Spring magic

This year I seem to be more aware of budding trees. At this point in the season, where nights are still cold, although days are warmer, growth is slow, careful. I woke up to frost this morning, but now, as we approach sunset, my balcony is baking at a whole 26C/78F in the sun!

Won’t be long until leaves are bigger, blooms show better, branches are less naked.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying the magic of the slow awakening. (Click to enlarge photos.)

From top left to bottom right:

The rosehip bush is right below my living room window. I’ve watched its progress through the seasons many, many times. One of the sounds of summer is to hear a bumble bee’s buzz amplified by its wings touching the side of the rosehip petals while it hunts for nectar. And of course I love the scent of rosehip roses! I’ve even learned to like rosehip tea. But first we need to get more leaves!

The Japanese cherry tree is at the other end of my building and is purely for decoration. It is lovely, though, and will be at its showiest in May.

The beech tree is next to my balcony. This is the first year I’ve noticed flowers on it. It was planted about 25 years ago and barely reached up to my balcony then. Now it’s reached up to my upstairs neighbor’s balcony. One of things that happens when I blog, is that I end up doing a little research on behalf of my reader(s). The pink flowers mean that this is a copper or purple beech, a native of Europe. I did not know I had a purple beech!

The magnolia is by the main theater in town. I have wandered around in downtown Bergen and by the theater since 1981, and this is the first time I’ve ever noticed this tree. If it weren’t for the flowers, I’d never know there were magnolia trees in amongst the cherry trees lining the park below “Den Nationale Scene”. But this year I caught it blooming on naked branches. I have seen a magnolia tree in person only once before: Tucked in a cozy corner of the botanical gardens by the university. But that was memorable enough to help me identify this other tree, a snow magnolia. This particular species also comes from Japan.

Magic everywhere!


Those of you who follow me on Instagram will have seen these photos before. 😁

The battle for spring

Of all the seasonal transitions, the one between winter and spring seems to be the most violent.

I’ve tried to predict weather using astrology (astrometeorology). The starting point are the seasonal ingress charts, i.e. the charts for the equinoxes and the solstices or the cardinal signs. For the spring equinox the chart is made for 0 degrees of Aries, which is ruled by Mars. For the summer solstice, it’s 0 degrees of Cancer and Moon ruling. For autumn, it’s 0 degrees of Libra and Venus ruling. And for winter solstice, the chart is for 0 degrees of Capricorn and Saturn ruling. These dates are approximately around the 21st of March, June, September and December, respectively.

I live where we have four seasons and am used to how they flow into each other, and how it can vary from year to year exactly when one can say that one season is officially over and we are fully in the next season. Spring glides into summer by budding, one type of bush or tree at a time, and growing the leaves and turning a deeper green by the summer solstice. July and August are rich thick foliage, but during August, ripening of berries breaks up the solid green. Still, the trees can look quite lush well into September. October is the month of changing colors, and November is the first month of naked trees. The first snow or frost may appear where I live at this time but not stay. In fact, a true winter chill doesn’t happen until January, well into the winter season.

But the part that has my attention, is the transition between winter and spring. This seems to be the most obvious conflict of interest. Whereas the other seasons move into each other on a gliding scale, even weatherwise, Winter seems to arm itself and do serious battle with Spring.

The hedge had started to leaf, and then the snow returned

The hedge had started to leaf, and then the snow returned

I mentioned ruling planets above. I think they may be key. In traditional astrology, Saturn and Mars are called malefic. In more modern terms, they are challenging or difficult. These two planets require more self-discipline to use correctly than, say, Venus or Mercury do. In a person, Saturn and Mars in a bad relationship to each other can be volatile; it can mean a bad temper or bad impulse control. I have this myself, but maturity, meditation and some therapy have tempered these two for me.

But weatherwise, we have two planets both known for high energy, high winds and a desire to make bad weather. Saturn is the ultimate low pressure significator, while Mars is just volatile. Venus is a moderating influence on the weather (though she can misbehave if in bad company) and the Moon is about clouds and rain and wind, but the normal stuff, not the extreme that Saturn can be. Mars emphasises whatever is there, and brings on heat and movement, usually.

So in the transition from a Mars season to a Moon season, the force necessary to generate new life gives way easily to the force necessary to grow life (watering the plants). And later that growth force transitions calmly into the final ripening and harvesting energy of a Venus season. Venus then quietly passes the torch on to Saturn who sets about making sure everything acts dead.

And so Life reappears, with the Mars energy of spring (and of course, the increase in hours the Sun is up), and starts to throw its weight around old, cold Saturn who isn’t having any of that. Saturn demands proof that you are viable, that you deserve respect, and so throws whatever it has at the budding life lured by some mild weather. It’s snowing out as I write this, and I’ve already seen fresh dandelion leaves on our lawns.

