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.