We seem to be having an early spring. I noticed some change as early as mid-July. The birdsong changed. That’s how I usually notice spring, by sound, the change to autumn is a smell (although chainsaws always seem very autumn sounding to me). One year I smelt autumn as early as late January. The point I am making is that the seasons aren’t dictated by the calendar.
The weather has also changed in the past few weeks. It’s been warmer. Still cold but not the bone cold cold that has people complaining (at least not where I am inland. I’m sure it’s still cold on the coasts). The other day I found a willow with growing buds. Not all the willows are doing that yet, but there’s one. There’s more birds around too – blackbirds, bellbirds, and flocks of small birds, finches and waxeyes coming into the garden. I’m guessing they’re after insects, which must be hatching in the new warmth. There’s been blowflies in the house, and an aphid landed on my hand while I was on the porch today. I even had bare feet for several hours today and got to walk around outside like that! There’s not much growing in the garden yet, but the small weed seedlings are just starting to appear.
All very spring.
So this is my plea: let’s not say that the first day of spring is on the first of September.
The beginning of August is the midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. These are specific dates, determined by the sun cycle which for all intents and purposes is a very regular thing. It’s what our calendar is based on.
In pagan circles this midpoint is called a cross-quarter date. In the northern hemisphere in Britain it’s a harvest festival, because it’s late Summer there. Here it’s a festival of returning light, as we start to notice the days getting longer and watching for spring. For some this is a specific solar date (the 2nd August). For others the celebration is connected to the lunar cycle, either the full moon or the dark moon closest to the cross-quarter day (so really it’s a meeting of the solar and lunar cycles).
I don’t know enough about Maori understanding of seasonal changes to write about it, except to say that it differs along the islands (Northland spring being not the same as Southland spring).
These are old markers of time, serving as practical tools for food and other resource management and as focal points for celebrating the human connection with the rest of life. The pagans have reclaimed these times to some extent, but many others also feel the need and pleasure of acknowledging the seasons as they change.