Autumn Equinox 2017 and the first pumpkin of the season!

dav Autumn officially arrived here in the Northern Hemisphere yesterday, astronomically speaking.

And with autumn comes the desire to knit pumpkins.  I have no idea why, but it’s something that I did last year, followed by knitted christmas trees and stars.

I think it may have something to do with the nights drawing in, the cooler temperatures, the cosy and candle-lit home.

It may also have something to do with the fact that as it’s getting cooler my cat thinks I’m warm-blooded furniture again and he requires lots of lying on and cuddling up to me.  Drawing is nearly an impossibility with him on my lap, but he will let me knit; he doesn’t even try to play with the yarn or needles.

So, as the nights grow longer and the days shorter, my workspace may end up being increasingly on the bed to keep a kitty happy and lest pesky, and that’s fine by me.

That was something that started when I had my first extended bout of depression/anxiety 3 or 4 years ago and I just wanted to be in bed, a pattern that was repeated during my second extended bout.  Indeed, in the first few weeks of the medication that’s the only place I could be for several hours a day as it zonked me out totally.  I think the cat got really used to my presence in his domain; he loves the bedroom and rarely ventures out of it.  Indeed, he’ll become a total pest if I’m downstairs and he wants my company upstairs so he can settle down for big sleeps.  I’m usually happy to go and spend the short time it takes for him to settle in that instance.

Having said that, he’s taken to being pesky and testy if I overstay my time in the bed and he wants to get under the duvet to settle down for big sleeps now the weather is cooler once again.

Yes, I have one crazy cat, and I love him very much. He’s nearly 16 years old, so he’s entitled to be the boss and make demands I think.  He’s also been a really good companion for me through some of the darkest times of my life.

I wonder if he’d let me weave … most probably!

Still, the first pumpkin of the season has arrived – it’s approx 5.5″ across and 3.75 inches high.  I knitted it in chunky weight yarn on 5 mm needles.

Halloween Entangled Octahedron

Halloween Octahedron Montage _ Angela Porter _ 21 Sept 2017

Ok, not the best photo in the world, but the octahedron (bipyramidal) was fun to draw, and the colour certainly brought it to life (death?).

Quite apt I’ve done some autumnal themed work on the Autumnal Equinox.

Synchronicity

Synchronicity 1

Synchronicity 1 © Angela Porter 2012

Approx. 16cm x 12cm

Rotring pen, Sakura Glaze pen, Derwent Inktense pencils with water wash on heavy watercolour paper.

Small, intricate, full of spirals and swirls.  Typically me when in a fussy, detailed mood.

Many of the patterns and shapes are inspired by ammonites, nature, cells, Romanesque architecture, Prehistoric pottery and rock art.

Synchronicity because there have been a lot of  ‘coincidences’ noted in my life recently.

Back at work

Oh the joys of teaching!  There is an element of sarcasm there.  The lack of respect, manners and cooperation seems to have increased over the summer – either that or I’m getting old, having passed the 49 year mark during the long holidays.

I find myself emotionally drained at the end of each day after the constant hard work to get pupils to stop making assorted weird noises, disrupting the lesson in a myriad of ways, and just trying to bet them to be polite.  I feel ‘battle weary’.  Yet, teaching should not be such a battle.

The worst thing for me, however, is the effect this has on my creativity and the time to create.  I miss the hours I could spend creating art during the break.  If only I could earn enough from art reliably and sustainably to become a full-time artist…or writer…or or or…

Hypnotherapy

Well, yesterday, the Autumnal Equinox, saw the end of the hypnotherapy course.  I have an extension to complete the case studies, so the work isn’t quite over for me.  I managed, finally, to get a merit in one essay – hurrah!

Not sure if I’ll be able to start a hypnotherapy practice up for a few years for various reasons, but I’d like to keep my hand in and practice the skills I have learned until I’m ready to take that plunge.

Endings

Yesterday, in fact the past week or so, have been rather weird.  I’ve found myself very emotional, on the point of tears or past the point of holding them back on a number of occasions, including today.  I have no idea exactly what is the problem.  I thought it was hormonal, but I’m not too sure about that now.

Anyway, the hypnotherapy wasn’t the only ending this week.

