Though we know the Earth orbits the Sun, the Sun’s apparent trek across the sky from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere (we see this through the length of days changing over the year from longer to shorter) is ‘caught in the middle’ so to speak on exactly two days a year. One of those days, the Autumnal Equinox, is today, September 22nd, 2008. The Autumnal Equinox marks the day that summer is officially over. C’est la vie.
The term ‘equinox’ is used because the Sun’s energy is concentrated today at the ‘middle’ of the earth- at the Equator. The Sun’s radiation/heat then is nearly evenly dispersed from the point of concentration- the Equator- towards the poles on both the northern and southern hemispheres. This isn’t a static fact- remember the Earth is always moving around the Sun and just as a clock is never actually stopped at noon, so too the Equinox is over as soon as it begins- giving way to the shorter days and cooler temps as the Sun moves away from us in the northern hemisphere deeper into the southern hemisphere. Thus, from September 22nd until December 22nd (December Solstice) the days for us in the northern hemisphere will continue to get shorter and shorter, in that the Sun’s concentration upon the southern hemisphere will increase… Thus, as we in the northern hemisphere are moving through our autumn/fall months towards our winter with the ever shortening days and the cooling temperatures, our southern hemisphere friends in places like Brazil and Australia, will be moving through their spring months towards their summer with the days growing ever longer and the temperatures increasing.
Those of us in southern California perhaps know not any of the seasons. We live in a perpetual 72 and sunny forecast. Yes, too true. Yet, if one looks for the signs, if one spends some time in a park with a book. If you walk along the beach in the evening, or if you spend time near a window listening to the wind course by, then even in the urban jungles of the Los Angeles basin and Orange County you can partake to some extent in the rejoicing autumn. Like so many things in life, it’s all how you look at it- it’s how much energy you put into it that determines to a large extent how much you’ll get out. Fall is no exception. So, just because the fall of southern California isn’t a grand tapestry of color and change, it’s there- it’s real.
As such I’ve always loved the autumn months. I’m always drawn to the fireside feeling, the robust warmth of a home as a refuge from the crisp night air. To spend some time tied up in a book with a cup of hot tea, to wear sweaters outdoors and indoors, and to feel the wind pick up- these are the images and feelings in my mind that harken to my soul. The leaves falling and blowing in the park, and the distant orange of the sunsets are all part of this autumn story and I’m glad to see another.
I wish you all a wonderful fall. Don’t hesitate to take a walk near sundown- just be sure to bring a light jacket.
It’s argued that the seasons are not capitalized in English because they are not proper nouns. Though usage seems to be changing a bit, it’s still not proper to capitalize the seasons in general usage. The argument goes like this: though we do capitalize, for example, the names of the week and the months: Monday, Tuesday, February, July, etc. we do so only because the names of the week and months were derived from ancient pagan god’s names. Thus the practice of capitalizing those names continued into modern usage. The same is not true of the seasons- the seasons are not named after mythological deities. Fall, summer, winter, and spring are words said to be merely describing the weather- the temperatures and the seasonal changes associated- thus they are not capitalized.