Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Happy Fall

At around 3:30 am today, autumn officially begins.

That's right -- it's the fall equinox.  It seems like this day has little importance to us now... though it's the official start of a new season, most people count fall as starting either after Labor Day (the unofficial end of summer), when school starts and cooler weather typically sets in.

However, this day had great significance in the lives of our ancestors.  In many cultures, a major harvest festival takes place around this time, harkening back to the significance of this date.  In a world when people were more immediately connected to the natural world and dependent upon it for their survival, this was an important turning point in the year... the time to start focusing on caching and preparing for winter.  It meant multiple things.  On the one hand, life was about to get hard.  Food wouldn't be as easy to come by, great amounts of energy would be needed just to keep warm and survive.  On the other hand, summer means long days often filled with work from dawn 'til dusk, whereas winter actually meant more time inside, connecting with family and friends.  The pace of life changed, became more reflective.

Equinox translates to "equal night;" it is the day when day and night are each 12 hours in length (though not really -- due to refraction and latitude, it's slightly off, but... close enough!)  It's the day when the sun passes over the equator.  It will now spend the next six months in the southern hemisphere, from our earthly perspective, (and oh, we northerners will miss it!)

One of the most noticeable things to me about the days surrounding the equinoxes is the daily change in daylight.  If you think about a graph of daylight hours over time (example), the largest changes each day are going to happen not at the top and bottom of the waves, but in the middle, at the equinoxes.  From yesterday, 9/22, to today, 9/23, we lost 3 full minutes of daylight.  In comparison, it's about a minute a day different in December. Three minutes may not seem big... but that's a 21 minute difference in day length over the course of a week.  That's a noticeable change.  

At any rate... Happy Autumn!

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