I resigned from a committee that I perhaps have stayed on for a few months too long.

I’ve had various bits of a jigsaw puzzle about a friendship that ended a few months ago.  I’ve spent most of this time blaming myself as I was made to feel it was my fault.  However, the jigsaw pieces show that it isn’t my fault at all!

All this is quite apt for the equinox I think.

The Calendar

Time to change your calendars and diaries over!  Happy new calendar day for MMXI!

The Sun and the Year

It takes the Earth 365.24219 mean solar days to orbit the Sun once.  This is slightly more than our nominal 365 day long year, so every four days we have a leap year, with 29 days in February instead of the usual 28.  This still isn’t quite right, so the last year of every century is not a leap year unless the year is divisible by 400, which is why 2000 was a leap year but 1900 wasn’t.

There are four key points in the Earth’s yearly journey around the Sun.

The Solstices are where the Sun appears to stand still at solar noon for a few days, this means that it is in the same position in the sky at solar noon.  Solstice comes from the Latin sol for Sun and sistere which means to stand still.  Around the 21st December each year, the Sun is the furthest south from the equator in the sky and we in the northern hemisphere experience the Winter Solstice, the shortest day in the year.  Around the 21st June, the northern hemisphere’s Summer Solstice occurs, with the Sun being at it’s most northerly from the equator.  This is the longest day of the year for us.

The Equinoxes occur in between these points.  The Vernal Equinox occurs around the 21st March and the Autumnal Equinox around the 21st September each year.  On these days, the Sun is directly over the equator.  These are days where the hours of daylight and night are approximately equal, and the word equinox comes from the Latin equi meaning equal and nox meaning night.

To our modern eyes, the cycles of the Sun are important in terms of determining the seasons, the weather, agricultural practices and so on.  But that wasn’t always so.

The Moon and the Year

To early man, it was the Moon, with its cyclical waxing and waning that was the more obvious object to use to measure time and all the earliest known calendars are lunar, based on the phases of the Moon.  Indeed, the word month comes from the use of the phases of the Moon to split the year up into segments.

It takes long and complicated sums to link the cycles of the Moon to those of the Sun.  A lunar month is 29.5306 days long, so a twelve month lunar year would last just over 354 days and so is around 11 days out of step with the Solar year.  If we were to follow a lunar calendar, it would take just about 16 years for the seasons to be completely reversed.

Julius Caesar and the 1st January

Whatever the religious reasons may have been to keep to a lunar calendar, it must have been obvious that it was the cycles of the Sun that had the biggest effect upon human activity.  It was the turning of the seasons that determined when crops were to be sown, when they were due to be harvested, when the weather would be good enough to set sail, and for so many other things too, yet the lunar calendar was still in use, with all the problems of errors and corrections that needed to be made until the Julian calendar was introduced by Julius Caesar in 45BC.

Caesar learned of this calendar from the Egyptians.  Legend has it it was at a party thrown by Cleopatra in his honour.  The Julian calendar was based on a 365 day year, with an extra day thrown in every 4 years.  Each year had twelve months with thirty or thirty-one days, except February, and the 1st January was set as the beginning of the year.

The calendar as we know it today was now more or less in place.  It was regular, secular and based on the real movements of the Sun.

Dark Times

Emperor Constantine (d. AD377) imposed Christianity as the major religion of the Roman Empire and he placed the design of the calendar back in the hands of religious groups who were still wedded to the traditional lunar movements for their major festivals.  After the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Christian church was the nearest thing to an international controlling committee and the West entered a long, dark time where scientific enquiry was frowned upon at best and considered heresy at worst.

The Gregorian Calendar

By the C16th, the western world was stable enough to attempt to reform the calendar.  The small errors from the Julian calendar had now become noticeable and annoying.  In 1582 Pope Gregory finally announced changes in the calendar to correct these faults and prevent them from happening again, including the 400 year rule for leap years mentioned previously.

He introduced what became known as the Gregorian Calendar, and ordained that 5th October should become 15th October to bring the calendar back in line with the physical world.  This was a much needed and a sensible solution to the problem of the calendar.

