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The Autumnal Equinox

                                           Last rose petals linger....                                                               ...

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Autumnal Equinox

                                           Last rose petals linger....                                                                 dee’15
Wednesday, September 23, 2015 at 4:22 AM EST
         I have been keeping an eagle eye on the calendar, waiting for the Autumnal Equinox.  Due to some inexplicable gap in my education, I was in college when I learned what the word equinox meant.  A new restaurant opened in the Amherst, MA area around 1976 and it was called the Equinox.  I queried the owner about the unusual name and he explained that there are two Equinoxes annually.  They occur around the 21st  to 23rd  of March and September. On these days, day and night are equally twelve hours long.  Not to be overlooked are the solstices; they occur two times a year, also.  It is at these two points that the sun is at its greatest distance from the equator.  The summer solstice occurs around June 21st, bringing with it the shortest day of the year and the winter solstice occurs around December 22nd and is the shortest day of the year. I am embarrassed to say that it wasn’t until that moment that I finally understood how the four seasons were tied to events both celestial and astronomical. 
     For me, each season brings with it certain rituals of celebration and welcoming. There are equally important seasonal markers in nature that denote the passing of time and the letting go of the past.

           The Winter Solstice is part of the Festival of Lights.  As days draw shorter and shorter, we, in the Northern Hemisphere, arrive at December 21 or so and we find ourselves on the shortest day of the year.  My favorite words of the season are “Light Cometh.” I know that, if I can survive a day with about 9 hours of light and 15 hours of darkness, the next day will be slightly longer and the night – and the darkness --  will start to shrink.
The solace that comes from that knowledge is immeasurable. This year, the winter solstice comes on December 22nd.  Keep a look out for the sun on that day. It will rise at 7:06a.m. and set at 4:16p.m.. Be sure to enjoy the nine hours and sixteen minutes to full advantage….Make sure you do something that brings you joy.
The ground stirs with new wonder.
          The Vernal Equinox usually occurs around March 21st and it heralds spring. For me, the trip of the Spotted salamanders across Henry St. in Amherst, MA is one of the hallmarks of spring. The town set aside a sizeable budget to create tunnels for these hardy salamanders to make it across the road without injury.  These small creatures were motivated by the all-important business of mating in vernal pools. After the first rain of spring, when the temperature stays above 40 degrees, the salamanders are on the move. So, too, are the do-good members of the Amherst bucket brigade that herds the salamanders into said tunnels with their buckets. Other signs of spring are the taps on the maple trees, the sight of robins against melting snow, the scent of decaying leaves, the fresh new growth on the tips of the trees and the very first sound of the peepers. My entire family knows the thrill I take in seeing the first snowdrops in March, followed by crocuses in April. A family tradition we have practiced on the eve of the Vernal Equinox has been to balance an egg on end. Over time, my son demonstrated that this feat of daring do and great prestidigitation may be accomplished with any willing egg on pretty much any day of the year.  And still, we wait for March 21st.
                                                             One among many -- summer days in blue.                                                         dee ’15
               The Summer Solstice
is all about excesses of light. Unless June 21 is cloudy, the day bleeds into night close to my bedtime. When the moon is full, it never gets fully dark on the ocean. I have watched the play of the moonlight on the water bring such brilliance that I can see remarkably well -- even at 2am.  There is usually a breeze that kicks up when the sun has set and the moon is rising. Unless there is a storm, the sea builds to a choppiness that I feel privileged to have seen.  It’s like a pot on simmer, then, the flame is turned off and the sea takes on a rare quality of near stillness…just the echo of a susurration. On the longest day of the year, I finally surrender to the weight of sleep.  The whomp, whomp, whomp of the ceiling fan soothes me down. Abruptly, I am called back to wakefulness by the early caw, caw, caw of the crows and the unyielding fingers of light that seep through every crack and seam of my windows.
Coreopsis Leavenworthii brightens fall days  dee’15

                We have arrived back at the Autumnal Equinox. My favorite season is the fall; perhaps I am biased because I am a Virgo, a September baby. Many people associate autumn with loss and endings. For me, the first 21 years of my life served as a lifetime rule; autumn brings happiness. I loved school and it started in September. Fall was the beginning of the good stuff. Being with friends, learning new things, beginning anew. Even though it has been forty years since I put on a blue uniform over a white blouse and headed to school, my pulse races a bit when I see the first tree aflame in yellow. Just today, I saw an acorn when I was walking through a wooded area. I thought how I hardly ever see them on the Island. Then I came home. OUT of nowhere, acorns. Everywhere.They littered my driveway. I swept them up – more than assured that they will return tomorrow. On the Vineyard, autumn nights are cool and the mornings, fresh.  The homebody in me wants to get ready for the winter that is bound to bear down on us. I have a punch list: Post the stakes for the snowplow (so that my garden isn’t decimated). Put away the awning. Put the lawn furniture under cover. Pack up, rack up, clean up.  Get ready for the assault of winter.  September 23 is the date of the Autumnal equinox this year and I am getting ready. I have piles of summer clothes to go into storage and winter clothes to take out. I am airing my blankets and polishing my boots.

                        Goodbye to summer clothes               dee ‘15

             If nothing else, I feel ready to batten down the hatches and prepare for a rough ride.  The winds will blow, the days will grow colder and shorter and I intend to be warm and cozy in my new abode. By Halloween, it is dark by 5:30p.m. It is cold enough to wear a down vest over a fleece in the morning. Noses run and faces grow ruddy from the fresh air. It’s a time of magic and wonder. I persist in the desire to use my new fire pit. I propose a bonfire to celebrate *Guy Fawkes Day in November!  Thanksgiving follows shortly thereafter. Together, we all move forward, while individually, we turn inward, focusing on what is directly in front of us. The smells of hot woodstoves and pine sap in the autumn bring with them memories so deeply imbedded that I can’t assign anything to them except the feeling of being home, being safe, being loved.

*www.timeanddate.com ›
Guy Fawkes Night is annually held on November 5. It is sometimes known as Bonfire Night and marks the anniversary of the discovery of a plot organized by Catholic conspirators to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London in 1605. Many people light bonfires and set off fireworks.” Quoted directly from timeanddate.com

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