Moment in Time: March ’22
By Mickey Dunaway | Reprinted with Permission by Limitless Magazine | Cornelius, NC
This month’s Moment in Time looks at only two dates, The Ides of March and The Spring Equinox. Whether fact or fiction, strange things seem to occur on these two closely aligned days in March.
I expect for most who read this, we will have at least one thing in common about these yearly celebrated occasions. For me, the sap rising in the spring brought predictable changes in the young folks at schools where I worked as a teacher and principal. And “The Ides of March” always reminds me of the Shakespearian play adored by all sophomore English teachers and abhorred by their students—Julius Caesar. Can you say, “Et Tu Brute?”
However, many other significant events have occurred on these two dates in March. Before we move on, let’s review a bit of science and history. The Vernal or Spring Equinox occurs on March 20 or 21 in the northern hemisphere and denotes day and night of equal length, and on September 22nd or 23 in the southern hemisphere.
The Ides of March occurs on March 15th of each year, and in Imperial Rome, a week of festivals and feasting were kicked off by the ides. Rome did not count days of the month as we do. They structured their year and calendar by phases of the moon. Thus, the Ides of March signified the first full moon of their new year.
The Ides of March Throughout History
Julius Caesar was murdered while in the Roman senate. Fifty-five years old, he was stabbed at least 23 times by a group of senators led by Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus. At least 60 senators were in on the conspiracy to assassinate the dictator.
And you thought you would never use your sophomore English class!
While English King Edward was on a pillaging campaign in France, a French raiding party engaged in a 48-hour spree of their own of rape, pillage, and murder in southern England. Then, King Edward interrupted his spree to launch reprisals on the French.
Tit for tat has always defined French-English relations. In WWII, a French General who was to be transported to North Africa to lead the Free French against German General Rommel would not be secreted out of France on an English submarine. So General Eisenhower replaced the English submarine captain with an American, and all was resolved!
Russian Czar Nicholas abdicated his throne. The last of a 304-year-old dynasty, his abdication paved the way for Bolshevik rule. Nicholas and his family were executed in July 1918 by firing squad.
I visited Russia in 1991 when it was still the Soviet Union, and I remember being taken aback by the condition of the cities and the lives of the people and at the same time how prized were the treasures of Czarist Russia found in museums in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
A deadly blizzard swept across North Dakota and Minnesota, killing 60 people who were routinely traveling in their cars in a light snow when a massive front roared through with hurricane-strength winds dropping temperatures 20 degrees in 15 minutes and leaving snowdrifts as high as seven feet.
It is still known as the most severe blizzard in modern U.S. history and occurred only a week away from the first day of spring.
A mystery respiratory disease that affected people in China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Canada was identified as a sudden acute respiratory disorder and given the acronym of SARS.
SARS never reached a pandemic state but was a precursor to COVID as it affected patients so suddenly. COVID, SARS, and MERS are all related, except that SARS and MERS had a much greater death rate, while COVID moved much faster in infecting people.
The Vernal Equinox Throughout History
Let’s look at a few things of significance associated with the Vernal Equinox, which occurs this year on March 2oth.
Easter is connected to the Vernal Equinox
Easter occurs on Sunday, April 17th this year. So how does one determine when Easter occurs each year? According to the Royal Museums Greenwich, “The simple standard definition of Easter is that it is the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs on or after the spring equinox. If the full moon falls on a Sunday, then Easter is the next Sunday.”
I find it interesting that the first full moon was critical to the ancient Romans and to Jews and Christians. It marks one of the holiest times of the year for these two great religions. Jews begin the Passover celebration on Friday with the Passover seder, and two days later, Christians celebrate Easter.
Spring Fever Begins
You probably recognize the signs: flushed face, rapid heart rate, increased daydreaming, romantic inclinations.
Just ask anyone who deals with teenagers—especially parents, teachers, and principals– if spring fever is a real thing. As a high school principal in Alabama, we seldom ever had fights—maybe one in six weeks. But once the sap rose in the trees and in the teenagers, we would have a half-dozen scraps in two weeks. No weapons back then except fists with boys and fingernails with girls.
After about two weeks, when the temperatures leveled off and the moon waned, things would return to normal.
Ancient Sites Mark the Equinoxes and the Solstices
On the morning of the vernal equinox, the Great Sphinx looks directly at the sunrise.
At Stonehenge, Druids, pagans, and revelers gathered at dawn by Stonehenge’s huge ancient stones to mark the vernal equinox, the official beginning of springtime, and the sun’s relationship to seasons.
At Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, Ancestral Puebloan people, expert sky-watchers, carved spiral designs in the rock to record the season.
There is Chichen Itza or Pyramid of Kukulcan of the Mayans in Mexico, where the light pattern at the Spring Equinox looks like a snake.
In Cambodia is Angkor Wat, a sacred temple of Buddhism.
In Peru, the Incan Machu Picchu and its Temple of the Sun are found.
And now, an Assignment Until Next Month.
If you are like me, when I go in my backyard, I am never sure which way is precisely east or west. This year on the vernal equinox, you can change that because it is one of the two days each year when the sun rises exactly due east and sets exactly due west.
So, if you pick a landmark in your backyard when the sunrises and another when it sets, you will always know east and west.
“To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.” – George Santayana
Hey Mickey, As usual, I enjoyed your current Southern Exposures. I can always remember about the equinoxes because Farrar was born on the summer equinox (also Dewey’s death date). Remembering how the Easter date is figured is more difficult to figure out. Some years my birthday falls on either Good Friday or Easter. I also was very impressed with Maddie’s essay on Ukraine. It’s just not fair that both of you are such talented writers. How old is Maddie? What a gift she has! Keep writing! Your buddy, Kaye Sent from my iPhone
Thanks Kaye. Maddy turns 21 this spring. Her writing skills are something special. That’s for sure. We are coming to Mobile this spring to do some research on my next book – an autobiography of the Dunaway family. I will let you know soon of the date. Much love and many blessings to you and yours.