EVENT: Sunday, July 9, 2017, 4-6pm at The Venue, 114 S Grant, Bloomington, Indiana
This summer, join me for a community discussion on the question, “Can we derive a secular spirituality from the seasons?” Held at The Venue in Bloomington, Indiana, the event will be moderated by longtime local journalist Mike Leonard. Light refreshments will be served.
The discussion will revolve around the same ideas which inspired my book, Spinning in Place, outlining a worldly approach to spirituality for the scientifically-minded.
As a longtime atheist, I’m skeptical of many expressions of religiosity. But over the years I’ve learned to see much of value in religion as well. To be fully human, we must be open to the full range of human experience. I wrote this book to show one way that humanists, atheists, agnostics, freethinkers and skeptics might celebrate what it means to be alive here on this planet. Further, by placing a focus on the natural world, we can learn to be better citizens of the Earth.
I’m known in the Bloomington area for my role in the controversial television series, Rox, which debuted on cable there 25 years ago this summer and became the first TV show on the internet shortly thereafter. Rox was honored by a mayoral proclamation from Mark Kruzan in 2013. Now, I’m honored by the opportunity to return to Bloomington and speak about eco-spiritual practices.
I hope you can join me!
PS: Listed on Facebook.
We joke a lot about seasons in New Orleans. A typical formulation: We have two seasons here, summer and Christmas. Another riff recognizes four: Carnival season, festival season, hurricane season, football season. There are many variations.
Nevertheless, I’d like to present an attempt to delineate the conventional four seasons according to local parameters.
Starting on the second day of February, 2015, my daughter and I began tracking the high and low temperatures on a daily basis. We have now accumulated a year’s worth of data.
It’s been fun. Looking back over the charts, certain patterns suggest themselves.
Based on this preliminary data, I would like to propose the following definitions.
In New Orleans…
…spring begins when the daily lows stay above 60ºF for one full week.
…summer begins when the daily lows stay above 70ºF for one full week.
…fall begins when the daily lows fall below 70ºF for one full week.
…winter begins when the daily lows fall below 60ºF for one full week.
Using these definitions, we can say that in 2015, the seasons began on the following dates:
Spring: 10 March
Summer: 9 May
Fall: 5 October
Winter: 2 December
If these dates are typical of our annual pattern, we might say our winter lasts roughly three months, while summer lasts five. Spring and fall in New Orleans are ephemeral, lasting only a couple months each.
That sounds about right to me.
Unseasonably cool weather again today, something we’ve been enjoying off and on for the last couple weeks. Nevertheless I feel that summer is here. Xy’s done with school, not just teaching but also the extra days teachers have to work after classes end. (In fact she’s cleared out her classroom and brought home a huge quantity of materials. Good thing we have lots of storage space.) Our daughter’s out of daycare, and Xy’s taking care of her, so my daily routine has completely changed. And to top it all off, after a week of caffeine-free living, I’m drinking iced tea again. So yes, summer is definitely here, and I like it.
I realized recently that for the majority of my life I have been either in school, or working at a school, or married to someone who’s working at a school. That means my life has been divided into a series of academic years, interleaved with summers. Maybe that’s why I like summer so much. It’s a special in-between time, a time out of time. Or maybe it’s just that my body doesn’t retain heat so well, so I enjoy the warm weather — though as noted, it’s been pleasantly and surprisingly cool here in New Orleans lately. It’s supposed to warm up a bit tomorrow but should still be lovely weather for a hike.
We finally turned on the AC today as even the nights are getting quite warm. I like to make it to June 1st if we can, but this year not quite. This always strikes me as the saddest day of the year somehow. We now have five window units, at least three of which are the energy efficient kind and don’t even run their fans when the thermostat hits its mark. It’s now 8:00 and it’s hotter out there than it is in here. Sad, sad, sad. But the Boogaloo was pretty incredible, even though somehow I got sunburnt.
I’ve never noticed lovebugs around New Orleans before, though they’re supposed to be common all along the Gulf Coast during certain times of the year. Then again, New Orleans isn’t really on the coast — though the coast is getting closer every day.
Anyway, I’ve been seeing the lovebugs here for the first time over this last week.
They remind me of Vero, Florida, which is where I first saw them and learned about their strange lives. That’s also where a certain young goddess was conceived.
So the lovebugs make me happy.
It’s also butterfly season.
I’m fascinated by cycles, including the cycle of seasons. Back when I lived in Bloomington, Indiana I watched each spring for the emergence of new leaves, yet I always seemed to miss it. I would notice the buds when they appeared on the bare branches, and I kept my eye on them, and then — suddenly — there would be full-blown leaves on all the trees, turning the city from gray to green overnight. Damn!
Now that I live in New Orleans, this transition isn’t nearly so dramatic. Many trees, such as live oaks, keep their leaves through the winter, a season which is so mild here that it hardly deserves the name. Indeed, the four seasons here seem to be: carnival season, festival season, hurricane season and Christmas. But I digress.
Last year we planted a sweetgum tree in front of our home. Sweetgums lose their leaves in the winter. Over the last week or two I’ve been watching the green buds emerge on the branches, swelling bigger and bigger. Today I think I can finally say that I have seen young new leaves emerging.
Caught in the act at last.