Blog: Reflections on the Spring Equinox
By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.
On the day of each equinox and solstice, I make a point of spending some time alone in the early morning hours at the Sacred Stream Center in Berkeley, CA. The center was the home of a Lutheran church for almost one hundred years. It has beautiful stained glass windows and large open wood-paneled spaces carefully crafted by Finnish carpenters in the early 1900s. The sun always rises through the arched stained glass behind the main altar, illuminating the room in a spray of rainbow light.
This morning on the spring equinox of 2020, I am here to check on the center to make sure the repair on the roof is keeping out the rain. We are almost a week into the Shelter in Place Order due to the coronavirus pandemic. It is always quiet in the sanctuary in the early morning, but this morning it is especially still. The usual sound of starting cars and people heading off to work is absent. There is no laughing or singing from the neighborhood children who often pass by as they walk to the school down at the other end of the street.
I gaze at all the posters for upcoming classes and events that were supposed to take place in the center this spring – classes and events which will now not happen in the sanctuary. Our Depth Hypnosis and Plant Medicine classes, the singing and improv classes offered by members of the community, the visit from the inspiring channel Paul Selig, an evening with Buddhist scholar Geshe Thupten Jinpa, who has served as His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s main English language interpreter, and the equinox drum circle, which will not convene for the first time in 30 years. I take down the posters that are no longer needed and take in the blank wall. I sit down in the middle of the sanctuary and reflect on the many moments of collective crisis this beautiful old building has seen people through.
I consider World War I and the church’s congregants who worshiped here as their sons were sickened by mustard gas. I think about the Great Depression, when church families prepared meals in the community hall for people who could not feed themselves. I think of World War II, and the worshipers’ fears of the Nazis overrunning their Scandinavian homelands. I contemplate those who came to pray as they grappled with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I try to picture the funerals that were held in this room for sons who died in Vietnam.
I sit in the center of this room where so much has happened. Yet, I sit alone. I sit in the silence this pandemic has created. I reflect on the fear and confusion that keeps people away from the great wooden doors of this building that has offered solace to so many in times of crisis. I watch the sun make its way across the wide faces of the stained glass and the shifting reflection of light it creates on the wooden walls. I muse that the play of light across the glimmering wood has been the same every morning for over a hundred years, whether people have been here to observe it or not.
Then I hear the baby wrentits calling for food in the long lichen-covered, sock-like nest that has been hanging silent outside my office window. It is now filled with bald babies! I rush to the sound of their chirping, watching their parents dart among the rose hips of the ancient rose bush they chose for their home, bringing treats. The hummingbird that generally presides over the garden fountain comes to inspect the newcomers.
I go out to the garden and hear the neighborhood bees buzzing around the blossoms of the pear tree, which glisten in the morning sun. The sounds of nature are all around me. The mourning doves, who nest in the low branches of the redwood tree in the neighbor’s yard, visit the fountain and inspect the walks of the center’s garden, cooing to one another. A mother raven arrives to soften her dry bread in the fountain and calls to her newest baby, offering the delicacy to her. As the sun rises higher in the sky on this day where night and day are of equal length, I reflect on all that has changed, and everything that remains the same.