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Life Lives in Circles
The Turning of the Seasons

The season circle

Inanna's Descent: A season myth

Paul Cezanne's Seasons

Earth rolls tilted through her orbit

The Season Cycle is a primal fact of human life, and of all life on Earth. The seasons, as you know, are the result of Earth's tilt on her axis and how that interacts with the orbit of Earth around Sol.

Earth draws a circle around Sol while she rotates on her axis 365 times. While Earth draws the year's circle, Moon circles Earth thirteen times. This Circle Dance in space goes on and on and on as it has for five billion years, the rhythm steady, the huge round dancers light on their feet, never missing a step, this twirl and whirl lovely.

In the Northern Hemisphere the season cycle is from warming to warm to cooling to cold, and from long warm days to short cold days. In tropical regions of Earth, the cycle of seasons is from wet to dry to wet to dry. There is no dramatic temperature change in the tropics, and the days are always nearly the same length.

The seasons are a central part of religions. One turning of Earth around Sol makes the Sacred Year, and for many thousands of years, human societies have responded to the circle of seasons with ceremony and celebration. The Calendar of the Sacred Year is supremely important to the religions of all cultures.







Winter is often cold, and sometimes
gloomy, but often beautiful

highbush cranberries,
Minnesota winter hoarfrost
snow branches, butternut,
Minnesota winter
rainforest pool & snow,
Olympic rainforest, Washington
moss icicles from snowmelt,
Olympic rainforest, Washington

Everything is reborn each Winter Solstice when the sun is reborn, days lengthen, and light returns to the living. Winter germinates the seed of Spring.




The advent of Spring is welcomed as the return of Earth to fertility; it is the season of new growth and hope. Green shoots spring from soil as leafbuds unfurl into the air, and the first flowers wake the bees. More than any other season, Spring gets in our blood. It is the mating season for many species--and this too is a testament to hope.





fiddleheads unfurl into fern fronds.
flowers push up through leaves
meadow rue opens
layers of scalloped leaves
fronds of maidenhair fern
prepare their entrance to new life




Summer is the green season of fullfilment. Midsummer's Day (Summer Solstice) is the year's longest, and is welcomed with bonfire and ceremony in many cultures. This richest, most productive season is the answer to Spring's hopes, but the solstice reminds us that in the midst of joy we must prepare for Harvest. From here the days shorten.





Honeysuckle trumpets her pleasure






Fall turns toward cold



Fall is the turning toward the cold and the dark. As plants dry, and turn reds and yellows and browns, we store their seeds, for food and to plant again next Spring. (Fall is only Fall in the Northern and Southern Temperate Zones, of course, for there trees prepare themselves to survive Winter by shedding their leaves.)



But Fall is Harvest Celebrations, too, and Festivals of Thanksgiving



Inanna's Descent: A Season Myth

In an ancient myth of Mesopotamia, the Goddess Inanna is obliged in Fall to enter a cave which descends into the underworld. As she descends, she is gradually stripped of her jewels, and then her clothing. She confronts the god of the underworld in her skin, plain and without adornment. Above, this is the shortest day, winter solstice. After she has acknowledged his God-right to compel her yearly visit, she retraces her steps and ascends from the cave. Her gowns and then her jewels are restored as she ascends from the underworld. As she emerges jeweled and splendidly clothed back into the world of the living, Spring is born.



The mosses welcome her



Maples open leaf buds in her honor









Ginger buds push out of the soil for her glory





Elegant Trillium bows


...To everything there is a season...




Explore Further in Circles:

Feedback Loops
Nutrient Cycles
Micro-Scale Circles and Cycles
Human-Scale Circles and Cycles
Macro-Scale Circles and Cycles
Essay: Life Lives in Circles


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