If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, today marks the vernal equinox, the first day of astronomical spring. (For those Down Under, this day heralds the arrival of autumn.)
The return of spring signals longer days with more sunlight and warmer temperatures. Even though it may take a while to see blooming flowers (especially in Canada!), the spring equinox is a reminder that brighter days are ahead.
But what exactly is an equinox?
We have two of them each year, in spring and fall. Each one marks the day when the sun is directly above the Earth’s equator (from our perspective), and night and day are of equal length.
The sun’s path then crosses the celestial equator (an imaginary line or circle in the sky directly above the Earth’s equator), and heads north or south, depending on the time of year.
At the spring equinox, the sun is rising into the Northern Hemisphere: it’s our turn for renewal.
But no matter where you live on the planet or what time of year it is, you can experience a new season of rebirth in your life.
Your new beginning comes when the Son rises in your life.
I recently realized that I wasn’t living in the house that I thought I was.
Last summer I moved into a house bearing the number 15. I love everything about it: the house itself, the neighbours, and the area’s community spirit.
It wasn’t until some months later that I realized that I didn’t actually live at #15: I live at #13. The house next door is #11, and opposite my house is #12. Counting from the bottom of the street, mine is the thirteenth house.
So why didn’t the city call it #13 when it was assigning street numbers to the houses?
In many countries, the number 13 has unlucky connotations. Why? One reason is that there were thirteen present at the Last Supper, including Judas, who would betray Jesus.
Some people are superstitious about this number, and try to avoid its “bad luck” by keeping away from anything labelled 13. There’s even a word for the fear of the number thirteen: triskaidekaphobia.
The result is that many companies and cities fudge their numbering to avoid 13. This is why many hotels and tall buildings seem to lack a thirteenth floor: the elevator buttons skip from floor 12 to 14.
The thirteenth floor continues to exist, as does the thirteenth house on a street: we haven’t erased them. But we just call them by other names. We simply pretend that they’re actually the fourteenth floor or the fifteenth house. Everyone goes along with this fiction because it means we don’t have to face reality. We’re deluding ourselves, of course, but it seems we prefer to live in denial.
We do the same with sin, don’t we?
We call it by other names so we don’t have to face up to the reality of what it really is.
Even though I certainly love roses, the tulip holds a special place in my heart. It’s not as showy or fragrant as a rose, but it brings such joy in spring after a long winter.
Among the many types of tulips, I especially like the variegated ones (with multicoloured petals).
But did you know that the dramatic colour combinations of variegated tulips are caused by a virus?
Gardeners had long noticed that tulip petals occasionally “broke” into unusual patterns. But it wasn’t until the late 1500s that botanists realized that the beautiful mixed colouring arising spontaneously in some tulips was actually the result of a disease.
While the tulip-breaking virus causes lovely variegated colouring, it also weakens the tulip bulb, eventually leading to the death of its genetic line.
So how is it that we can still enjoy variegated tulips today? Why haven’t they all died out?
Fortunately, botanists centuries ago learned to graft healthy tulip bulbs onto the diseased or “broken” ones, preserving their lineage. Today, we can enjoy countless cultivars in a dizzying array of colours and patterns.
They say that the Eskimo and Inuit peoples have over 100 words for snow.
Is this actually true, or is it just a cliché?
There has been heated debate on whether the Eskimos really do have that many distinct words for snow. I consulted Giles Whittell’s 2019 book “Snow: A Scientific and Cultural Exploration” for information.
Whittell refers to a recent contribution to the question by the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center. They determined that in Canada’s Nunavik region, the Inuit there have 53 distinct words for snow; in the Central Siberian Yupik dialect they counted 40.
Among the words listed in the Yupik dictionary are:
“kanevvluk” = fine snow “navcaq” = snow formation about to collapse “qanisqineq” = snow floating on water “utvak” = snow carved in a block, as for an igloo
Clearly, those living in the extreme north do have far more words to describe snow than those who makes their homes farther south.
As Whittell says, “…people learn to describe in greatest detail what matters most to them.”
I suppose that the number of words a culture has to describe something tells us a great deal about the importance they place on it.
Have you ever brought preconceived notions to a new situation, but then realized they simply don’t apply anymore?
I did something of the sort when visiting Southern California as a teen.
Growing up in Central Canada, I was used to street numbers being put on the actual houses themselves, at eye-level. But when I stayed in San Diego for a time, I noticed that the street numbers were instead spray-painted on the vertical parts of the curb at the foot of people’s driveways, just a few inches above the pavement.
That made no sense, I thought to myself. In winter, those numbers on the curb will be covered under several feet of snow, and no one will be able to read them. How silly!
I soon realized that my line of thinking was faulty: it doesn’t snow inSan Diego. The numbers on the curb will always be readable. What was true for Toronto had no bearing on what was true for San Diego.
I needed to realize that I was “not in Kansas anymore,” as Dorothy said in the film, “The Wizard of Oz.”
I think we sometimes make the same mistake when we think about the Kingdom of God.
We superimpose our past experiences and assumptions on it, but we don’t realize that with the Kingdom of God we’re in a whole new world. The old rules don’t apply anymore.