2020, Lockdown, News

Social Distanced Vernal Equinox (March 20)

Postponed, the word of these CORVID 19 days, emails coming in every day, with the unsurprising announcements: Event postponed. The first I recall was the James Bond aptly entitled film No Time to Die back on March 4.  Yes what feels way back then when the virus was still a remote concept in some far away land. Although it was getting closer, Italy was suffering.

We postponed Kinda Forest School, ahead of the Government guidelines, together with our Vernal  Equinox invitation, a culmination of a years solar system investigation at Kinda Forest School. However with fresh air and woods being the clearest cleanest safest place to be,  I invited a few friends to the wood for a modest walk around our newly completed planetary experience. All instructed to keep social distance of 2 x Uranus (ie 2 meters) naturally. Invited were the Planetary folk, namely  Bo and Ryan from Kinda Forest School and Leon amongst our facilitators. Ryan unfortunately could not make it (unfortunately as he was a brilliant contributor with Leon to the myth stories and was the maker of Mars) but Kym came with Levon and Hazel and for the first time Gus. We were a modest handful of souls, Jo and MJ and the dogs rocked up, all keeping our distances among the oaks.

Standing beside the first of 3 fires on the hard standing, I turned to Sam and asked,
‘So how did the universe begin?’
‘No warning?’ he says, eyes, slightly panicked. But he did it, of course, he spoke of that mind bending concept of there being something from nothing. That according to the standard Big Bang model, the universe was born during a period of INFLATION that began about 13 billion years ago. It swelled from a size smaller than an electron to nearly its current size within a tiny fraction of a second.

In the closing light of the equitable day, we walked up passed the Angel of the woods to our Kinda centre, our parachute. Here the 35 meters of material neatly sown by Julia and her mother, Valerie, awaited us to furl it out and feel the 35 meters diameter  of the sun. Based on the idea of the  Swedish Solar System,  the world’s largest permanent scale model of the Solar System, ours is a scaled down version attempting scaled size not distance between – let alone orbit trail! While Sweden used the length and breadth of it’s long landmass to encompass relative distances, this would not be possible in a 5 acre woodland.

Planet Diameter Kaliwood
Kilometer     Meter

Sun              1,390,000    35.5
Mercury            4,879      0.13
Venus               12,104      0.31
Earth                12,742      0.33
Moon                  3,474      0.05
Mars                   6,779      0.18
Jupiter           139,820      3.55
Saturn            116,460     3.05
Uranus             50,724      1.3
Neptune           49,244     1.25
(Pluto                   1,188)   0.06


Bo led the unfurling all the way to beyond the swing. Where was my prepared camera? no where to be seen. You’ll have to imagine it. Did we talk about thermo nuclear fusion of hydrogen and helium and all starts are suns? That the sun is now Middle aged and will remain stable for another 5 billion years. Or did we talk about Apollo? God of light, healing, music and prophecy, poetry, art, oracles, archery, plague, medicine, sun, light and knowledge.

Although the  International Space Station (Solar Powered) Space Disco, was ready and waiting for take off we were a bit slow with firing up the rocket engines (the on off switch)  so our sun song – HERE COMES THE SUN –  melded into our take off music DON’T STOP ME NOW, an effective  warming up dance around the fire, Leon leading us in fine voice, and here is one of the rare photographs of his.

Planet show

Off we set rocketed by Freddie (to) Mercury

I’m burning through the sky, yeah
Two hundred degrees
That’s why they call me Mister Fahrenheit
I’m travelling at the speed of light
I wanna make a supersonic woman of you
Don’t stop me now, I’m having such a good time….


Here the winged messenger, Mercury / Hermes AKA Bo, donned his cape of pheasant wings (sown by the lovely Valerie), to become the messenger taking us around the planets as well as souls to Hades.

Turning back I saw high above the naked oak branches the bright star, which I happened to know was Venus.
‘Look, Mr Astronomer, what’s that bright star up there?’ I ask for dramatic effect.
‘Why, that is VENUS’, said Sam
‘Then let’s go to Venus’, I cajoled.


