A blog about a first-time house owner learning to maintain his backyard, and thoughts about nature, science, history, and life.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Chasing the Sun

Running a blog is a funny thing. Sometimes, there's lots of energy and lots of ideas, and sometimes, pickings seem a bit slim.  And then sometimes, an idea comes at just the right time.

Today is the vernal equinox, the first day of spring, the day when night and day are equal.  It also happens to be one of two days a year when the sun rises directly in the east and sets directly in the west.  A teacher whom I used to work with once told me a story.  He was driving to school early on the morning of the equinox, and the stretch of road that he was driving on happened to be straight, east-to-west.  Darkness lifted, and the sun rose...directly in front of him...right over the road.  I recalled this little story as I walked out of my office today.  My building sits on a road that runs almost directly east-west, and the sun was within an hour of fading behind the hills.  The sun wasn't quite aligned with the road, but it was close.

It then occurred to me that ever since I moved in, I've been confused about exactly where the four cardinal compass directions - north, south, east, west - align with my yard. Sure, I have a general idea, west is towards the dam and east is towards the post office, but today would be a great day to pin them down a little more accurately.  But here I was, standing on campus, staring in the general direction of the sun, and there the sun was, going away for the night, preparing to return just a little earlier tomorrow.  The race was on.

I walked, shall we say, purposefully, toward my car, hopped in, and drove even more purposefully back to my house.  On this trip, I viewed speed limits as a guideline, a suggestion, rather than a law.  Not that I was driving that fast, but the accelerator got a little more use than on a typical commute.  I kept sneaking glances to make sure the sun was still hovering above the horizon.  And then, about two-thirds of the way home, I had more than the sun to worry about.  A pickup truck in front of me didn't seem to share my concern about getting home before sunset.    I had no choice but to slow down...the world was telling me that I had time.  And so slow down I did, and even though I had a couple of passing zones where I could have zoomed ahead, I decide to follow the driver's cue and bide my time.  After all, the sun was still up, and I was now almost home.

I turned into the driveway and raced out of the car and around to the backyard.  There was no time to stop inside and grab my camera...my iPhone would have to do.  Phew, the sun was still up, resting just above the horizon.  I caught my breath and took a few moments to snap a couple of photos and take in the scene myself.  But some tree branches provided a point of reference to show just how quickly it was dropping.  So I literally sprinted to the back of the yard, to the creek bank's edge, to snap a couple more shots.

For just a few seconds, I was in a race against time.  And I won.  I managed to sneak in two more photos, then exhaled as I saw the last brilliant orange speck fade from view (there it is, in the photo above).  I went back to the original spot where I had taken the first two photos - it was recorded by my footprints in the snow - and took a few moments to take stock...west is through the tree branches, north runs through the park, east goes over the front of the post office and over the church, and south runs through the neighbor's garage.  Now I know.

And, as I said at the beginning of this post, that the funny thing about running a blog.  Would I have had this same experience if I didn't know I was going to write about it?  No, probably not.  Oh, the crazy things I do sometimes, just for fun.

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