Another equinox is upon us, one of two times each year when the Sun crosses the equator and it appears, if only for a moment, that day and night are of equal length. For me, that autumn equinox moment just happened at 10:21 AM EDT (September 22).
You can be scientific and astronomical about the equinoxes, as I have usually been in writing past posts, but autumn is my favorite season and that has little to do with celestial events.
My October birthday (the 20th) always feels very autumnal. I have always thought that people may be more comfortable in the season and climate they were born into.
This is the first September since I was 4 years old that it doesn’t feel like a “new year” starting this month because for the all the years after that I was either a student or teacher. The new school year starting was much more of an event that the January hoopla of the calendar new year.
People in earlier times certainly paid more attention to the equinox than we do today. They knew this was a significant and regular event. Temples and structures, most famously Stonehenge, followed the Sun and Moon and it was associated with the changing seasons. 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 have started to die back for many of us. Halloween and even Christmas items and advertisements started appearing already. We are terribly out of sync with the celestial clockwork.
As an autumn baby, 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 (my least favorite season), but for now I am quite happy with the seasonal climate.
The interaction of Earth and Moon ignores our human attempts to mark the seasons by fixed calendar dates. The Sun seems to move southward (of course, its Earth moving) so that it is cooler here in the Northern Hemisphere and warmer in the Southern Hemisphere.
The equinoxes mark spring and autumn, but 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. The two equinoxes mark the equal points in between.
This day of balance is always a reminder to me of things I need to do in this season to prepare for the coming winter. There are always summer projects I didn’t complete that I rush to finish. As the weather cools even more, I need to bring in plants, clean up the garden, take in garden hoses and winterize the lawn mowers as I get the snowblower ready.
But for now, all things being equal, I will just enjoy my cup of tea and look at the early autumn blooms on the chrysanthemums and other plants, and watch the birds and squirrels do their equinox dance.