Due east, due west


09.22.13  It’s the Autumn Equinox today.  As reported on EarthSky.org this morning, “the knowledge that summer is gone–and winter is coming–is everywhere now, on the northern half of Earth’s globe.”  The migrating birds are going south.  Our wild adopted kitties seemed to get fat with new fur overnight.  It’s a day of nearly equal sunlight and darkness.  It’s also a day in which we can observe true due east and true due west, “…that point which marks the intersection of your horizon with the celestial equator–the imaginary line above the true equator of the Earth.”  The blog suggested we go out into our own yards and notice the location of the sun on the horizon against familiar landmarks, so that “long after Earth has moved on its orbit around the sun, carrying the sunrise and sunset points southward, you’ll be able to use those landmarks to find these cardinal directions in the weeks and months ahead.”

There are only two days in the year, the Spring Equinox and the Autumn Equinox, in which you can find due east and due west.  I like the certainty of this fact and thinking that there is a brief pause before the Earth moves on in her orbit.   I rushed out this morning to meet the sunrise at my favorite place on the waterfowl refuge at the head of the lake.  The clouds hanging over the Swan Range kept me from seeing the exact point of due east, but I took my bearings and observed my landmarks, and I’ll keep track of the sun moving south down the lake on my morning walks and runs.  Observing my own compass.

In Chinese philosophy, according to Deborah Byrd, “the autumn season is associated with the color white, the sound of weeping, the emotions of both courage and sadness.”  She also says that “Autumn is connected in Chinese thought with the direction west, considered to be the direction of dreams and visions.”

I see the western sky from my bed at night, and when I awaken from dreams with my heart pounding or my pillow damp with tears, I often look out to the stars and imagine that I am breathing in their white light through my heart center and it calms me back to sleep.  The grandkids and I have talks about how we are made out of star dust and we try to understand this notion of the Earth and stars sharing the same DNA.  A few years ago, when Duncan and Anna were staying here alone one summer, they were sitting on the big rock out in the water and Duncan said to me, “Grandma–when you’re dead and are a shooting star in the sky, will you still be able to see me and Anna?”  I told him that I don’t know, but I truly hoped so.

Today, I know due east, and I feel rightly tethered to the “celestial equator”, confident in dreams and visions; hoping for balance when all the winds and white snow blow from the west in the weeks, months and years ahead.

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