The September equinox occurs the moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator – the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator – from north to south. This happens either on September 22, 23, or 24 every year.
This year, 2017, it happens on Friday, September 22 at 20:02 UTC, which for me in PDT is 1:02 PM. You have to do some calculating depending on where in the northern hemisphere you are. UTC refers to Coordinated Universal Time, one of the successors to Greenwich Mean Time and is the primary standard by which the world regulates clocks and time. Imagine that! We think we can regulate or manipulate time according to the earth’s rotation. Regardless, the beginning of Fall, known as autumn in many countries is marked by this date and time. As Summer slips and slides sliently into Fall, several things come to mind for me.
On the equinox, night and day are nearly exactly the same length – 12 hours – all over the world. This is the reason it’s called an “equinox”, derived from Latin, meaning “equal night”. However, even if this is widely accepted, it isn’t entirely true. In reality equinoxes do not have exactly 12 hours of daylight.
The point for me is not so much the technical aspects as the opportunity to celebrate Mother Nature and recall many wonderful experiences associated with this time of the year. One of the more obvious ones is the change in the colors of the leaves, from summer’s green to fall’s brilliant yellows, orange, copper and in some places, red. Another is the time of harvest, receiving the bounties of field and garden, a time of putting up and preserving for winter. Our families had “fruit cellars” where we stored vegetables and fruits to be used throughout the cold months.
I remember an old gospel hymn “Bringing in the Sheaves.” It was a seasonal hymn in the churches where I endured many Sunday mornings. For those of you who know the tune or the words, it’s another way to express gratitude for the harvest. Never mind that Frank Zappa used it in “Wonderful Wino” or that Faye Dunaway sang it to Dustin Hoffman in “Little Big Man”. Then there are the lyrics from Neil Diamond in “September Morn.”
This September morning finds me at Yosemite National Park in the final week of a month long, wonderful, 6000 mile road trip that has taken us through many beautiful parts of the West and Northwest USA and Canada. The concomitant feeling is enormous gratitude for being able to celebrate this particular equinox with the wedding of our oldest granddaughter this weekend in Calistoga, CA. While this equinox may well pass by unrecognized by many, if not most people, it will be a special time of celebration for our families and friends. Leave it to me to call this time of transition to their attention.