In Mell’s absence (Oh Mell you would have done it so much better) I felt I had to perform, so wrapped a scarf Roman style around, put up a mask and kicked my Wellington Boots in some kind of Can-Can form – to BANANARAMA’s VENUS. (No photo of this, thankfully). Behind watched by the Venus de Milo. I think it was here that we established our perfect double act of Leon giving us the Myth and Sam (Mr Astronomer) telling us about the science.  I learned two things: the first that Aphrodite was born of the foam from the sea after Saturn (Greek Cronus) castrated his father Uranus (Ouranus) and his blood fell to the sea. The second that  it was the thick toxic clouds and propinquity to us that give Venus it’s brightness:

The closest possible opposition distance between Earth and Venus is 38 million kilometers which is the closest that any planet comes to Earth. The farthest that Venus ever gets from Earth is 261 million km.
Because it is the closest planet to earth and because its thick clouds reflect most of the sunlight that reaches it (about 70%) back into space, Venus is the brightest object in the sky other than the moon, and  can often be seen within a few hours after sunset or before sunrise.


Gaia. We missed Brook to tell us about Earth, made by her father James Nobbs, from welded knives, spoons and forks, now perched a Ash tree stump, surrounded by Oak, Beach and Ash. It was here that Leon introduced us to the essential Gods Genealogy with Gaia

Gaia the ancestral mother of all life,  the primal Mother Earth goddess. She is the mother of Uranus (the sky), from whose sexual union she bore the Titans (themselves parents of many of the Olympian gods) and the Giants, and of Pontus (the sea), from whose union she bore the primordial sea gods.
‘She lay with Heaven and bore deep-swirling Oceanus, Coeus, …….  After them was born Cronos the wily, youngest and most terrible of her children, and he hated his lusty sire.
When Cronus learned from Gaia and Uranus that he was destined to be overthrown by one of his children, he swallowed each of the children born to him by his Titan older sister, Rhea. But when Rhea was pregnant with her youngest child, Zeus, she sought help from Gaia and Uranus. When Zeus was born, Rhea gave Cronus a stone wrapped in swaddling-clothes in his place, which Cronus swallowed, and Gaia took the child into her care.

A late photograph arrived from Lorna, of the younger Kinda tribe getting to grips with the moon circling the earth



David Bowie’s GROUND CONTROL TO MAJOR TOM, took us off to Mars, and on the way LIFE ON MARS (which has little to do with the planet Mars and more to do with the girl with mousy hair). The two shields beautifully crafted by Ryan and Leon, lounged on two tree stumps awaiting a battle that hopefully one day would take place between a Roman and Greek. It was here that the lights started working, (thank you Sam), solar powered lights that surrounded the red planet. (Ryan – you’ve got to come to see it)

We journeyed past the ASTRAL BELT (inner tubes of the bicycle tyres happy to find a use) to the giant gas planet, suspended happily between 2 great oaks.


Holst’s Planet suit, JUPITER – the Bringer of Jolity – was belting out from the ISW.  Performed 1918 those stiring strings (I vow to thee my country) must have been stiringly emotional at the end of the first world war.

Jupiter being the largest of planets, was the most challenging to construct. (Eleven Earths could fit across Jupiter’s equator). Finally it was built by Sam as well as Rudi and Win over from Amsterdam: both over 6 foot tall, both masterful at knots and finding solutions.

Now bedecked with lights around it’s girth and with 4 moons in its red eye of a storm, representing the four largest of Jupiters 79 moons.  We were all pressed to recall their names,  Io, Europa, Ganymede and ….. A good 5 minutes later and out of nowhere  Mr Astronomer suddenly found the forth – ‘Castillo!’ he exclaimed. We meandered around the red eye of the storm, a gigantic storm that’s about twice the size of Earth and has raged for over a century: was the wind in one direction or was there a contra current?

