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My Turn: A journey through seasons

  • Also known as the Seven Sisters and M45, the Pleiades lies about 400 light years away toward the constellation of the Bull (Taurus). NASA



For the Monitor
Friday, September 08, 2017

For 4.5 billion years, the Earth has orbited the sun at 66,000 mph, rotating at greater than 1,000 mph at the equator. As the planet continues its inexorable journey toward the winter side of the sun, we here in New England begin to perceive the familiar cues that tell us that, as day follows night progress at the same pace and in the same order that they have for eons before and eons to come.

Those gorgeous, long, lazy days of mid-summer are gone for now, to be replaced by the shorter days and longer nights that will continue to overtake us until the winter solstice in late December. All the while, the land north of the Arctic Circle, shielded from the warming rays of the sun, will continue to radiate its feeble summer warmth into the inky black vacuum of space, sporadically releasing pockets of frigid air in our direction to remind us that those sweet summer days that seemed as if they would last forever have, for now, left us until the sun begins to cast its warming light, beginning on the vernal equinox.

The Summer Triangle, defined by the stars Altair, Vega and Deneb, that would hover overhead at midnight in July is now sinking into the western horizon not long after sunset. Orion, the great celestial hunter who hibernates during summer, is beginning to return to claim his place in the hunting grounds of the winter sky along with his harem – the Seven Sisters, sometimes known by their formal names, the Pleiades.

Already, every gust of wind releases a flurry of leaves that a few short weeks ago were rigidly attached to the trees that they nourished and were almost iridescent in their verdant glory.

The songbirds that graced us with their sunrise symphony of mating calls have fledged their chicks and, much like schools of fish, are gathering in flocks for their journey to their winter roosts.

In the next few weeks, as the leaves on the trees ignite in the rainbow of color that marks the final irreversible end to the summer, the silence of winter will set in. The joyful shrieks of children frolicking at waters edge will be replaced by the grinding noise of the machines that keep our roads and pathways open.

But surely as day follows night, this rocky planet will round the bend of the winter side of the sun and emerge, as it always has, on the rejuvenating spring side of the sun. As the days once again begin to lengthen and the sun’s radiance begins to warm the air and ground, the snow and ice that seemed to be a permanent part of the landscape will slowly drip into the vernal pools from which the sweet sounds of the first spring peepers will emanate.

The icy silence that temporarily proclaimed itself master of all that is will be in retreat as it is pursued by the warming rays of the spring side of the sun.

As the snow and ice on the hillsides begins to rot, we will begin to hear the rush of water tumbling down the seasonal creeks and streams into the ponds and lakes that will be our summer playgrounds.

As if on cue and conducted by a grand master, the blacks, whites and browns of winter will give birth to the symphony of the miraculous colors and sounds of spring. First comes the crocuses, then the daffodils, followed by the tulips and lilacs. The flowering trees will become the reverse of the dying colors of autumn with a rebirth of the promise of spring. The sleeping earth that seemed destined for permanent somnolence and silence in the dead of winter is miraculously reborn.

Orion and his harem are being chased back into hibernation by the soldiers of the Summer Triangle.

As always, our journey around the sun returns to where it began, where the stunning diversity of life reanimates.

We no longer huddle by our indoor fires. The song birds have returned to begin their dawn serenade along with the joyful screeches of the children who know not of the perils that we shield them from and give us hope and joy at their very existence.

And as the planet arrives at that same point in space that marks mid-summer, we can be certain in our knowledge that the cycle will repeat long after our ability to perceive it ends.

(Jeff Field lives in Bow.)