Tag Archives: Seasons

Happy Equinox and Supermoon!

Ready for a change of season? The March Equinox will occur on Sunday, March 20th this year, marking the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere and fall in the southern hemisphere. The exact time is 23:21 (or 11:21 p.m.) at Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), which is 4:21 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time, 7:21 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time).

Equinox” means “equal night” in Latin and, twice a year (in March and September), the sun shines directly on the equator, and the length of day and night are nearly equal in all parts of the world.

In addition, the full moon that heralds the Equinox on the night of March 19th will appear especially large and bright, due to its closer-than-usual relation to Earth. This supermoon, or perigee moon, is due to rise in the east and be the biggest in almost 20 years. If you are blessed with clear skies tonight, you will probably want to have a look.

The Farmers Almanac calls the March full moon the Full Worm Moon and notes:  “As the temperature begins to warm and the ground begins to thaw, earthworm casts appear, heralding the return of the robins.”

Northern Native American tribes knew this moon as the Full Crow Moon, when the cawing of crows signaled the end of winter. They also used Full Crust Moon because the snow cover became crusted from thawing by day and freezing at night.

The Dakota Sioux named it the especially poetic Moon When Eyes Are Sore From Bright Snow. The Full Sap Moon, marking the time of tapping maple trees, is a Colonial American variation. More than one other culture calls it the Windy Moon. In Medieval England it was known as the Chaste Moon.

I’ve long been quite entranced with the full moon names and their variations. Of course, they reflect both the need to mark passing time and the way that time was experienced by people who were living close to the land. Lunar time-keeping pre-dated our modern calendars (and some calendars, like the Jewish and Chinese calendars, are still lunar-based.) The Farmer’s Almanac has a good list of Native American full moon names and how each came to be.

Other, even older, cultures have had moon naming traditions, too. This site lists full moon names from Chinese, Celtic, Pacific Island, Native American, Pagan, and other cultures.

Lots of people garden using the phases of the moon. The good news is that there isn’t one best time to plant — Each aspect of planting has an associated moon phase, based on how much moisture is pulled up through the soil by the monthly pull of the moon (much the way the moon influences the tides.)

The time just after the full moon is an especially good time for planting root crops, as the gravitational pull is high (adding more moisture to the soil) and the moonlight is decreasing, contributing energy to the roots. For this reason, the waning moon is also a good time to plant bulbs and transplants.

The Farmer’s Almanac offers a wonderful moon phase calendar for the U.S. that allows you to plug in your location and get the exact time of your local full moon.

Enjoy the new season and the supermoon!

Photos: NASA (Moon), Susan Sachs Lipman


Spring Inspiration

Spring is almost upon us. In the Northern Hemisphere, the Vernal Equinox will officially occur Saturday, March 20, at 17:32 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). This corresponds to 1:30 pm, Eastern Daylight Time, and 10:30 am on the West Coast.

During the twice-yearly Equinox,  the tilt of the Earth’s axis is inclined neither away from nor towards the Sun, and the Sun is vertically above a point on the Equator. (The name “equinox” comes from the Latin for the words “equal” and “night — on these days night and day are approximately the same length.)

In my neck of the woods, the sun has begun to shine warmly and flowers have shot up above ground. Here’s hoping for a pretty, play-filled spring where you are.

As always, at times of seasonal change, I turn to the haiku poets to help give gentle expression to the turning of the year.

Now wild geese return …
What draws them
Crying, crying
All the long dark night?


From my tiny roof
Smooth … Soft …
Still-White Snow
Melts in Melody


Good morning, sparrow …
Writing on my
clean veranda
with your dewy feet


Opening thin arms …
A pink peony
Big as this!
Said my bitty girl


Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Happy Winter Solstice!

Winter Solstice is just about here, in the Northern Hemisphere — Our longest night and shortest day of the year, when Winter will officially begin at 9:47 a.m., Pacific Standard Time, on Dec. 21.  At that moment, the sun will be directly over the Tropic of Capricorn.

