Reflection for the Fall Equinox:
Your deepest roots are in nature. No matter who you are, where you live, or what kind of life you lead, you remain irrevocably linked with the rest of creation.
~ Charles Cook
Today is the Fall (Autumnal) Equinox in Virginia
There are so many health-saving and soul-nourishing reasons to immerse yourself in Nature, and there’s no better time than the two equinoxes: vernal (spring) and autumnal (fall) to pause from your crazy busyness, take a deep breath, and learn a bit about this special times of the year. As I write this on September 22, 2018, in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, we are experiencing the Fall or Autumnal Equinox, but for some of you on the opposite end of the earth, it’s the Vernal Equinox.
Why do we forget about Nature?
Deep down, most of us recognize the call of the natural world and its life-giving, healing energy. But we hit the floor running in the morning and forget to stop and pay attention. That busyness is not likely to change, but we can schedule some time to stop and look around. The week of the Fall Equinox is one of those perfect reminders to pause, notice, and reflect.
What’s happening outside in the Shenandoah Valley
Here in rural Shenandoah County, Virginia, the temperatures have been up in the high seventies to low eighties and, combined with the humidity, it has still been feeling like summer—until today. I just returned from walking up the driveway to get our mail, and the air felt quite comfortable — a bit cooler and much less humid. I can’t say there’s a “nip” in the air yet, but definitely, there’s a slight change towards fall.
And the air isn’t the only natural evidence that fall is on the way.
Leaves are beginning to turn brown and drop off, making frilly aprons under the chestnut and maple trees. In the last few days, the hummingbirds have gone into a frenzy of feeding and buzzing activity, zooming from one feeder to another and chasing each other or any bee that dares to try to share their food. They are undoubtedly fattening themselves up for the long migration south that looms ahead. If past years are any evidence, my beloved hummingbirds will be gone within the next two weeks.
Squirrels that have been with us all summer are now scampering hither and yon, carrying in their mouths various nutritious treasures which I suppose they plan to hide. Most amazing of all are the squirrels whose mouths are filled with the green prickly burr of a chestnut. I would think these would tear their little lips up, but if they wait until the burrs open on their own to reveal the fruit inside, the deer will have already gotten them.
The deer are restless. While I’ve been writing this post, several white-tailed deer have scampered across my window view, one with some small horns but also a female and her smaller sidekick. I suppose it’s too anthropomorphic to think they know it’s getting close to hunting season. It’s more likely they are responding to some ancient internal instinct triggered by seasonal changes.
Down at the river, the water is still muddy from last week’s rain, but there are more leaves floating along on the current, and the trees above the river, high along the ridge of the Massanutten mountains, are beginning to show spots of color.
Some fun facts about the Fall Equinox
Part of connecting with Nature is learning new things about it. With full credit to Melissa Breyer and her post in Treehugger News called, “12 things to know about the September equinox,” here are some interesting tidbits about the Fall Equinox.
- The word “equinox” is derived from two Latin words: “equi“ meaning “equal” and “nox“ meaning “night. The irony is that on the equinox, the amounts of daylight and darkness are not exactly the same. The day when they are exactly the same (known as the “equilux”) depends on your latitude.
- The autumnal equinox arrives this year at exactly 9:54 pm Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) today (Saturday, September 22, 2018). Unlike New Year’s midnight, it doesn’t follow the clock around the time zones. The equinoxes happen at the same time everywhere. I find that especially sweet when I think of my far-away children who are enjoying it at the same time as I am. This Equinox is considered to be the exact time the sun crosses the celestial equator, an imaginary line in the heavens that, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, is like a plane of Earth’s equator projected out onto the sphere. The actual date varies from year to year but in the northern hemisphere, it is always on September 22, 23, or 24.
- The actual time of the equinox varies, advancing about six hours later each year until the next leap year. Then the date jumps back an entire day.
- According to astrologists, the morning of the autumnal equinox is a good time for being practical and getting organized.
- The full moon closest to the fall equinox is called the Harvest Moon or Full Corn Moon. It supposedly derives this name because its light allows farmers to work later into the evening. Click here for “Full moon names and what they mean.”
- “Pick a landmark, make a mental note, and enjoy the knowledge that while so much in this world is in flux, the sun is constant and will return to its perfect Wast and West on the days of equinox.” ~ Melissa Breyer
5 easy things to do this week to reconnect with Nature
These five things can be adapted to your location, regardless of whether you live in the city or the country:
- Step outside or look out your window. If possible, find a bench or seat where you can sit down and quietly observe everything around you. If not, just try to focus on Nature while you’re walking, riding, or driving. If you live in the city, you might need to walk to a nearby park.
- Ideally, take a journal, pad, or notebook and a writing implement to record what you observe. Alternately, use the recording function on your mobile phone.
- What do you see? Do you notice anything that has changed about the trees, shrubs, or plants? Are the flowers in flowerbeds blooming or going to seed? Are any leaves withering or changing color? Are they beginning to fall? Do you see any bird or animal activity? Have you noticed any flocks of geese flying in V-formation?
- Now, focus on the air. What’s the temperature like? How does it feel on your skin: cool…warm…humid? Take a deep breath and notice how the air smells. It may still carry the scents of summer, especially if you’re near a recently mown lawn, but in a few weeks, you may begin to notice the mustier smell of fallen leaves or the unique smell of wood smoke from burning stoves or fireplaces.
- Notice the length of the days this week and record when it gets dark. Where on the horizon is the sun as it sets? It’s interesting to note how this changes throughout the year. From now on, the days will get shorter and the nights will get longer until the Winter solstice in December.
That’s enough for now. If you do these five easy things at each equinox, you may discover that your curiosity about nature will kick in and you’ll pay more attention all the time. This time next year you might even—gasp—be keeping a nature journal.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy:
“Secrets Of The Sun’s Winter Movements” by Heartspoken guest writer, Esther Miller
My “View from the Bench” series of posts: observations at different times of year from the bench outside my kitchen window
“13 Great Reasons to Start A Nature Journal” – why and how to start a nature journal
The Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Walk In Nature by David George Haskell that chronicles his experiment observing a tiny patch of ground for a whole year and recording its fascinating changes. These are my Amazon affiliate links. When you purchase anything from Amazon using these links, you are helping to support this blog.
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