Roman Jupiter equivalent to Greek Zeus brother of Neptune, and Pluto and begetter of countless others. His father was non other than Saturn’s Cronus…


PINK FLOYD’s TIME  took us to Saturn.  Only half finished but looking impressive emerging out of the earth a semi circle of bicycle rims now encircled in lights. The clock said 7.15.  the myths became dominant, and once again we battled the idea of time, what was time before time? Bo’s mum, Sarah, drew an excellent analogy: A way to imagine “no time” can be to think of it like our dreams where everything can happen at the same time.

Famous for it’s rings – yet to be created – Saturn cannot support life as we know it, but some of Saturn’s moons have conditions that might support life. Saturn has 82 moons, the most potential for life is Titan. In the 2014 movie Interstellar, the wormhole that enables the astronauts to travel to another galaxy appears near Saturn. Didn’t Dave speak of a Saturn festival?

Solar planets-5

Saturn – the god of generation, dissolution, plenty, wealth, agriculture. As the Greek Cronus he became the God of time. Saturn’s consort was his sister Ops, with whom he fathered Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto among others.

“Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
Firtter and waste the house in an offhand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way
Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.”


Molly’s favorite planet. I’ll not forget her dressed in blue for Latitude festival. Silent and dark and beautifully enlighted by our torches, our organic creation of Uranus was begun by Sue and finished by Eloise and Michael (using Social Distancing).  This said all there was to say, as Mr Astronomer admitted to knowing nothing more. Leon taught us how to say it.

Planet Uranus

The first planet found with the aid of a telescope, it was discovered in 1781 by astronomer William Herschel. Uranus is an ice giant, most of its mass is a hot, dense fluid of “icy” materials – water, methane and ammonia – above a small rocky core. Uranus has 27 known moons, which  are named after characters from the works of William Shakespeare and Alexander Pope.


Dark, cold and whipped by supersonic winds, ice giant Neptune is the eighth and most distant planet in our solar system. We made it out of 3 hula hoops, which may sometimes return to their given purpose. On the way however we got distracted as Orion appeared through the trees, and the supergiant quality of Betelgeuse tantalised us.

Betelgeuse is 640 light years from Earth. It is classed as a red supergiant and is the tenth brightest star in the night sky. Easily recognizable as the right ‘shoulder’ in the constellation Orion, it is becoming redder and fainter.

By now the darkness was complete, and Jo had lit us a welcoming fire around which we warmed or hands. Some drink and a few snacks were prepared on the table near by. At this point Bo reminded me of what I had forgotten – our Mnemonic game and competition. He was brilliantly practical. ‘Where is the paper Rachel?, and ‘We need 5 pens to work in teams’. So it was Bo announced the competition, for us to find our own Mnemonic and there would be a prize for the best, judged by Rachel. (That took me by surprise)

Woodland Vernal Equinox-2

We’d developed our own last year: Mells VW Engine Just Stopped Not Parking.

The prize was a shell. Everyone won a prize – except the ingenuous rude one judged unworthy by Bo – as there was a prize for every category: imagination, Science, and Magic

Here they are:

The end  was indeed magical.
‘Can I sing my song?’ asked Leon. He bought us full circle. He reminded us that today Persephone had arrived out of 6 months in Hades to the light, and that spring arrived on this equitable day of equal light and dark.

As Persephone bent down to pick the pomegranate seed, the earth opened and Hades seized her and dragged her down to his kingdom. Because Persephone had eaten six pomegranate seeds, it was decided that for six months of each year, she must return to the underworld with Hades, on Mabon, and winter would come to the world. In spring she would once again return to her mother, allowing the earth to bloom. Hence, she is  associated with  the fertility of vegetation.

Woodland Vernal Equinox

Leon’s mother recorded the beginning of his song – can I find a copy of this? Leon’s sister managed the music on our ISW.  In part Leon sang without music  into the clear night sky, and gathered around the fire, we all listened. It was a magical ending.

We  made our way down the darkened woodland track back into the uncertainty of Conavirus world and realised this was probably our last social meeting for a while. We took with us this vision of a vast world out there, in which equinoxes would come and go, as would the Conavirus, hopefully not damaging our lives fatefully.

March 27th, one week later, which seems like a year later.



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