Photo by Corey Husic

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Astronomy, spring, and poetic inspiration

Last night, those of us in eastern PA had clear skies and a wonderful opportunity to witness a “super full moon” – since the moon was both full and at the closest in its orbit to the Earth (perigee).  Who knew?  This rare event happens about every 18 years.  You can learn more about the science details at  The moon really did look larger and was incredibly bright.

The Supermoon of March 19, 2011 (Photo by H. David Husic)
As if one major astronomical event this weekend isn’t enough, this evening we will welcome in the vernal or spring equinox.  (See an explanation at

These events have been associated with mythology, astrological predictions, fears of natural disasters (the super full moon), and celebration of fertility and renewal (the vernal equinox).  For me, the equinox is a time to think of gardening and longer days – even if there is snow in the forecast for tonight and other days this week and I saw people skiing at Blue Mountain yesterday!

Cycles of nature are reflected in a variety of historical records, but also appear in poetry and folklore.  This is noted on the Lakeshore Nature Preserve website from the University of Wisconsin which includes quite a bit of information about phenology:

I was searching around for examples of spring poems and noted yesterday that most refer to April, May and even June.  Yet around here, the signs of spring in nature begin much earlier (but can be rather sporadic). 

The English poet Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837 – 1909) talks about the transition from winter to spring in the first chorus of the long poem Atalanta in Calydon (1865) set in Ancient Greece:
For winter's rains and ruins are over,
And all the season of snows and sins;
The days dividing lover and lover,
The light that loses, the night that wins;
And time remembered is grief forgotten,
And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in green underwood and cover
Blossom by blossom the spring begins.

Phenology is a source of inspiration to some as seen in the Phenology and Place in New Vrindaban blog: and Pinkie’s Parlour (I didn’t name this):

And finally, another spring poem by Ellen Ni Bheachain (October 2nd 1962 / Dublin Ireland;;

The First Signs of Spring

The first signs of spring bring smiles and joy to us all,

Its the beginning of nature and the birth of the new season,

It brings life and renewal back to the cold plains,

Springing buds that will flourish,

Then open in full bloom for summer,

The young of the cattle and the spring of the lamb,

Are all the signs of spring,

With the snow and freeze temperatures,

Turning into cool breezes,

And clear sunny winds blowing,

Knowing its spring again,

The mundane feelings of winter blues,

Start to diminish in our seasonal affective winter faces,

As the sun shines a bit warmer,

So does the color of our face glow brighter,

And all show well in the spring of their steps,

As even the old can get out some more,

Now spring has arrived with safer passage,

Spring is also a time to clear out,

The unwanted items in our homes as we spring clean,

Then there the things to forget or put in the past,

Is in the spring cleaning of our thinking,

To clear our thinking better for a clearer future,

Then there's the renewal of forgiving,

As we forgive and forget,

Forgiving to start anew,

Is the starting again,

Or re birthing the past,

With a new attitude to help,

Its foundations this time round stronger,


Is the time to see how it all begins,

For what is way beneath the ground or hibernating,

In the spring shows itself and nature in it splendor,

For what decays and withers,

The spring shows its second coming,

From what lay beneath the ground all winter,

Springs renews in growth,

And mother nature shows her splendor,

Come the first signs of spring,

We all start feeling somewhat better.

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