[Note: Previously, in referring to the vernal equinox, I posted “Earth in the Balance” describing how life on earth is calibrated with incredible precision to support human life: https://www.kendallpres.org/earth-in-the-balance. This is a continuation of that line of thought. In addition I’ve added some new material at the end of this post about the way various cultures have observed the equinoxes since ancient times. I hope you’ll find it interesting.]
Before I begin this blog – has anybody seen my summer? It was here just a few minutes ago. I looked away for just a few minutes and it was gone. Anybody?
Whatever happened, I have it on reliable authority that this Wednesday, September 22, at 3:21 pm EDT summer ends and the autumnal equinox will take place, ushering in the season known as fall. Fall is when most of the rest of the country looks forward to cooler temps, changing leaves and football season. In South Florida we look forward to … football, and the end of hurricane season.
Trying to reason with hurricane season*
As I write this it is just past the peak of hurricane season. While South Florida has largely been spared again so far this year, Louisiana and much of the Gulf Coast is still reeling from the devastation caused by Hurricanes Ida and Nicholas. Their recovery will take months, maybe years.
Ida was a bad dance partner who comes in uninvited, repeatedly steps on your toes, gets sloppy drunk, makes a huge mess all over the place and then leaves you there to clean up after her … and pay for it all. There is a name for nasty, ill-mannered creatures like Ida.
I was going for “catastrophic natural disaster.” What were you thinking?
I don’t like hurricanes. I don’t like seeing news reporters lashing themselves to palm trees as they tell us, “Whatever you do, DO NOT GET OUT IN THIS OR YOU WILL DIE!!!!!” I really don’t like being without electricity and Internet access and the ability to watch the news. (First-world problems, I know.) But hey, what if one of those reporters gets blown away, and I miss it?
As someone who has lived through many of these beasts, including Hurricane Andrew – it’s part of living in South Florida – you would expect I have nothing good to say about hurricanes. But believe it or not, hurricanes do serve a useful function.
What possible purpose could hurricanes serve other than to destroy property and devastate lives?
As I understand it, they actually help regulate global temperatures. They do it by absorbing heat from north Africa, transferring it across the Atlantic in the form of tropical waves, depressions, storms and hurricanes, and depositing that heat somewhere in the western hemisphere.
Speaking for myself and approximately 99.44 percent of all South Floridians, Africa can just keep all its #!*@*#! heat to itself, thank you. We’ve got all the heat and humidity we need. But that is the function hurricanes serve for the planet. That, and to help “regulate” (read: raise) insurance rates.
Oh, and sending news reporters rushing to the nearest palm tree.
A very finely tuned universe
A couple of years ago I had the privilege of telling our Kendall Christian School kids the story of Noah. (Yes, that Noah, the one who built the big boat and loaded up all the animals to ride out a storm that makes Ida look like a passing shower. If you don’t want to believe that happened, fine. But if you have any room in your worldview for the supernatural and miraculous, Noah’s ark should fit in it without too much trouble. If you don’t have any room for such things … how sad for you. What a small world you must live in.) We’ve seen what 2-3 days of heavy downpours can do to an area; imagine what 40 days of nonstop rain would do.
Among other fascinating aspects of Noah’s story (which you can read about in Genesis 6-10), God makes a covenant with Noah when the flood is over. For his part God promises among other things never to destroy the world by flood again, something the people of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast may have questioned for a couple days. He also promises the world will always run according to regular, predictable patterns. Night will follow day and in turn give way to day to be followed by night etc. etc. Seasons will move along in predictable order. Spring will lead to summer, summer will give birth to hurricane season which will peak September 9-10 and gradually give way to fall which will ….
Begin this Wednesday at at 3:21 pm. Like clockwork. God promised, and as far as I know that promise has not been rescinded.
No guesswork in the clockwork
A lifetime ago I used to play acoustic guitar a bit and lead music for various groups. A song I loved to play is Michael Martin Murphey’s “Carolina in the Pines.” On the off chance you’re not familiar with Michael Martin Murphey (“Wildfire;” “What’s Forever For?” “Still Taking Chances”) you can easily look him up. Here is the middle verse of “Carolina in the Pines”:
There’s a new moon on the fourteenth
First quarter, the twenty first
And the full moon in the last week
Brings a fullness to this earth
There’s no guesswork in the clockwork
Of the world’s heart or mine
There are nights I only feel right
With Carolina in the pines
I know it may be hard for our friends along the Gulf coast to accept right now, and I do not say this glibly, but the earth is working according to a divinely ordained pattern. We may not understand it, and we sure don’t have to like it, but it is good to know we don’t live on an abandoned planet hurtling aimlessly through space, but on an ordained one where even hurricanes serve some higher purpose.
Just as we do.
Happy fall, everyone. Right on time.
*Hat tip to Jimmy Buffet for that line.
Bonus information: The equinox has been a day of celebration for various cultures since ancient times. Here are a few of the more notable sites that were built with the spring and fall equinoxes in mind – one I have visited a few times, and four more I’d love to see but probably won’t:
- In Chichen Itza, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, the Mayans built a giant pyramid called El Castillo. On the equinoxes, the light pattern looks like a snake. Mayans called this day “the return of the Sun serpent.” This is the one I’ve visited, and it is really magnificent.
- At Machu Picchu, Peru, an ancient stone monument called Intihuatana, which means “Hitching Post of the Sun” – ain’t that cool? – serves as a solar clock to mark the equinoxes and solstices.
- In England, Stonehenge was built with the equinoxes and solstices in mind.
- At Newgrange, Ireland, around 3200 B.C. ancient people (possibly some of my ancestors, although you can’t prove it so don’t try) built a huge mound of dirt and surrounded it with stones. For five days around the winter solstice, at dawn a beam of sunlight illuminates a small room inside the mound for 17 minutes. The room holds only 20 people at a time, so every year, thousands enter a lottery in hope of being one of the hundred people allowed to enter.
- At the Great Sphinx and Pyramid of Khafre in Egypt, a peculiar phenomenon occurs on the equinoxes. If you stand directly in front of the Sphinx (facing it) at sunset on the date of either equinox, as the sun nears the horizon, you’ll see it settle directly onto the Sphinx’s right shoulder. At this angle, the sun also sits at the southern corner of the Pyramid of Khafre, located behind the Sphinx. Cannot confirm whether or not Indiana Jones used this information when he was searching for the Ark of the Covenant.
Drawn from numerous sources, primarily https://www.almanac.com/content/ancient-sites-aligned-solstice-and-equinox.