Spring officially arrived in my area on Monday, March 20. The weather coincided with the season with temperatures near 50°F, some sun, and warmer air. This was a stark change from the day before when temperatures struggled to reach 40°F, the sun was covered by clouds, and cold winds blew with intensity. My run and bike ride on Monday were pleasant, and it was great not to have to layer my clothes or wear gloves for a change.
Tuesday was much like Monday, very nice and even warm enough to run in a t-shirt, but Wednesday was much colder. The shining sun made the cold air seem less daunting on Wednesday. Thursday started off with the crescent orange moon rising in a clear sky. As the moon rose higher, its orange glow faded and became bright white. Watching the colors change reminded me that spring is indeed a time of change in nature, full of potential opportunities to learn much about one’s surroundings.
Spring’s Other Name
Along with spring, my area passed the twelve hours of daylight mark, with sunrise at 7:29 AM and sunset at 7:31 PM. This event is actually called the vernal equinox. Vernal is Latin meaning spring like or related to spring, and equinox is from the Latin words aequus nox meaning equal night. During the vernal equinox, the sun crosses the celestial equator resulting in approximately equal amounts of light and dark hours in the day.
Even with the cloud cover on Monday and part of Tuesday, the added daylight was noticeable and most welcome by those of us who dread or are affected by the darkness. Seeing the daylight made me think about how Lent acts in a similar way, enlightening the spirit to lead it from the darkness of days past to the renewal of Easter and the spring season.
The journey made out of darkness into the light provides perspective for the mind, heart, and soul. Making the journey can be difficult, trying to determine answers to questions, how to respond to circumstances, and where to turn for help. We may feel lost, uncertain, or even afraid along the way. Our inner compass or conscience acts as our guide, slowly and meticulously leading us toward the light. Along the way, our uncertainties change to hope, and our fears become less intense. We may or may not see our progress, but we feel a change inside that fuels our hope.
The perspective we attain may come from what we see, hear, and feel. Reading the Bible or meditations and talking with others provides opportunities to learn more about ourselves and our surroundings. Spending time in nature observing the growth of plants, movements of the animals, flowing of water, or colors in the sky offers a change of pace, a way to clear our minds, and a closer experience with God. These experiences allow us to take what we learn and apply it to our lives, leading us forward.
Another Vernal Thing
While walking the other night, I noticed the small pond on my property had water in it. This pond is considered a vernal pool, for it does not hold water year round. When the pond does hold water, it acts as a home to microorganisms, tadpoles, and frogs; provides water for the deer and other wildlife; and acts as a swimming hole for ducks and geese.
The pond is most full and holds water longest in the spring, fed by the rain and melting snow. It also fills temporarily during heavy summer and fall rains, but usually dries up a few days afterward. Occasionally, late fall rain water freezes and remains in the pond over the winter.
Though I have known about this pond for many years, I did not realize it was a vernal pool until reading an article in the paper recently. The article explained the importance of such pools and how they form. The pond on my property sits at the bottom of a slope, so it catches water runoff from the hills above. The area is somewhat like a natural funnel with slopes on three sides, which allow the water to be gravity fed into the pond.
Holding Ponds of Information
Looking at the pond, I started thinking about how the brain is similar to a vernal pool. Information flows to us in what we see, hear, and feel. We process the information, categorizing it into things to remember, things to forget, and things to keep for a given time. Our brains hold the information for us, allowing us to use it as we need it. Once the information is no longer needed, it flows out of our minds, providing space for new information to be held.
The process continues throughout our lives, renewing us each day with a fresh batch of problems, solutions, ideas, thoughts, facts, feelings, and miscellaneous data. Like the vernal pool, our brains are most alive when we have a steady stream of information flowing into them. There are times in life when we hold much information, and other times when we find ourselves seeking more to learn.
Spring offers many opportunities to learn more by observing the changes we see in nature. With so many buds opening up, plants turning green, blades of grass waking from their dormant state, wildlife migrating from winter homes, and skies full of sun, clouds, and stars, the world around us is teeming with energy, changes, and life. The less frigid temperatures and added daylight allow us to be more active outdoors, creating chances to explore and learn. Going about our daily activities, we can see change all around us.
Lent also provides opportunities to learn more as we contemplate aspects and traditions related to our faith. Special Lenten services and community events provide forums for us to socialize and share our faith with others, learn about our personal and community faith, and explore new concepts or old traditions.
All these opportunities remind me of exponential functions, which I learned about many years ago in algebra, trigonometry, and calculus class. Exponential functions can be graphed on a curve. They are called exponential because their curves rise or fall sharply over time. Some examples of exponential functions include:
- Compound interest on a loan or savings account
- Continually compounded interest on an investment
- Population rates
- Radioactive decay
- Bacterial growth rates
We use these functions every day in life, but may not realize their effects. Like the spring season and Lent, exploring these functions opens our minds, allowing us to learn and grow. We can take the knowledge we learn and use it when completing tasks we have. We may also share the knowledge with others as we make our way through life.
May spring and Lent provide us with learning opportunities and knowledge to fill our minds. May what we learn in observing the changes around us during this time allow our potential to grow exponentially through each new day upon the journey.
A New Day
Orange crescent moon on the rise
In the deep blue southeastern sky
Peering out across the land
Before dawn enters to make a stand
Above the hills and valleys, fields and grass
Slowly revealed as the minutes pass
Bringing forth a new day
Blessed by the Lord’s grace.
Silence in the distance and from afar
Keeps watch under the dance of the stars
Glowing bright and clear in the sky
Until the sun draws near and starts to rise
Calling the world from its slumber
As the dewdrops fall under
The coming of a new day
Running to meet the soul as it wakes.
Buds on the branches wait to open
As the sun makes its ascent
Higher and higher in the sky
Making brighter the path through time
Allowing the soul to wander and learn
As it ponders the bends and turns
Full of opportunities and change
To be found within the reach of a new day.
-Lisa A. Wisniewski
Resources and Related Links
Vernal equinox – http://www.almanac.com/content/spring-equinox-2017-first-day-spring
Vernal pool importance – http://www.naturalheritage.state.pa.us/VernalPool_Animal.aspx
Exponential function – https://www.mathsisfun.com/sets/function-exponential.html