Although temperatures have remained humid thanks to Hurricane Florence’s appearance just over a week ago, there’s still been recognizable changes in the air over the course of this month. The sky has taken on a crisper, cleaner appearance and sometimes at night there’s been a chilliness to the air that makes us want to take a slow, deep breath.
All are signs that fall is being ushered in once again and that the remnants of a pretty hot and humid summer are coming to a tumultuous close. Given the week we’ve had in eastern North Carolina, a change in seasons should be most welcome.
We certainly welcome it with open arms today, the official first day of fall, which technically rolls in just before 10 p.m. tonight.
If you adhere to the National Weather Service’s thoughts, it says summer was actually over at midnight on Aug. 31. If you believe vacationers, they say summer ended just after Labor Day, the final vacation before school kicked into high gear. But the celestial calendar says it’s not until today. To be exact, at 9:45 p.m.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the autumnal, or fall, equinox marks the first day of fall (autumn) in what we call astronomical seasons. That’s when, according to the NWS, the sun crosses the equator heading toward the Southern Hemisphere, and when day and night are equally 12 hours long, though technically that isn’t quite right since there will be a few minutes more daylight for a few days longer.
The autumnal equinox, like its spring counterpart and the summer and winter solstices, used to be a really big deal, back in the day when life centered around sunrise and sunset, long before there was artificial light.
There were festivals to mark the occasion. People enjoyed celebrating the change in seasons, even those sun-watchers who longed for the reversal which begins by changing courses on Dec. 20 when the sun crosses the equator on its way back north in what is referred to as the vernal equinox, which occurs at 5:58 p.m. March 20.
But for now, the autumnal equinox is drawing near and, indeed, it’s time for a celebration of fall.
We do that, now, even if we don’t realize that’s what we’re doing. Many of us will pack up and head to the mountains for a weekend tour of the changing colors. We prepare for those favorite football games and tailgate fun and anxiously wait for the time we can wrap in warm sweaters and cheerful thoughts.
We buy pumpkins, plant mums and decorate our homes in the rich golds, oranges, reds and browns of the season. And we enjoy dinner on the grounds at churches, fall festivals at schools and county and state fairs throughout the region, all celebrations of cooler weather and the changes that come with it.
While spring is still considered a time of renewal, we should look at autumn as a time to shed the baggage we’ve gathered over time, replacing it with a lighter, crisper outlook on life. It can be a time for reflection, of remembrance, of a stiller, more peaceful time of year.
So even as we are cleaning up after this major hurricane that has reshaped the lives of so many of our friends and neighbors, let’s us latch on to the hope that a new season brings with it, taking a deep breath of fresh air, inhaling the smells that give us butterfly-in-the-stomach feelings and begin a new, or renewed, aspect of our lives.
Like the autumnal equinox, we, too, can alter courses and bring change — to ourselves, to our communities and to others.