Category Archives: Equinox

The Darker Half

Come 4:02 PM Eastern Daylight Time today, summer officially gives way to autumn: it is the autumnal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, with the opposite being true in the Southern Hemisphere, for there, this is the moment that spring begins. Things will be more or less balanced for a short time, but as we continue past this day, from this point forward we here in the Northern Hemisphere will have more darkness each day than light, while folks in the Southern Hemisphere will have more light each day than darkness. It is a gradual change, each day different from the one before, and it all has to do with the 23.5 degree tilt of the Earth on its axis as it makes its yearly journey around the sun. Were it not for that 23.5 degrees, we would have no seasons at all.

And so the sun about now is rising pretty much due east and setting pretty much due west. We are in a brief time of balance, something worth seeking in our lives at least twice each year as the two equinox periods come and go. Not an easy task, to be certain.

It may be the first day of autumn by the almanac, but in traditional reckoning of time, the equinox is the midpoint of autumn, which began with the first of the harvest festivals, Lammas, at the start of August. Again, balance, as we find ourselves at the center of the season, half of it in the past, half of it yet to come, both sides of it on either side of where we stand now.

 

Spring

And now it is spring in our Northern Hemisphere. We are halfway between winter solstice and summer solstice. Change, the only thing that stays the same: each day a bit different from the one before and the one to come, and yet for a few days, we will be in balance: day and night roughly the same, across the globe. The sun due east as it rises, due west as it sets.

When we were in New York earlier this month for Dad’s funeral, at the Cemetery of the Holy Rood, I happened upon these flowers beginning to bloom. Since then, they’ve been covered in snow and I don’t know if they’ll be blooming again or not. But I liked how, that day, at least, it was a little bit of everything, all at one time, at least in that frame: dry leaves of autumn, fresh growth of spring, earthy browns, miraculous purples. With each passing day, light and springtime gradually win over darkness and winter, and before you know it, summer will be coming in, and we will welcome again that gentle time of year.

 

Autumn

holzsammlerin-im-herbstwald

10:21 AM today in Lake Worth: here begins autumn by the almanac. This is Eastern Daylight Time, so if you are seeking the precise equinox moment in your town, work from that basis. We enter again a time of balance.

Of course our planet’s shifting to and fro is a subtle thing. Massive as it is, it travels its course, tilting one way then the other, over and over again, creating our seasonal shifts. And this is an amazing thing to ponder, this delicate balancing act. The balance is something we’ve been approaching for quite a while now, and for days lately, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll have noticed that the sun is rising pretty much due east and setting pretty much due west. But as our planet tilts further yet, the sun will appear to drift further south. Our days have been growing shorter bit by bit ever since the Midsummer solstice in June and here, today, with the equinox, we reach that complete balance: day and night are essentially equal, across the globe.

But the Earth keeps shifting and tomorrow our Northern Hemisphere day will be slightly briefer than our night, and in the Southern Hemisphere, the opposite is true: They are approaching summer, we are approaching winter. This sounds very concrete and it is, in its way… but these are not so much logical conclusions as they are points along the wheel of the year. Nothing is black and white in this scheme. Everything is in flux, a change almost imperceptible… but certain. Our days here in the North will continue to grow shorter and our nights longer until the Earth shifts again to the opposite direction in its tilting. That won’t happen until the Midwinter solstice in December.

For our ancestors, this celestial equinox event was the midpoint of autumn, a season that began for them with Lammas in early August. I love viewing the world in this fashion and through this more traditional reckoning of time. There is, to me, a bit more logic in it. But then again, I live in Florida. Nothing makes sense here, especially our seasons. For weeks now I’ve been driving by farms watching tractors prepare the ground for planting, and now that the equinox is here, certainly it is time to plant the tomatoes and peppers and sweet corn. Welcome to my world. It is, I’m afraid, a bit topsy-turvy.

As in the great clockworks of the celestial sphere, so in us. Our great planet achieves balance today. We would do well at this time of balance to seek balance, too.

 

Image: “Holzsammlerin im Herbstwald” by Friedrich Kallmorgen. Oil on canvas, 1893 [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons. I love that the wood gatherer in this picture is enveloped in golden orange hues. This does not happen to us here in Florida and it is almost incomprehensible to me that this is what trees look like beneath the chlorophyl. I also can barely believe the lakes freeze over in winter. Obviously, I need to leave Florida more often.

 

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