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An Introduction to Natural Time
When I first became interested in orienting my life to Nature back in 1987, the first thing I started learning about was natural time.
In our industrial consumer material world we are oriented to clocks and calendars that are part of the industrial system. In the material world time is divided into standardized lengths—each minute has 60 second, each hour has 60 minutes, each day has 24 hours, each week has 7 days…
But in Nature, time is determined by the movement of the sun, the moon, and the stars, which are not so standard, but are actually what is occurring in life.
I remember years ago the first time I got a sundial and watched it through the day. Not one of the hours was 60 minutes. Hours are shorter and longer depending on the time of day. They pretty much average out to sixty minutes, but each hour has it’s own length and it’s own quality. Walking around in the natural world, exact hours are not so important, nor are minutes. You can pretty easily tell if it’s morning, midday, mid afternoon, or evening by the amount of light and position of the sun.
There is much to learn about natural time and we are going to be writing more about it in the coming year.
Today, I just want to introduce you to becoming aware of the year determined by the sun and the months determined by the moon.
Rather than go into a whole explanation, I’m just going to focus on how the sun and moon appear to us and how these celestial bodies create time.
How We Perceive Time
Time is the perception of a particle of matter moving through space. The particle of matter might be the hands of a clock or the sun moving across the sky. This is why I love analog clock and dislike digital clocks—the analog clocks have a particle of matter moving through space as the hand move, and the digital clocks are just numbers going by. Machines love digital time, but you won’t see consecutive numbers coming into view anywhere in Nature.
If you are just in space and there are no moving particles of matter, you don’t perceive time. I’m sure you’ve experienced a time when you were daydreaming or absorbed in work or a creative project and were totally unaware of time passing. The clocks were still ticking away but you were not aware of it.
Likewise, in our industrial consumer culture, we are oriented and accustomed to reckoning time by looking at a watch or clock, or nowadays a cell phone to find out what time it is. And you are probably totally unaware of the movements of the sun and moon as giant clocks and calendars in the sky.
Well, let me introduce you to our natural timekeepers. No industrial mechanics are required to tell time.
The Days and Seasons of the Sun
The position of the sun in the sky determines the length and time of our day and the length and time of our year.
Our days begin when the sun rises in the east and ends when the sun sets in the west. When the sun is overhead it’s noon. Simple. If you are interested, buy or make a sundial and watch it throughout the day. Compare the time on the sundial with the time on your mechanical or digital timepiece.
The solar year begins and ends on Winter Solstice, which is the shortest day and the longest night. For early humans, each day of the year had a different quality and importance. Winter Solstice was the most important day of the year because it marked the day when days became longer and there was more light and warmth and food.
Starting with this post, I will begin to add a sun at the top of each post with the season of the year, to orient you to the movement of the sun through the year and remind you to observe how the sun is changing and to learn how to use the sun as a calendar.
Here are the 8 icons I will be using:
The Cycles of the Moon
I am also going to place an icon on each post to show the phase of the moon cycle on the day the post is published.
In addition to being an indicator of time, the moon actually influences water in many forms on Earth. Perhaps the most observable are the tides, which I have become aware of more the year as I have been spending more time on beaches. There can be a huge difference in the water levels at high and low tides on beaches and it can change quite rapidly. All because of the moon. Many animals in the wild time various activities by the moon. And if the moon can change whole oceans of water, what might it be doing to the water in our own bodies? In the past, women who lived in tribes generally menstruated at the same time of the "moonth,” so much so that many tribes had special huts for women to occupy together during that time.
If you watch the moon in the sky you will see that it rises and sets at different times during it’s cycle. Observe this pattern for yourself.
Here are the 8 icons I will be using on posts.
This is Just the Beginning of Learning About Natural Time
It has been 33 years since i started learning about natural time and I still have much to learn. It has not been a continuous study, but every once in a while I pick up the subject again and learn something new.
For me, being aware of natural time and being oriented to it is one way for me to keep connected to Nature, even while living in an industrial world.