For the many who, unlike me, yearn for longer days, this is the cheering moment they start coming back, little by little, as the North Pole gradually begins to tilt closer to the sun. (I truly enjoy the whole year and like hunkering down on the longer nights.)

Of course, those in the Southern Hemisphere are celebrating their Summer Solstice and their longest, sunniest day.

This is a great site that explains how the Solstice occurs.

This link illuminates cultural and religious celebrations from around the world that mark the Winter Solstice, the year’s longest night, and the return of the light. I was interested to learn that the ancient Roman 7-day festival, the Saturnalia, sometimes slipped into debauchery, but also included the postponing of war.

Locally, (and currently), in the San Francisco Bay Area, there is a wonderful Winter Solstice celebration in the Muir Woods that my family has attended many times. It occurs rain or shine, and will take place Monday, Dec. 21, at Muir Woods National Monument, from 3-8 p.m. The event, which is free with a park entrance fee, includes Winter woods-inspired crafts, such as making Solstice crowns; singing, storytelling, and a shadow puppet show; hot chocolate for purchase; and the beautiful ancient Redwood-lined trails of the park lit with luminaria, and often ringing with the voices of choral performers.

Attendees should dress warmly, bring flashlights and prepare to have fun. Perhaps there’s a Solstice celebration in your area. Let us know!

Photo – Burning Sun Wheel at Winter Solstice: Thomas W. Fiege/Schandolf

The Wheel of the Year: Summer Turns to Fall


Seasons, and changes of season, seem to bring out the poet in many of us. I think that’s especially true of the spring and fall equinoxes, when the drama of the turning year is most apparent, the earth teetering between seasons even as it experiences its twice-yearly equality of day and night.

And, between spring and fall, I’d have to give the drama nod to autumn: The air chills, the leaves blush and drop, and many creatures experience a turning inward — perhaps a period of contemplation, if not one of hibernation. Fall is when I feel the turning of the year most profoundly.

Japanese Haiku is a poetic form that has observations of seasons and nature at its core. The best 17-syllable word sketches are deceptively simple meditations on passing moments, beauty, and feelings, and ones place within them. Growing up, we had a book of haiku in our home called The Four Seasons. I still have it, and I chose some fall haiku from it to share.

The haiku ranges from the 17th century master Basho to the 19th century poet Shiki.

Autumn officially begins this year on September 22, at 21:28 Universal Time, 5:28 pm Eastern Daylight Time, and 2:28 pm Pacific Standard Time. Happy equinox, and a fulfilling fall to all.


Jagged candle-flame …

The very shape of Autumn

Sifts through the shutters

— Raizan


Here is the dark tree

Denuded now of leafage …

But a million stars



Autumn breezes shake

The scarlet flowers my poor child

Could not wait to pick



We stand still to hear

Tinkle of far temple bell …

Willow-leaves falling



In unending rain

The house-pent boy is fretting

With his brand-new kite



A windblown grass …

Hovering in mid-air in vain

An autumn dragonfly






Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Happy Summer!


If you’re in the Northern hemisphere, it’s already happened. Summer solstice clocked this year at 5:45 Greenwich Mean Time on June 21 — a bit after midnight on America’s east coast, and 9:45 last night on the west.

The longer days and warmer temperatures, and (if we’re lucky) looser schedules just tend to bring on a sense of relaxation. Our shoulders drop a little and our lungs expand. In Summer, the sun kisses our faces and causes our children’s heights to spurt. It’s the season of wearing less clothing; leaving work earlier; seeing good friends more often, eating fresh, tree-ripened fruit; and spending nights playing games or gazing at stars. In summer, time moves just a little more slowly.

In the Bay Area, unusually warm weather brought out a large crowd at a neighborhood Friday night barbeque and music event called Creekside, where we caught up with old friends at picnic tables by a meandering creek. Yesterday, my daughter and I walked to our errands and bought lemonade from a local stand.

I wish you all a happy, relaxed, fulfilled, sensual Summer, as you enjoy warmth, family, friends, time, nature, play, and maybe a joyful activity or two that somehow gets squeezed out of a typical year.


Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman