The Night Lengthens . . .

 . . . and the day wanes.

I was this many years old when I noticed that the vernal and autumnal equinoxes don’t land on the same-numbered day. I had them both in my head as the 21st (of March and September, respectively), but it is not so.

Perhaps I was confused by the solstices both being on the 21st of their respective months? Nope. The summer solstice is June 21; the winter solstice is December 22. I just don’t pay attention. (If you would like to know more, here’s an excellent resource, complete with quiz. I’ll post your scores if you send them to me.)

Sidebar: The 2024 vernal equinox will be on March 19 (not like, oh I don’t know, March 21). Quick Google answers to the question of why the date varies talk about the discrepancy between the sidereal and calendar years. Thus, they announce definitively, the equinox gets 6 hours later year to year. Unless there’s an intervening Leap Year, I guess, which throws it all off-kilter. Maybe? In any event, on we go, trusting that the equinox calculators and the solar system itself know what they’re doing.

As I write this wee confessional, we are 12 hours into fall, the 2023 version. The equinox hit at 0250 Eastern Time today. Outside, our ongoing twenty-something daytime highs speak confidently but falsely of summer; the single-digit nighttime lows whisper subversively of fall. “Sweater weather” they call it on the local radio station. A Saskatchewan farmer deep into harvest tweets about forgetting the bunnyhug overnight in the combine: It’s absolutely needed in the early AM, but unwelcome by noon.

On the back roads of the countryside, the leaves have started to fade to grey-green; to turn to brown, yellow, orange-red, or scarlet; or to drop altogether, according to their nature. Just back from a 55-years-after-graduation reunion (Not mine, dagnab it!) (Not yet.) I know just how the leaves feel. We, too, are starting to fade, turn, and drop.

In the meantime, the poets and historians of the world are acting according to their own natures. This thread includes some history, poetry, medieval graphic art, and photography. Happy hærfestlice emniht to you and yours. Enjoy it as it comes, whenever it comes. Heck, enjoy everything. After all, the night lengthens.

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10 Responses to The Night Lengthens . . .

  1. Ken from Kenora says:

    When this seasonal change occurs, I can’t help but think back about twenty years to a CTV Morning piece by Valerie Pringle, recounting an Autumnal story about crossing a northern lake in an open boat with a senior Inuit lady. Ms. Pringle recalls being cold and miserable as a wind driven freezing rain pelts them. And the elder lady is bravely facing the torrent, remarking “isn’t it great to see another season”.

  2. ‘Tis the season when I allow the colourful leaves to comfort me as I take a deep breath and start counting the days until they cease to wane and turn up the light. I appreciate the effort our ancestors took to figure out exactly when to start fretting and complaining about the gathering darkness. I suppose they thought they were moving Heaven when they maneuvered very large chunks of Earth into a circle to capture the solstice. I wonder if they hoped to influence climate changes that they associated with seasonal weather changes? I know the seasonal changes have profound and wide effects on people however far from the agricultural life they may have moved.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – 🙂 Yes, it’s good to know EXACTLY when to start complaining. I, too, love the fall leaves that Ontario offers – maybe its single biggest contribution to Confederation.

  3. Tom Watson says:

    Something new to learn every day. Thanks!
    I love this time of year.

  4. barbara carlson says:

    This is too granular for me for it reminds me of genealogies. I just go tharn when there’s talk of second cousins by marriage (as if that helps me). Sorry.

    But these waning days I think you’re speaking of don’t feel like it, here in Ottawa. But my double-daily walks around our “back 40” moat & island* are a tiny trial — what to wear. Three people today complained their condo was cold but outside it’s so hot! Pick a lane, September… no don’t.

    Every day is a gift to open. Be surprised.

    * The Highlands Condo (St. Laurent Blvd. & Montreal Road area) was built in 1971 and carved out a huge piece of real estate behind it as a pleasure ground. Our own Central Park with mature trees and benches. A large moat/pond (with three fountains) surrounds an island (attained via two wooden bridges with railings high enough to rest on), on which abides a kidney-shaped swimming pool and changing house. You’d think it would be packed with people, but it isn’t. Except during COVID when the pathway around the moat/pond was well used, but like a prison yard as we all kept our distance, our masks firmly in place, making tenuous, wary eye contact.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – 🙂 Yes, September is a changeable month, as are most months in our too-short transition seasons. In Alberta, I wrote final exams in April over many years – sometimes in boots and ski jacket for outerwear; sometimes in sandals and a sundress. Surprise!

      • barbara carlson says:

        I’ve seen people in May in shorts and puffy winter jackets… sandals in May when temp. is 8ºC — it’s spring, damn it!!

  5. Isabel Gibson says:

    Barbara – 🙂 Yes, there’s a strong element of habit in just about everything we do. Rushing (or hanging onto) a warm season is something I may have been guilty of myself.

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