In ages past, an understanding of nature’s cycles was crucial to day-to-day living. A calendar was an essential tool for staying in sync with one’s environment. Many ancient cultures learned how to calculate the length of a year. The Egyptians discovered that by counting the days between annual recurrences a solar year is 365¼ days. Pope Gregory XIII refined their calculations to produce the Gregorian calendar, in use to this day. The charting of the solar year created a calendar that could help people stay in sync with the natural year. But as societies have grown increasingly urbanized and diversified through industrial and technological progress, the calendar has become more like a continuous, ineluctable march of numbers telling us when to be where.
And yet, life’s daily details seem minute when one contemplates the vast grandeur of the universe. Humans have existed for an insignificant fraction of time. We are beginning to understand that the universe is not about us, nor do we live in isolation from its infinite wonders; rather, we are intimate and integral participants. This calendar gives a glimpse at the phenomena that make a year on this planet the amazing event that it is. In the spirit of embracing the entire natural experience, we invite you to bid farewell to the limitations of old, conventional notions of time. We welcome you to Chris Hardman’s ECOlogical Calendar.
How it Works
The ECOlogical Calendar comprises the four astronomical seasons—winter, spring, summer, fall—each beginning on either a solstice or an equinox.
The Sky Band
Illustrates and notates the seasonal sky.
Universal Time: All dates of astronomical phenomena are in accord with the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) scale—the worldwide system of civil timekeeping measured at the Prime Meridian.
Seasonal Star Charts: The upper star band depicts various asterisms—easily recognizable groups of stars visible for the duration of the season—are shown and explained. Shooting stars and meteor showers are included in the sky band on the specific date of their occurrence.
Star Brightness: Apparent magnitude is the measurement of how bright a celestial object looks from Earth. The lower the number, the brighter the object. Our Sun rates –26; the three stars in Orion’s belt average +2 apparent magnitude.
The Visible Planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are called morning or evening “stars,” because at certain times of the year they are bright enough to be seen at dawn and dusk. The Sky Band details when they are visible.
The Sun Band
The Sun, central star of our solar system, lights and heats our world. The Sun Band reflects the varying amounts of time the Sun shines on the Northern Hemisphere throughout the year, graphically illustrating the ratio between the length of day and the length of night.
Solar Events: The Sun Band also notes the occurrence of solar events such as eclipses and perihelion and aphelion, the points closest to and farthest from the Sun in Earth’s orbit.
The Moon Band
Performing between twelve and thirteen lunar cycles per year, the Moon Band portrays Moon phases, visible celestial bodies in conjunction with the Moon, which Moons will appear significantly brighter, lunar eclipses, and other facts about the satellite.
The Earth Band
Displays the ecological response to the changing seasons.
The Seasons Illustrated: As a living planet, Earth organically responds to seasonal change via an annual cycle of growth and decline. The Earth Band depicts the responses of flora and fauna to seasonal conditions.
ECOlogue: A line of text runs directly below the Earth Band and tells the “story” of the season.
The Tide Band
Earth is an ocean planet: roughly three-quarters of its surface is covered by water. The Tide Band graphic depicts the variation between high and low tides for each day. A big wave indicates a large difference between high and low tides on that day; a small wave means that the difference between high and low is less significant.
The Calendar Band
Notes the passage of time measured by the daily cycle of light and dark.
A Logical Day to Start the Year: The Gregorian and ECOlogical calendars are both based on the solar year. However, the ECOlogical Calendar starts its count from the winter solstice, an astronomical event.
Removing the Weeks: The year is naturally divided by seasons, by lunations, by days—all observable events. The week is an arbitrary construct. Therefore, the year is displayed in a line so that the various cycles can be seen in relationship to one another.
The Day Names: The ECOlogical Calendar gives each day a seasonally appropriate name, so that a day ceases to serve as a mere marker; instead, when read in succession, the day names become distinct cogs in a rhythmic wheel of the year.
The Gregorian Legend: Because most people currently use the Gregorian calendar, its day numbers, weekday abbreviations, and month names appear as reference points for the ecological events portrayed.
The Modes: The ECOlogical Calendar divides each season into three “modes.” These modes are named to evoke the twelve “moods” of a year: the entrance into a season, its full expression, and the exit from the season.
It’s All Connected
Over the past several decades there has been a growing awareness of the interrelatedness of all things. Consider such milestones as the famous NASA photograph of Earth taken from space, showing it to be a beautiful blue orb flying through the universe; Buckminster Fuller’s concept of Spaceship Earth; and Rachel Carson’s breakthrough book, Silent Spring. This awareness has strongly influenced the study of ecology—the science of how living things interact with one another and their environment. Such interactions are affected by seasonally triggered events in nature.
Phenology, the study of the timing of natural events, is an important component of ecology. Phenology was originally conceived to assist in successful planting of food crops and management of domesticated animals; phenological findings provided the information for farmers’ almanacs. More recently, phenology has expanded to include natural cycles on a broader scale, making the discipline an indispensable source of information for the ECOlogical Calendar.
To illustrate the widest range of natural events, we depict the seasonal activities found in the Northern Hemisphere, and we have chosen to present the most intense expressions of each season. The ECOlogical Calendar is not meant to be specific to any one geographic area. It is intended to evoke the essence of the seasons and to emphasize the cycles of nature, stripping away as much human cultural overlay as possible. The goal is not to present a detailed text on astronomy, geology, or biology but simply to offer a glimpse of the natural phenomena that make each day an amazing event.