Sunday, September 23, 2007

End of Summer

Today is the autumnal equinox, which has a somewhat different meaning here in Ecuador. Because we're on the equator, the length of day and night doesn't vary, so it's not the day when night and day are the same length, as it's thought of in the US. On the equinox, the Earth moves in its orbit so that the northern hemisphere tips away from the Sun, and the southern towards the Sun. Thus, the sun crosses the equator, and passes directly overhead, so a vertical pole casts no shadow. It's "the day the Sun kisses the Earth."
Quito has a large pole at the center of the Plaza del Intiwatana in Parque ItchimbĂ­a, which is laid out with lines pointing to the sunrises and sunsets of the solstices, as well as north, south, east, and west. I scoped it out yesterday, when it was mostly cloudy, and took some pictures of the sun nearly overhead:
Unfortunately, the Sun was completely obscured by clouds at noon today. Even hidden from sight, I could feel its heat radiating straight down. I knew I had the day right, because there was a gathering of fifty or so people celebrating the Sun's passage overhead and learning about the indigenous beliefs.
Bolivar Romero gave a talk and led some traditional rituals to mark the equinox.
Pre-colombian Ecuador was sun-worshiping, and their understanding or Earth and Sun was apparently rife with male and female coding. The pole pointing to the Sun is male; the circle on the Earth is female. The basin is female, the water that fills it is male. Men shoot arrows and give orders. Women are open receptacles. His explanation was a little more nuanced than that, but still pretty disturbing, especially after staying up late last night debating just these issues. Fortunately he did throw in a few lines about this not meaning that women couldn't also be direct, or that men couldn't be receivers.

About 20 minutes later, while reporters were talking Mr. Romero, the sun did peak out letting you see how short people's shadows were.
I also tried to get a shot of sun directly above me, reflected in the water, despite the cloudiness. Since water is a horizontal mirror, the only time the sun can be obscured by your head is when it's directly overhead.

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