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 it happens Wednesday, September 22, 2021, (1921 UTC) 3:21 P.M. EDT in the Northern Hemisphere. The equinox occurs at the same moment worldwide. It is the vernal equinox in the Southern Hemisphere. I like to prepare ahead of time and think about what I might do to be more consciously aware of this passage. Doing and being. Among other things, I will likely read, walk, write and connect with others to share some of these thoughts. I don’t know that it’s critical for me to be aware of the moment, 12:21 PM Pacific Time in my case, although if I happen to be outdoors, I may have a look upward as well as outward and inward to see what I can discern.
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 and measure 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 silently into Fall, several things come to mind for me.
On the equinox, night and day are nearly 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. That is minor, somewhat trivial and of little consequence. What is more important is what do you make of this time of the year, if anything? And why or why not?
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. Barns were filled with hay and grain and as a child I heard the story of “The Grasshopper and The Ants.” I am sure the intention was to teach me the value of saving instead of spending it all.
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 I am at home and working part time in southern Arizona, contemplating some of the events of Fall including Thanksgiving. As the heat of Summer morphs into a cooler Fall, we look forward to the welcome change. Life is about the seasons of internal and external change, how we adapt and adjust our own rhythms and find ourselves in or out of sync.