occur at almost exactly 11:21 pm, UTC (“Coordinated Universal Time,” which scientifically is not quite the same, but for practical purposes can be considered the same as Greenwich Mean Time), on March 20….that is when springs arrives on the calendar.
When that day is upon us, with your permission, interested reader, I will post more on this matter of “equinox;” but will close for now with a reference to another of my lifelong areas of study. And in so doing, we return to where we started in this post – with the March lion.
My undergraduate major at the University of Michigan was – as I shared before – social anthropology, emphasis on Native American studies; but I also did particular study and some field work in archeology. I remember that there is a marvelous, carved bas-relief on a wall in the ruins of the ancient capital of the Persian Empire, Persepolis – modern day Iran, of course. It shows a massive bull being attacked by a ferocious lion, the hair and mane being carved in that typical “wavy” style associated with old Persian art.
Like so many ancient cultures, the royalty and nobility of Persia loved hunting and feats of bravery, as well as fearsome wildlife. Without knowing better, many who have viewed that carving of bull and lion have assumed that it was expressing a titanic struggle between beasts. Actually, it captures the “equinox” – at which time they believed that the power was equal between the earth – as symbolized by the bull – and the sun – symbolized by the lion. I like that. Somehow, the March lion as powerful sun has more appeal right now than the ferocious lion of March winds and storms. Better way for this new month to “come in.”
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