Simon says the seasons are changing, but my calendar says, not yet…

Are our plants blooming early, or are we using a redundant system to coordinate our lives?

If you look outside right now – go on – what do you see? Depending on where you’re reading this, that answer varies. Obviously. But if you happen to look up from your device anytime soon and appreciate the trees, hedges or plants around you, you’ll notice they’re starting to flower and blossom.

But it’s not even springtime yet?! That doesn’t start ’til September, according to my calendar. Spring starts on September 1 (or even more correctly, on the spring equinox, which is on September 23 this year), then summer on December 1 (or December 22, the summer equinox) and so on.

Have we become that disconnected from our environment that even though we can see flowers are starting to bloom, and shifts and changes in nature and in the weather are in motion, we still find ourselves relying on a calendar to tell us what the environment is doing, and when?

Calendars are great, don’t get me wrong. I have an affinity for ‘going with the flow’ and rely on my intuition to guide me through life. But when it comes to remembering dates, organising my schedule and keeping track of tasks and due dates, my intuition falls incredibly short. Calendars are a useful tool that serve a purpose.

But why would we use a tool that doesn’t factor in the ebb and flow, the rise and fall, the changes in our environment to inform us of what’s happening in our environment?

Traditionally, our tūpuna would make regular observations of their environment, which would include a forecast of what to expect and what to be mindful of in the coming months. Matariki, Tautoru and Puanga are some of the more popular star constellations still observed today, ones that were interpreted to inform the decision making about what to do, how to do it, and when. Our tūpuna would also examine the interactions between the sea and land, analyse how the winds blow, watch Hina and how she behaves in the sky. They would study birds and their migratory patterns, blooming periods for flowers and plants, certain stars rising and falling in the sky.

Keep in mind the notion of whakapapa: how we descend from the environment. Our tūpuna were hanging out with their tuakana (elders). They were developing their relationships with these elements, their tūpuna, to gain deeper understanding of how and why the world worked the way it did, how it influenced their energy levels and behaviours and how they could maximise certain times of the month or year for their desired outcomes.

Think of the relationships in your life, with those closest to you. You know something’s up if your bubbly, cheerful friend has all of a sudden become gloomy. And depending on how intimate your relationship is, you can sometimes sense something’s going on because you’re so in tune with each other. Our tūpuna had the same understanding and awareness of the taiao.

They would take cues from the environment, adjust their planning and preparations and, take appropriate action from there. But how does that work in a modern context? Have we lost sync with our taiao by subscribing to tools like the Gregorian calendar which don’t account for the natural changes occurring in our environment? Is it too inconvenient to spend time with our tupuna – Tangaroa, Tāne Mahuta, Tāwhirimātea – and reflect on their behaviour, factoring that into our decision making?

Are our plants blooming early, or are we using a redundant system to coordinate our lives?

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