Kage Baker observed the classical quarter days, the Solstices and Equinoxes. To be accurate, she also observed the lesser or minor or half-quarter days that fall between them: Imbolc, Beltaine, Lammas, Samhain.
This from a woman who was seldom sure what day of the week it was, and had to actually recite the nursery rhyme to be sure of how many days were in a month. But she had a feel for the astronomical dates, I think; some supra-conscious awareness of the length of days and night, like plants that time their sleeping and breeding to the daylight. The other four just appealed to her artistically. As I have said, Kage approved of any reason for a celebration.
Today is the Autumnal Equinox – day and night are evenly divided on this date, and everyone in the Northern Hemisphere gets the same share. It’s got nothing to do with time lines, which are arbitrary divisions imposed so telephone companies could bill us all differently once, and so not all the prime time television shows happened at the same time. It means the 24 hours are divided 12 and 12 into dark and light, no matter where you are. A time-lapse view of the terminator line on the Northern Hemisphere over a year’s time shows it very nicely:
See that point where the line is perfectly vertical? That’s us. That’s today.
It is a moment of balance, of equipoise.In the world’s long cyclical fall into light and darkness, this is one of the two annual moments that is not bent. There is no twist. There is no wobble. The Lost Chord sounds in the vast abyss, and echoes perfectly to every corner.
Kage loved that word, equipoise – she loved the concept, and tried to arrange her environment to reflect it. She wasn’t so much in favour of the All things in moderation schtick – she liked excess in its proper place – as that she wanted her environment to be … even. The ambiance should be one of ease and control and comfort. Then, if she felt like over-indulging in something, she’d have a quiet, clean, well-lighted place in which to do it.
But what she most cherished was the feeling of balance. On this evening, she liked to drive out to the quiet of the Giants’ Steps north of Pismo. The coast gets rocky there, ranging from a shingle of jade and jasper pebbles to a couple of house-sized islands just offshore – birds roost and breed there, and the waves of all seasons break and arch over them. Kage would stand at the edge of the land, stretch out her arms and slowly twirl – first deiseal, then tuathal, then deiseal again.
“All balanced,” she would say, satisfied. And we’d go off and get cheese and apples and bread and ale, and have a picnic as the sun went down into the Uttermost West.
Personally, I’ve been spinning on one foot in the dark for some time now. At first, I felt like one of those cheap tin trigger toys you get at Halloween – you pump the trigger and the little metal pumpkin spins and opens like a lotus and shoots sparks in all directions. Do it too long and the paint will blister, your thumb will get burnt, and eventually the springs will break. I’ve been waiting to fly off into the darkness in broken shards for months.
But it hasn’t happened. In fact, I seem to be stabilizing a bit. Maybe I’ve just picked up a wobble, like the earth in her frantic dance; I waver back and forth but I don’t fall over. I keep staring into the dark, and you know what? I think I am seeing some lights out there.
Happy Equinox, Dear Readers. Stay balanced.