The Spring Equinox arrives Thursday. The snow lies deep across the landscape and this morning’s temperature is -7 F. The sunrise was lovely, casting a pastel glow on the Adirondacks across the lake. The March sun melts some snow each day, the water pooling on the sidewalk, then freezing at sundown. The sidewalks are fit only for skating and are best avoided. Evenings continue to lengthen, sunset coming well after seven now, and skiers and snow shoers utilize every available moment of sunlight. Shortly after dawn this morning there were skiers on the path behind our home.
This week, as the Equinox approaches, we consider the challenge of finding balance. We are reminded that balance is contextual. Ecosystems develop equilibrium over time, a sort of active stasis that accommodates the normal variations in weather we call climate. Ecosystems can adapt to changing climatic norms as long as changes occur relatively slowly. When deviations from the climatic norm are rapid and severe, ecosystems may become unstable and enter periods of dramatic and unpredictable state change.
The spring and fall are times of moderation between the climatic extremes of summer and winter. Here in the mid-latitudes, the Equinoxes signal mid-points in the calendar year. At the Equinox night and day are held in balance, temperatures reach a transition point signaling the rapid onset of warming or cooling, and the agricultural season shifts into an intense planting of harvesting mode. (Here in Vermont plants started now must be seeded indoors.) While after this winter one may be challenged to accept the reality of a warming climate, it is useful to realize that in northern Vermont nearly a month has been added to the growing season during the past twenty years.
We humans are ecosystems unto ourselves. Like all systems on our bright blue-green planet, we are permeable systems, exchanging nutrients and information with innumerable other systems, large and small. I believe the metaphor of self-organizing systems is immensely useful; one can understand Self as complex and permeable at the level of body and mind, and ponder the possibility we may also be infinitely connected as spirit. We are indeed complex, evolving, self-organizing natural systems.
At the level of mind we are composed of many selves, each with needs, desires, and hurts. These states appear to reside in an infinitely large space. Ordinarily, they interact freely and collaboratively, working together to maintain and enrich a collective sense of Self. However, when individuals experience trauma, especially before the age of six, communication between these relatively discrete parts of self can become fragmented and inconsistent, resulting in the loss of a coherent and abiding sense of Self. Even so, the system seeks to find a new and workable dynamic equilibrium, a process we call “healing”. This process of change can be challenging and the time between the loss of the old sense of self and the emergence of the Self to come may be fraught with difficulty. Yet a new equilibrium, a new sense of self seeks to emerge; the world wishes to be made new.
Winter is passing and spring is ascending, promising warmth and softened, rain nurtured, ground, the perfect habitat for seeds and bulbs. This week robins have joined the cardinals on our neighbor’s hawthorn tree, feasting on the fermented fruit, and occasionally falling drunkenly from its limbs. Already our various avian friends are courting, some raising first broods, even as the snow lies deep above the still frozen earth. As we approach the Spring Equinox, we are invited to experiment with softening and being receptive to our lives and those we love. We are encouraged to remember we continue to grow throughout our lives, we can always choose to sew the seeds of compassion and healing for ourselves and others, and we are much larger and more complex than we know. It is an exciting time!