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The Vernal Equinox

March 19, 2012

On Tuesday, March 20, 2012, spring will arrive. At precisely 1:14 A.M. daylight savings time, the sun will cross directly over the earth’s equator. This moment is known as the vernal equinox in the northern hemisphere, the beginning of spring. In the Southern hemisphere it is the autumnal equinox.

Equinox means equal night. Because the sun is positioned at its zenith above the equator, day and night are approximately equal in length all over the world.

This brief moment of balance between light and dark occurs because the earth is tilted on its axis. Because of the tilt, we receive the sun’s rays most directly in the summer. The tilt of the earth gives us our seasons.

Some believe magical balance in the universe occurs at the moment of the equinox.  It is possible, they believe, to stand an egg on end at this point in time.

Standing an egg on end on a hard and smooth surface requires care and patience, but it can be done any time of year. Take a fresh, uncooked egg and hold it with the larger end resting on a table or countertop. Wait several minutes for the fluid content to settle in the large end of the egg. Then, carefully test the balance. Be patient as you find the point where you can ever so gently release it, allowing the egg to stand on end.

I knew a man named Vernal who owned and operated a small sports fishing boat. Preferring to be called Captain Vern, he was a weathered native of Cape Hatteras who earned his living from the sea. Captain Vern had served in the Navy in the Pacific during World War II.  He knew Diamond Shoals, the Graveyard of the Atlantic, like the back of his hand.

Captain Vern had built his fishing boat, The Sea Eagle, in his own backyard. A trustworthy vessel with a shallow draw, the boat could skim only inches above the sandbars across the rough waters of Hatteras Inlet. Able to navigate close to shore, Captain Vern could reach the Gulf Stream more quickly than competing boats.

I was aboard The Sea Eagle when my buddy and I each hooked a blue fin tuna. Neither of us was able to land the big fish, but we enjoyed an hour of exhilarating fishing.

Early one morning, well before dawn, I ate breakfast at a local Hatteras cafe. I heard the waitress behind the counter call to the kitchen, “Uncle Vernal’s in the parking lot. Put his eggs on!”

Wondering about Captain Vern’s name, I asked, “Is Captain Vern your Uncle?”

“Yep.”

“He has an unusual name,” I commented.

“Vernal? Yep, he was born on March 20. He and my daddy are twins.”

“What’s your dad’s name?”

“Urnal,” she answered.

I asked no more questions.

By the way, Captain Vern ate his eggs sunny-side up.

Even I could balance those.

Kirk H. Neely
© March 2012
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