Phenology Journal: Seasonal Equilibrium

Winter’s Orion and the Summer Triangle are balanced and connected by the Milky Way. Each pulls the other to its appointed place, keeping perfect equilibrium, compressing the year into a cycle visible on the small, round dome of heaven.

image2Orion is the easy gauge of winter, rising with the Milky Way on November evenings, filling the southern sky throughout the night all winter, finally disappearing late in April. As Orion waxes, all of the pieces of summer recede; as that constellation wanes, each piece returns.

The Summer Triangle is the stellar gauge of summer. It is a parallel marker to image1Orion that clocks the unfolding of the leaves and flowers. Accompanied by the opposite end of the Milky Way, it appears on the evenings of May. Its triple constellations, Lyra, Cygnus and Aquila, contain three prominent capstone stars, Vega, Deneb and Altair, which form a giant triangle.

When all these stars come up after dark, the canopy of leaves is complete. Mock orange and peonies and iris blossom in the gardens of the Ohio Valley morning birdsong swells, strawberries ripen, sweet clover is open by the roadsides, and goslings enter adolescence along the rivers.

When Vega, Deneb and Altair are positioned overhead at midnight, then the birds are quiet, ragweed pollen is in the air, blackberries are sweet, hickory nuts and black walnuts fall, katydids and cicadas and late crickets call, coneflowers color the garden.

When leaves turn all along the 40th Parallel and the last wildflowers have completed their cycles, then Lyra, Cygnus and Aquila set in the west after sundown, leading the Milky Way through Cassiopeia and Perseus, dividing the heavens into equal halves, for an instant holding in balance summer and winter, linking the Summer Triangle with Orion rising again in the east.


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