The other seasons do battle too. It’s just so obvious with Winter and Spring and perhaps more so because we humans need to see life and warmth and growth again. We want Spring to win. We need to know the dead of Winter is not permanent. We’ve all had our rest. It’s time to get moving again.

Ultimately, Life wins. Aided by warmth and ever lengthening days, growth takes hold, and the dead of winter gives way until next time.

Elevenie "Darkness"

Inspired by Paula’s “elevenie” poem (“Elfchen” in German) ending in darkness, here’s mine about the end of short winter days:

Darkness

Occupies daytime

In the winter

Until a climbing sun

Returns


An elevenie poem has 5 lines with one word on line 1, two words on line 2, three words on line 3, four words on line 4 and one word on line 5 that is different from the word on line 1.

Golden

If you follow me on Instagram, you will recognize some of these photos. Leaving the good stuff only to IG isn't fair to my blog only readers, so here you go!

First up is from earlier this fall, in the neighborhood of our university, at Øysteins gate. I think Øystein was a king. We have a bunch of king names in this neighborhood, like Sigurd and Sverre and Magnus Barfot (Magnus Barefoot; apparently, he wore shorts). 

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Next is from two months later, i.e. last night. Another street named for a king: Olav Kyrre, who was the founder of Bergen, Norway, in 1070. The street now is a main transit hub in town. (Weirdly, our bus station isn't.) I was waiting for my bus after my annual lutefisk dinner. (It was delicious.) I need to go back because the Christmas lights in the city park (Byparken) are new this year.

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And finally, one of those rare moments when everything just comes together. Right place, right time kind of thing. Last week, we were covered in frost, and everything was coated in glittering, white fuzz. A low, warm sun added perfect light to a corner of my local pond, Ortuvann, transforming ordinary into magical.

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You may be thinking the above was taken late in the day, but it's date-stamped with a time of 12:54. Nearly high noon and yet shadows are very long. Such is winter at 60 degrees north.

Parallels

I like that the word "parallel"—if written in a sans serif font—contains a parallel. What also contains a parallel, is astronomy and from there, astrology. Keep reading if you want to see me attempt to explain the tilt of the planet.

First of all, let's get one thing in our heads: All the planets, except Pluto, revolve around our sun on the same plane.

Now add to this the fact that the Earth tilts about 23 degrees and this is the reason for seasons. I once really messed explaining this to the point that I called the other person stupid. But I was the stupid one, so let's see if I finally have this straight (hah!) in my head. This is, of course, far easier to understand visually, so grab something and hold it at a tilt and then move it in a circle parallel to the floor, keeping the same tilt, i.e. the object is tilted the same way as you see it all around the circle.

You'll notice that at one point, the bottom is closest to the center of the circle and the top is farthest away. 90 degrees from that—or a quarter of the way around the circle—the whole side of whatever you chose is equidistant to the center of the circle. Another quarter turn and now the top is pointing toward the center of the circle, i.e. closer to it than the bottom is. Yet another quarter turn, and once again the whole side of the object is equidistant to the center of the circle.

I have just described how our Earth looks relative to the sun for, respectively, winter in the northern hemisphere or summer in the southern hemisphere, an equinox, another solstice but with reversed seasons, and another equinox.

The sun in the northern hemisphere climbs very high in the summer time, and above the arctic circle at 66 degrees, 33 minutes north (or 66N33), it is so high, it doesn't set. (The closer you get to the north pole, the more days during the summer you will have this phenomenon.) At the same time, south of the antarctic circle at 66S33, the sun isn't rising at all. And, the closer you get to the south pole, the more days you spend in the winter without sunlight. (These circles are also called polar circles.)

As our planet moves around the sun, it slowly either tilts one way or the other (and here is where I was stupid: The planet doesn't actually move from side to side; it stays fixed in its lean, but appears differently to the sun depending on where in its orbit Earth is). And because of how this tilt changes the angle of sunlight hitting our planet, it seems to us that the sun is climbing higher in the sky as we approach summer (either hemisphere) or lower as we approach winter. That height is called declination. Declination is given as latitude.

So, 00 or zero declination is at the equator. The equinoxes are when the sun is at zero declination (00N or 00S, same thing), and at that moment the sun's rays hit us at a perfect 90 degree angle and day and night are of equal length.

For the summer in the northern hemisphere, the sun climbs northwards to 23N26. (This figure varies slowly over time, but has a range of 22-24 degrees.) This latitude is the maximum northern declination of our sun, and it happens on the summer solstice. Astrologically, that is 00 degrees of Cancer, and the imaginary line at 23 degrees north on planet Earth is called the Tropic of Cancer. It's opposite, the imaginary line that markes the sun's southernmost declinaton is the Tropic of Capricorn. The areas between these two are known as the tropics. The word "tropic" means cycle or turning. We're just drawing huge circles here.

