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, 2014, it happens on Tuesday, September 23 at 2:29 UTC, which for me in MDT is 8:29 PM today, Monday the 22nd. 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.
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.
What came to mind as I wrote this was 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. Now, find a way to celebrate later today. We are planning a light show on the side of our neighbor’s house!