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Re: [XTalk] New Year

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Crosstalk Cc: WSW In Response To: John Staton On: New Year From: Bruce Thanks to John for his kind message; it is much appreciated at this address. I note
    Message 1 of 2 , Dec 31, 2008
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      To: Crosstalk
      Cc: WSW
      In Response To: John Staton
      On: New Year
      From: Bruce

      Thanks to John for his kind message; it is much appreciated at this address.
      I note however that, by the dilatory among us, it may be received with
      something like chagrin, since we have still not addressed all our intended
      Christmas cards, and here it is, the last day of the year. Orientals like to
      have all their debts paid, and their obligations cleared, by the end of the
      year. For those sharing that sensibility but having a hard time meeting that
      deadline, there is always Twelfth Night (6 Jan), the end of the old
      protracted Christmas. But even that may not be enough for the most stubborn
      cases.

      What I would like to share with others, accordingly, as a really efficacious
      fallback position, is the solar year, the year that plants observe. This is
      standardized in Chinese folk practice, and also among the European
      peasantry, though not much of that understanding percolates up to the level
      most of us in the West live at, any more (except maybe among the witchcraft
      sects). The Chinese folk year begins with Spring: not its midpoint (the
      equinox), but the point at which you are nearer to the spring equinox than
      you are to the winter solstice. This falls about 5 February, dependably,
      each year.

      Can we objectively prove the validity of this date, as a true year beginning
      point? Yes, even we who have no closer contact with the plant world than a
      pet amaryllis or a windowsill begonia. Here is what those in the north
      temperate zone can observe for themselves: 5 February is the point at which
      you take your amaryllis out of the closet and start watering it. It is also
      the point at which (regardless of whether it is cold or mild outside) your
      windowsill plants start to grow. Fertilize them.

      And now we understand Groundhog Day. It is an omen of the severity or
      mildness of the coming first half of spring. March is probably going to go
      out like a lamb, in all but the most malign of years, but what about the six
      weeks preceding, when the work of the plantworker is beginning, but it is
      uncertain how to pace it against the unpredictable weather?

      Many Oriental calendars are lunar/solar mixtures. The solar component of the
      Chinese calendar is the one closer to the soil. I recommend it for its
      reality. Ritual lunar calendars get in trouble with planting and harvesting,
      unless they compensate or intercalate somehow.

      Anyway, whenever people plan to get their 2008 cards in the mail, I join
      John in wishing everyone the best of 2009. However defined.

      Bruce

      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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