The autumnal equinox, which occurred on September 22nd this year, marks one of two times each year when day and night are each of exactly the same duration. And I love it. As the air cools and dries a bit, I’m reminded of bracing strolls on country lanes, the smell of fallen leaves stirred by shuffling feet, and going on high school hay rides with my girlfriend and our pals, which was always a great excuse for cuddling up on a cushion of straw in order to stay warm. Frosty breath and snuggling. How wonderful.
One of the advantages of living in Northeast Florida is being able to enjoy the refreshing months of autumn without having to endure the ensuing annoyance of a brutal winter (not to say that it doesn’t get danged cold down here in January or so). And there are many deciduous trees in the region, so we get to see some color changes, too, although certainly not to the extent that folks in the cooler climes enjoy. I guess there are always trade-offs.
I find it fascinating how well people and animals are tuned in to the planet’s seasons, and how each of the seasons seems to be just the right length: About the time everyone is on the verge of going bananas from the constant cold and, depending upon where you live, the seemingly interminable snowfall and sleet of winter, spring rolls around and saves our sanity. Wild flowers begin to bud, pollen wafts, and we stand with our faces turned up to the warm sun with eyes closed, relishing thoughts of summer vacation (for the kids, anyway) and the summer activities we look forward to every year. Here in the south we will witness the Canadian geese and other snowbirds setting out on their annual journeys back to the north for the season (although some people, and certain geese, it seems, have opted to remain year-round, of course).
But, sure enough, by the end of August everybody begins to feel wilted from the heat and humidity only to be brightened once again by the crisp air of October and November.
And so it goes.
In Greek mythology, the seasons are said to be caused by the ever-changing state of mind of Demeter, the goddess of harvest and plants. In one version of this myth it is said that Zeus and Hades had struck a deal by which Demeter’s daughter, Persephone (who was also Zeus’s daughter—and niece, sheesh), had to spend six months each year with Hades in the underworld, being allowed to return to her mother the other six months of the year. Thus, Demeter’s sadness in the absence of her daughter would evoke the autumn and wintry months. And then, as she looked forward to Persephone’s return, her cheer would bring us spring with her happiness lasting all through the summer, only to become saddened once again in the autumn as Persephone’s annual departure was imminent.
Interestingly, it doesn’t seem as though those gods gave any consideration to how Persephone felt about all that. In any event, I guess Demeter’s sadness is my happiness—but then, it’s not my daughter.
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Grau Codrin.