Monday was the vernal equinox. It was a very warm sunny day here and without much wind , which has been unusual lately. Everyone seemed very happy to celebrate the first day of spring, including yours truly. In the traditional Chinese calendar the vernal equinox is one of the 24 solar terms terms. According to this calendar, spring began back on February 3rd, but even in most of China, no one thinks February is much like spring. Although there was a warm spell, here no one was fooled and the other shoe dropped with a big snowfall and cold temperatures.
The equinoxes are marked by an equal length of day and night. Thanks to the change to Daylight Savings Time here in the US most people are too disoriented to notice. People I know, both in person and on line, report their cats are disoriented too. Strangely, no one I know has complained their dogs are bothered by this. Of course, cats are very insistent on routine. I think dogs are in general more spontaneous.
I always like to use the equinoxes as a reminder to check the balance in my life. Am I working too much or not enough? Am I slacking on things I don’t really want to do? Am I neglecting some area of my life or some relationships which need attention? It can be hard to keep life in balance these days. There are a lot of externally imposed demands, like the deadline for filing taxes next month. Most people would put that off forever if they could. In my case I find working from home sometimes leads to being less efficient. Not because I am playing video games or with the cats but because household tasks haunt my every step and can’t be gotten away from. Also, I don’t get the feedback from working with other people. We all hate useless meetings that drag on to no end but well managed meetings and brain-storming sessions can be both inspirational and productive. I think now the weather will allow me to get out, a couple of mornings a week I’ll take my laptop down to the local coffee shop, The French Press, and work there, just for a change of pace.
The three pentads for the solar term Chunfen are the first 玄鳥至, ‘The dark birds arrive’. The dark birds referred to are swallows making their northward spring migration. This is not just true in China. The swallows of Mission San Juan Capistrano in California are quite famous and they are protected in the whole city. European swallows return from spending the winter in sub-Saharan Africa, Arabia and the Indian sub-continent. British swallows spend their winter in South Africa, returning along the west coast of Africa. European swallows travel further east and down the Nile Valley. All this to avoid crossing the Sahara. Chinese swallows have a much easier migratory path.
The second pentad: 雷乃發聲, ‘Thunder sounds’ refers to the onset of spring thunderstorms. We will get spring rains here but thunderstorms are less likely. The third pentad, 始電, ‘Lightning begins’, also refers to the weather of this period. In Japan a version of this calendar is also used and I like the Japanese version of the pentads in this case. The second is 桜始開 Sakura hajimete hiraku which translates as ‘Cherry blossoms open for the first time’. This description is less repetitive and also fits what is happening where I live. Then the last pentad is 雷乃発 声 Kaminari sunawachi koeo hassu, ‘Distant thunder start to sound’, which fits the kind of rainstorms the Japanese also get at this time.
I am very interested in following the natural world according to this calendar and connecting to nature through it but I was frustrated by a lack of information. Thankfully I discovered a book was coming out on just this topic thanks to my habit of reading foreign newspapers. I found it available on the Amazon site, and I ordered it. I might have searched for ages for a vendoe, but I have to admit, Amazon is darn good at getting things to market across all kinds of barriers. It is published in China and yes, it is all in Chinese, but I am thrilled. The Book of Time, the 24 Solar Terms is by Yu Shicun. At first they estimated a two month delivery date but it arrived almost a month early, on the Equinox itself. Synchronicity. Give the subject matter I am going to be using the dictionary a lot but what a beautiful incentive to improve my Chinese!