This year the instant of the Autumnal Equinox occurred at 5:19 p.m. EDT on September 22, shortly before sunset. I guess one could say that yesterday, fall officially fell. Many think the Autumnal or Fall Equinox marks the day when the the length of day is exactly equal to the length of night. Not so.
There are a number of complicated meanings to this equinox thingy. There’s something about the equator and something else about witches and druids and maybe something about gearing up for the annual combo beer fest and craft extravaganza down at the church hall.
One oddity, however, is that on the Northern Hemisphere’s autumnal equinox day, a person at the North Pole would see the sun skimming across the horizon, signaling the start of six months of darkness. On the same day, a person at the South Pole would also see the sun skim the horizon, beginning six months of uninterrupted daylight.
So there you go.
Six months of dark or six months of light. Pick your poison.
In Phoenix, we have trouble finding anything remotely fallish. The leaves on our trees don’t so much turn those lovely fall hues of yellows, oranges or reds. Rather, they just sit there in all their greenness until one day they simply crumple into a brown curl and fall to the ground. Phoenix isn’t really good in the fall department. It’s hard to do much colorizing with cactus and dust. Mainly, Phoenicians just wither in the heat until after Halloween.
Then we all magically appear outside with margaritas in our hands and start impromptu block parties. We reconnect with neighbors who’ve been holed up in their air conditioned homes for the previous six months and marvel at each other that we made it through another summer. We begin once more to take walks in the evening and oooh at our magnificent desert sunsets. We pull light sweaters from the back of our closets and prepare them for that one day in high January when we might need them. We oil bicycle chains and shake the scorpions out of our hiking boots. Our dogs can finally take walks without having their feet sear to a crisp on the sidewalks. Kids quit trying to fry eggs on the hoods of their dad’s cars.
For all the heat-filled misery that befalls us during our seemingly-endless summers, we make up for it in winter. For Phoenicians, the Fall Equinox is merely a heads-up that good days are only a month or so away.
For you who live where the leaves turn, where there’s a crisp smell to the air, where the fire logs are readied and stacked for winter, where you make hot apple cider rather than icy margaritas, where you put away your sweaters and pull out your coats … I love your good fortune. Enjoy your Autumnal time and let your feet walk through crackling fall leaves. Pull in the scent of cool pine and savor its taste on your tongues.
And — if you think of it — put in a good word for the Desert Rats who wish they could be like you if even for a day. In return, we’ll hold good thoughts for you come mid-February when you’re neck-deep in snow and we’re hanging out poolside in our shorts.