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Nature cycles

The moon made big news this week, in North America anyway, as it took centre stage to block out the sun for a few fleeting moments. Just looking at the pictures of the sky go dark gives me the chills, and reminds me of standing in the street outside my office in Swindon in August 1999 willing the clouds to clear so we could see the partial eclipse. Even on a cloudy day with only a partial eclipse, a chill fell over us as the pigeons flapped away to roost, alert to what was happening. Weirdly I have no recollection at all of the eclipse in March 2015. That one took place on the new moon, the Spring Equinox and also my birthday. After stalking myself on social media I discovered that I even made ginger eclipse biscuits to celebrate it, but the event itself is lost in the depths of my brain, although the internet tells me that the view was not good due to near complete cloud coverage and having been prompted I have a vague memory of standing on the office balcony with a makeshift pinhole camera.

It's interesting how the big events get us outside and looking up, while we forget that even a full moon can be an awe inspiring experience. There's no doubt that we'd all be better off for appreciating them more. No news to anyone reading this that both awe and nature connection is beneficial to human health, and this is something that we can experience on a monthly basis because what is more cyclical in nature than the moon?

Walking past the local mosque yesterday I saw the notice pinned to the door announcing that Eid al-Fitr would take place on Wednesday 10th April. I knew the date related in some way to the moon, but wasn't sure how, so obviously I fell down a moon related internet hole (is that maybe a crater?). I'm still not entirely sure of the precise details as to how the date of Eid is determined, but I don't feel too bad about it, since apparently it's something which is open to debate! According to an old article in The Economist there have even been anecdotal reports of fights in mosques occurring as a result of the discussions. However, long story short, Eid falls at the new moon, it all depends whether you believe you have to see the new moon or just assume it's there despite the cloud. Probably this is a somewhat different discussion in Mecca as opposed to say Glasgow. It must get a bit philosophical.

I've got an app on my phone that alerts me to the full and new moon, and I keep my eyes on the night sky when I'm out walking in the dark. I even have a moon friend who I message (or receive messages from) in the event of a particularly spectacular moon view. It may seem exotic to have to wait on news of a moon sighting in order to celebrate your festival (and potentially a little bit irritating for those trying to cater for said event - imagine not knowing when Christmas was going to be until 24 hours beforehand) but of course Easter is determined by the moon. Maybe with schools moving to set April holidays we're a little more disconnected from the dates of Easter than we used to be, but still we hear a lot of "Easter is early / late" chat without any real information about why. I had to hunt this down too!

Easter falls on the first Sunday after the full Moon that occurs on or after the spring equinox, so this year the Equinox was on the 20th March followed by the full moon on 25th March, giving us Easter Sunday on the 31st - relatively early. For a complete explanation of the calculations the Greenwich Observatory website can help. This of course is "our" Easter celebrated under the Gregorian calendar, rather than the Easter of the Eastern Orthodox Church who use the Julian calendar If you're a big fan of maths, then it is seriously worth checking out the website of the Astronomical Society of South Australia for some equations to blow your mind.

Passover, the Jewish Spring festival is usually celebrated at or within a few days of the March full moon thus making it close to Easter. However the Hebrew lunar calendar has fewer days than the solar calendar and so a leap month is added every few years, to keep it in line with the seasons. This year is one such year, and so Passover won't be celebrated until just before the full moon in April. All of this research made me realise just how embedded nature and its seasons are within our religious traditions.

From one sort of cycle to another. The Lanarkshire Climate Action Hub has recently launched their new online bike hub detailing all the cycling services offered by community organisations in and around Lanarkshire. If you are interested in buying a new or refurbished bike, need to get your bike serviced or fancy giving an e-bike a go or if you want to learn how to cycle more safely then do check out their website. With new staff starting in May, the hub will soon be able to offer even more help to people wanting to travel more actively.

Never one for missing an opportunity to promote walking, then perhaps if cycling isn't for you walking is! This week, in the throes of covid (how very 2020) I've been dipping into The Miracle Pill by Peter Walker, a book about how sedentary the world has become. I have felt the irony, tucked up on the sofa without the energy to go for a walk, reading about how movement is the one lifestyle change we all need. I have taken the opportunity of not being able to go out to meetings, to work my way through the Paths for All Workplace Walking course. Colleagues be aware, I'm now armed with all the information about how walking can help transform a workplace into healthier, happier place. As part of our Smarter Choices Smarter Places project this year funded by Paths for All, we're keen to introduce community organisations in South Lanarkshire to their nearest local nature reserve or green space, and get people out into those spaces more both to walk and to connect with nature. If you, your colleagues or your clients are interested in getting out more, then please do get in touch. We're gearing up for Living Streets' National Walking Month as well as Green Health Week and moving more for Mental Health Awareness Week all happening in May- so it's going to be a super active month and we want as many people involved as possible! Let us bring the Magic of Walking (this year's Walking Month theme) to you!

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