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Bay Reflections

Gallivanting on a Good Friday Full Moon

From dark to light, our spring passage is special this year

by Elizabeth Ayres

It meandered, the path. It snaked through a tangled skein of bare trees, and I followed. Twisting where it twisted close to the river. Winding where it wound close by a field. It made me giddy, that trail. Made me leave behind plain old mundane hiking to gallivant, gad about, knock around.

Lighthearted, I forgot what was — a dull, cold day in early March — and remembered to keep watch for what could be.

The old stump with its worn, pleated bark. What if I were to pluck it up and play it like an accordion? The velvet chartreuse moss. What if I were to fling it around my shoulders like a cape? Maybe I’m not even walking forward, I thought, maybe I’m climbing upward on a haphazard trellis of exposed roots. Or swimming. The rippled, wavy lines etched into the naked pith might be from some current or tide.

No surprise, when the downed dead tree spoke. With its ruffled frills of peeling bark stained green by lichen. With olive-striped butterfly wings of fungus fluttering along its length. The tree said, Dying, I destroyed death, for see the life I’ve reinvented?

Those words come back to me now, as I look to where the meandering path has brought us. Snaking through a tangled skein of days. Twisting. Winding. See? Already it is the vernal equinox, when light and dark are perfectly balanced. Tomorrow, the full moon, when waxing and waning briefly halt their ceaseless motion. Then Easter Sunday. Commemorating death’s destruction and the reinvention of life.

It’s making me downright giddy, this mighty confluence of forces, for see? It’s leap year. Earth takes 3651⁄4 days to go around the sun, so every four years we must disappear that stock of extra hours piling up. February 29 is an anchor we cast out to stop calendar dates from drifting through the seasons.

And see? Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon after March 21, which moon occurs tomorrow and which date is usually the first day of spring unless — like today — it’s had to leap with the year. Easter has come on March 23 just six times since the Gregorian calendar was adopted in 1582, and after this Sunday, it will be 2160 before the two converge again. Easter has fallen on March 22, the earliest possible day, only four times. It won’t occur on March 22 until 2285.

It’s enough to make us abandon the mundane, don’t you think? 2008 is special, a gallavantin’, gad about, knock around kind of year. I say we leap beyond what is — that horrid war, for instance — and keep watch for what could be. As Christians will Saturday night, during the Easter Vigil, extinguishing all light then rekindling the new fire. As Earth does every year, all outward growing extinguished, then all the green rekindled.

What if all the killing stopped? Wouldn’t that be our downed dead reinventing themselves as peace? Wouldn’t that be like someone expiring because they’ve been nailed to a tree, then later saying, Dying, I destroyed death; rising, I restored life.

All the moons have names, you know. Depending on the tradition you follow, you might call tomorrow Big Famine Moon, because game is scarce. Or Sap Moon, because the time for tapping maple trees is here. Or Crust Moon, because the snow thaws by day and freezes at night. Or Worm Moon, because earthworms are astir now, and robins.

Depending on your tradition, you might call tomorrow Good Friday. Which, to my way of thinking, is a kind of anchor. An event cast out into the cosmos to stop our inexorable drift toward extinction. Whether you believe that or not, there is still cause for lighthearted rejoicing.

See? The tundra swans are leaving for their Arctic breeding grounds, and the osprey are returning. Winter and spring, dark and light, death and life: All these mighty forces balance out today. And tomorrow then tomorrow then tomorrow tip the scales.

Poet and writing teacher Elizabeth Ayres leads The Patuxent River Writing Retreat-Workshop May 3-4. For more info, visit Ayres is the author of Writing the Wave and Know the Way. She last reflected for Bay Weekly in “In One Sun’s Setting Another Rises” [Vol. xvi, no. 1; Jan. 3]. Listen for her radio program, Soundings, Saturday evenings 6-6:30pm. Tune into WRYR 97.5fm or catch it on the web at

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