2013: Exploring the calendar year, fiscal year, and tree-ring year

What is it about the annual cycle that resonates deep within us?

Long before most of the world began using the Gregorian calendar as the civil calendar (first decreed by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582), humans used other calendars to measure time.  The Sumerians, Vikings, Mayans and Athenians all had their own approaches to marking time.  All had some lunar-cycle based component, yet they varied in how they measure one year and varied in defining the start of the next.  And even today, there are numerous calendars running parallel to the civil calendar, each with its own start of the year; these include Chinese, Hindu, Islamic, Iranian and Jewish.

Something compels us to note many kinds of annual events: our birthdays, and those of our loved ones and friends; anniversaries of events—personal ones like marriage (and at Save the Redwoods League, years employed here) as well as religious and historic events.

Layered on these years are fiscal years which, fickle as religious years, can begin on any Gregorian calendar date.  The League’s fiscal year begins April 1. Why is that?  There is probably a practical legal or commercial reason buried deep in the League’s (almost) 95-year history.

Visitors to Muir Woods can see the dates of redwood tree rings.Visitors to Muir Woods can see the dates of redwood tree rings.
Visitors to Muir Woods can see the dates of redwood tree rings.Visitors to Muir Woods can see the dates of redwood tree rings.

But what if there is a tree-ring explanation?  Perhaps the League founders wanted to mimic the annual cycle of the iconic species they committed to save.  As we know, trees also mark each year: with a ring.  Each year, a tree adds a new layer of wood to its diameter. When moisture is plentiful in the spring, the new cells are large. In the drier summer, cell size decreases until growth stops in the fall.  The seasonal difference in cell size creates a distinct ring.  In the range of the Sequoia, it appears that new growth—and a new ring—generally begins in March-April.  Hence, we have an April 1 fiscal year.

Thus, this is not the time to note the numerous League accomplishments of the past year.  That will wait until the end of our 4th (fiscal) quarter.

Rather, please accept thanks from the League—its Board of Directors, Councilors and staff – for your generous support of Save the Redwoods League and its mission.  We commit to continuing to earn your trust and confidence in the coming (Gregorian calendar) year.

Wishing you and our planet a peaceful and healthy 2013.

About the author

Harry joined Save the Redwoods League’s staff in 2011 as the General Counsel. He brings over 30 years of experience in the fields of law and real estate transactions.

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