Just a few minutes ago, at 9:30 a.m. here in Paradelle, summer ended. I didn’t see or feel anything unusual, nor should I have expected to see or feel anything with this astronomical event.
It didn’t feel like summer when I woke up. The temperature outside was 45 degrees.
Things do happen in nature as we approach and pass the autumn equinox. I read that the black-capped chickadee starts to frantically collect seeds and hide them in hundreds of places. I knew that squirrels and the chipmunks in my yard have been gathering acorns and other things too. I also read that researchers have found that those little chickadees’ hippocampus in their tiny brains swell in size by 30 percent as new nerve cells pop up there. The hippocampus is the part of the brain which is responsible for spatial organization and memory which they need to hide and later find those seeds.
I don’t know that anything changes physically in humans but I know in myself there always seem to be changes as the seasons change.
Some people celebrated Rosh Hashanah last weekend – a new year. That calendar is not connected to the equinox. The exact date of Rosh Hashanah varies every year, since it is based on the Hebrew Calendar, where it begins on the first day of the seventh month.
2020 has been a bad year. The pandemic has been a global problem but many personal problems have also occurred because of it or unrelated to it. I’m not Jewish but I would like a new year to start now.
But the problems of yesterday are not going to disappear because of a “new year” or the equinox.
My friend of 51 years, Bob, died a week ago after a long, slow battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was home with hospice for the month and he passed gently from this world with his wife and children there.
Five decades ago his wife loaned me her copy of The Tibetan Book of the Dead. I was 16 and it was my introduction to Tibetan Buddhism. I have been exploring ever since. One thing that has stayed with me from that book is the idea of bardo which is the state of existence after death and before one’s next birth. Your consciousness is not connected with a physical body and experiences a variety of phenomena.
I don’t know that I believe in a next birth but Buddhists believe the bardo lasts for 7 – 49 days (7 X 7) during which time that consciousness can wander the Earth. I have been lighting a candle every night at sunset just in case Bobby needs some light to find his way. I’m looking for a sign from him that I don’t really expect to appear.
Bobby was, among many other things, a surfer – a better surfer than I ever was back then. We bonded like brothers through surfing, music, playing guitar, cars and a crazy connection to the humor of Jean Shepherd. On the surf side, we both liked a surfing film from 1966 called The Endless Summer.
The film follows two surfers around the world in search of the perfect wave. The film’s title comes from the idea that if you had enough time (and money),you could follow summer up and down the world (northern to southern hemisphere and back), and it would be endless.
Summer is not endless, nor is a life. The Earth makes its way around the Sun and tilts along the way in a manner that can be measured and predicted in a way that we can never do with our lives. That celestial journey will also have an end. It’s the way of this universe.
We think of this day as the autumn equinox but it is really just a moment. A good life always seems to end too soon. Though there is no endless season, I think it’s still worth searching for that perfect wave. I think Bobby might have found it while he was here.
The plan is to have a “paddle out” -a traditional Hawaiian tribute to the life and legacy of people who passed away – on LOng Beach Island where he surfed most often. Bobby’s ashes will be set upon the waves and maybe the tides will carry them north and south and, at least symbolically, he will be in that endless summer.