However, the changes were not universally accepted, especially in Protestant countries such as Britain.  The changes were declared to be a ‘Popish plot’ designed to undermine their credibility.  For more than a century following this Papal decree, half of Europe was 10 days ahead of the other half!

It took Britain until 1752 to adopt the changes, by which time it had to correct the calendar by 11 days to bring it back into line with Gregorian calendar.   Philip Stanhope, fourth Earl of Chesterfield, initiated this move by introducing a Bill to correct the ‘inconvenient and disgraceful errors of our present calendar’.  This Bill was signed into law by George II on 22nd May 1752.  Chesterfield’s Act  decreed that Wednesday 2 September 1752 be followed immediately by 14 September 1752 and also that the New Year was to start officially on 1st January.

Autumn Equinox

To Autumn  – William Blake

O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stained
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof, there thou may’st rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe;
And all the daughters of the year shall dance,
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers. 

Some Equinox Thoughts

At 04:09BST tomorrow morning, the Sun enters Libra and this event marks the Autumn Equinox, the start of Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere.  Equinox literally translates as ‘ equal night’, and the two equinoxes are the times in the year when the hours of light and dark are almost equally balanced – they may not be exactly the same length, but it’s the closest they get to being so!

I always find the Equinoxes and Solstices charged with a buzz, with energy.  A great sense of change is in the air.  Autumn is always a time to harvest that which has ripened, to clear away the chaff and dead leaves.  In doing so the land and the trees have their underlying supportive structure laid bare.  And so it is with life, as it seems to me.  It’s a time to celebrate that which has come to fruition, a time to clear away that which has served its purpose or has not grown, time to reveal what lies beneath the surface for contemplation as the Sun’s strength begins to wane and the night lengthens into day.  Letting go of things is not easy, even when they are complete, but it is necessary to make way for the  new that is to come.  It is also important to take time to reflect on what has been gained, learned and lost as that too brings a harvest of its own, and it is important, I think, to give thanks for this harvest of personal work done and progress made along our own way.  It is also a time to think to the future, to set new goals now that the space in which they may achieved is apparent.

Tomorrow, after a good nights sleep tonight, I will find time to sit in meditation and contemplate my personal harvest, what is complete, and my goals for the coming year, and to give thanks for all these things.

Harvest Moon

The Harvest Moon is the Full Moon closest, either before or after, the Autumnal Equinox.  This year, there is a Full Moon on the day of the Equinox, 23rd September 2010.

All full moons rise around the time of sunset. However, although in general the moon rises about 50 minutes later each day, as it moves in orbit around Earth, the Harvest Moon and Hunter’s Moon are special, because around the time of these full moons, the time difference between moonrise on successive evenings is shorter than usual which means that the moon rises approximately 30 minutes later, from one night to the next, as seen from about 40 degrees N. or S. latitude, for several evenings around the full Hunter’s or Harvest Moons. Thus there is no long period of darkness between sunset and moonrise around the time following these full moons. In times past this feature of these autumn moons was said to help farmers working to bring in their crops (or, in the case of the Hunter’s Moon, hunters tracking their prey). They could continue being productive by moonlight even after the sun had set. Hence the name Harvest Moon. The reason for the shorter-than-usual rising time between successive moonrises around the time of the Harvest and Hunter’s Moon is that the ecliptic—the plane of Earth’s orbit around the sun—makes a narrow angle with respect to the horizon in the evening in autumn.

Often, the Harvest Moon seems to be bigger or brighter or more colorful than other full moons. These effects are related to the seasonal tilt of the earth. The warm color of the moon shortly after it rises is caused by light from the moon passing through a greater amount of atmospheric particles than when the moon is overhead. The atmosphere scatters the bluish component of moonlight (which is really reflected white light from the sun), but allows the reddish component of the light to travel a straighter path to one’s eyes. Hence all celestial bodies look reddish when they are low in the sky.

The apparent larger size is because the brain perceives a low-hanging moon to be larger than one that’s high in the sky. This is known as a Moon Illusion and it can be seen with any full moon. It can also be seen with constellations; in other words, a constellation viewed low in the sky will appear bigger than when it is high in the sky. [1]

Of course, I couldn’t leave this little bit of research without Neil Young singing ‘Harvest Moon’, could I?

  1. Wikipedia