In case you're wondering: 00N declination is 00 Aries, the Spring Equinox and first day of spring in the north. 23N26 is 00 Cancer, the Summer Solstice and first day of summer as well as the year's longest day in the north. As the sun climbs back down to the equator and 00S declination we have the Autumn Equinox at 00 Libra. Finally, the sun goes all the way down to 23S26 and the winter Solstice at 00 Capricorn, giving us northerners our shortest day of the year.

Now that that is clear as mud, what's a parallel?

All the planets do this declination thing. Our tilt along our orbit is also relative to the other planets on the same plane we are. So any planet in a summer sign (between 00 Aries and 00 Libra) will have a northern declination, and any planet in a winter sign (between 00 Libra and 00 Aries) will have a southern declination.

If two planets are at the same declination, let's say they are both at 19N, they are said to be parallel. The symbol for parallel is written as //. If two planets are at the same degree but in opposite declinations, such as one is at 8 degrees north and the other is at 8 degrees south, they are said to be counter-parallel. The symbol for that looks like the // with a single bar across but you can also use the hashtag/pound/flat/octothorpe key: #.

Astrological aspect grid showing regular and parallel aspects

Astrological aspect grid showing regular and parallel aspects

What is this used for in astrology? Parallels have a similar energy to a conjunction (zero degrees apart), i.e. the planets strengthen  each other—or crowd each other. Counter-parallels have a similar energy to an opposition (180 degrees apart), meaning they work against each and at best can only take turns being in charge.

One of my interests in this is due to astrological meteorology. Simply put, expect a weather change when the moon changes hemispheres; that is, when the moon crosses the equator or zero degrees declination, i.e. is moving from north to south or vice-versa.

The Daily Prompt: Parallel

PS: If I totally screwed up the astronomy, PLEASE let me know! Thanks!

Lush

In school we learned that what makes a rain forest a huge and dense forest is, well, the rain. Alaska actually advertises its soggy and mossy pine forests as northern rain forests. I've wondered why Norway doesn't do the same. In the summer, this wet country is as lush as a tropical rain forest. Anywhere from 18 to 24 hours of daylight in the middle of summer and a lot of rain makes everything grow incredibly fast. We don't have the tall, dense canopies of the tropics; our denseness tends to be closer to the ground. But the huge number of trees, the millions of leaves, create a solid green along roads, up mountainsides, across vistas, and around my local pond.

Summer where I live has been cool and wet. Nature seems not to care. The moment the ground thaws and temperatures stay somewhere above 10 C, stuff grows. Norwegians with lawns find themselves a bit frustrated: All the rain makes the lawns grow fast, but all the rain makes it impossible to mow said lawn. What we learned early in school about plants thriving on sunlight and water is never clearer than when looking at the lushness of my local pond.

The combination of blue and green, of water and leaves, is always attractive and calming to humans. Never more so during an undisturbed moment, viewed through thick foliage on a late summer's day.

A lush spot in my local pond, Ortuvann

A lush spot in my local pond, Ortuvann

Heralds

Gulls herald spring for me. They head for open sea during winter, and when the snow disappears from the land in April, they come back and start screeching at each other at 4 am in the morning. I'm one of the few people who can sleep through that racket, so I welcome the noise.  Gulls, in spite of their seemingly huge numbers, have become a protected species in Norway. They've lost their habitat by the ocean, and come into cities to build nests on our office buildings which often have gray gravel on the flat roofs and provide perfect camouflage for baby birds. The roofs of my apartment buildings are black asphalt but the gulls build their bowls of sticks there, too.

Since April, I've seen a gull perched on the corner of the neighboring building every morning, as I go to shut my bedroom window (yes, I have the Norwegian habit of sleeping with an open window). Often the gull starts calling in a voice meant to carry across the Atlantic. I have been aware of gulls on the roof all spring and summer. Until today.

This morning, the bird with a 360 degree of my co-op was a crow. Crows are as big as common gulls but this one seemed even bigger. And with its dark coloring it was a startling contrast to the morning view I've had until now.

I knew it wouldn't be sitting there if the gulls still had flightless young on the roof. The lack of any calling from any gull confirmed that there was nothing to protect from crows (or magpies) any more.

A city girl takes her nature where she finds it, fascinated by and grateful for the life that insists on existing in an urban setting, and delighting in still discovering subtle changes as the days move on.

The hectic growth season of summer is over, heralded by a hooded crow.