A Woman in the Sun by Edward Hopper, 1961 via whitney.org

Another equinox approaches. They are opposite on either side of the equator, so my autumnal (fall) equinox here in the northern hemisphere is someone’s spring (vernal) equinox in the southern hemisphere. In either location, this will be one of the two equinoxes every year when the sun shines directly on the equator and the length of day and night is pretty darn close to equal.

In Paradelle, this will occur Sunday, September 22, 2013 at 4:44 PM EDT (You can check your location here) That 4:44 time has a nice look. I’ll set my phone alarm to beep then and see if I feel anything stirring within or without.

For this post, I will avoid too much about the science of this event (You can read past posts for that, if you wish) and just focus on the idea of this seasonal dance that starts autumn for me.

The ancients paid more attention to this than we do. They knew this was one of two times each year when the Sun crosses the equator, and they figured out that day and night are of approximately equal length. That seemed very important to them. They may not have marked the four seasons in the same way that we do, but they noted the two equinoxes.

For their lives, the fact that the nights began to be longer than the days was more significant than the later electric age. They eventually calculated that the next turning point would be the Winter Solstice in December when days would start to get longer again.

Today, we don’t have much ceremony associated with the equinox. Summer ended for most Americans with Labor Day. School started again. Plants and gardens started to die back. Halloween and even Christmas items and advertisements started appearing already. We are terribly out of sync with the celestial clockwork.

I am an autumn baby, so this cooler weather, blazes of foliage, fireplaces and sweaters all feel very comfortable. Of course, I will miss summer when things turn cold in winter, but for now I am quite happy with the season.

Ever since I was 5, my year has started in September as either a student or as a teacher. That was true again this year. My years end in May or June (teaching college versus teaching high school). And then there is this limbo season in between of summer. It is one of the top benefits of teaching if you can take off for the summer. (Most teachers I know can’t do it and continue to teach or get some other job.)

The sun steadfastly avoids all our attempts to stamp holidays onto the year and moves southward so that it is cooler here in the north and warmer in the Southern Hemisphere.

When the Sun is at its farthest north or south and the length of time between Sunrise and Sunset is the shortest of the year, we have the solstices of summer and winter. These equinoxes mark the equal points in between.

Things being equal sounds pretty good to me. So, Sunday afternoon I am planning to go into New York City with my wife, have brunch with friends, and somewhere near 4:44 pm I will be looking at an exhibit of Edward Hopper artwork. That seems about right.


Early Sunday Morning by Edward Hopper, 1930 via whitney.org