Harvest Equinox

Monday

  • Nights have turned chilly.  No danger of frost yet, but crops are either ripe already or heading into the final stages of harvest.  Tomatoes, for example, may still ripen, but nothing is going to grow much.  Apparently the local drought has produced apples half the normal size, and deeply shrunken pumpkins.  On the other hand, farmers in the Midwest are cursing their third year of spectacular returns _ their income drops as quantities overflow storage.
  • Full moon, or close enough, with crickets and other night creatures chirping merrily.  Lightning bugs few and far between.  Odd mists in odd places here and there, sometimes a haunted feeling in the cool breeze with patches of warmth.  I try to force myself out once in a while after dark, for I find somehow being in the night calms me and eases the nervous artificial energy of reading or watching television.

Tuesday

Dark and light exact the same
Like good and evil some would claim
A useful cosmic metaphor.
As for me, I’m not so sure
I sleep the night, use daytime more,
My memories are most of day
Regardless, I could never say
Cosmos is like me anyway

I am unique, imbalanced, pure.

Wednesday

  • At least on this apple tree this year there are no apples at all, even half-size or shriveled.  Everything else happily received an inch of slow rain yesterday and most of the landscape seems pretty normal for the time of year.  Immature acorns are beginning to scatter the ground along with dogwood pips.  Dogwood leaves are halfway to desiccated descent showing orange and sickly greenish-yellow.  Crickets sound even by day, a harsh insistent chorus at night.
  • I’m grateful for the showers, even though in practical terms it means I must once again mow the lawn.  Each day presents a challenge in dressing correctly _ rain or wind or heat or humidity or cold and how much of each.  Almost impossible to guess until I am out walking, and then it is basically too late to change.  Ah, that all my complaints may remain so inconsequential.

Thursday

Joan and I are strolling the busy sidewalks of Northport on a perfect late September afternoon.  A cooling breeze sweeps up from the bay at the end of the street, as sun warms everyone benignly.  We run into Linda outside Artisans, while Joan is window shopping the various displayed craft items.
“Happy equinox!” I greet her.
“Huh?” she manages to project confusion through her huge mirrored sunglasses.
“He means Fall,” says Joan.  “Happy Fall.  He gets a little crazy about this stuff.”
“I just think we should celebrate the natural seasonal events, that’s all,” I get a little defensive.
“Do you paint yourself blue and run around the woods naked?” queries Linda with an ironic smile.
“Only when he was younger,” mutters Joan.
“I did not!  Anyway, solar events are important.  The days, the night, the tides …”
“Do you go out every month and howl at the full moon, too?” asks Linda maliciously.
“Only when he was younger,” repeats Joan.
“But our holidays are so artificial,” I protest.  “July 4, Labor Day, Valentines, Christmas …”
“Right,” Joan turns to Linda, “Exactly why we are here.  Time to start shopping for presents, isn’t it.”
“Right you are.”

They turn and march into the store, leaving me with my own inner contemplations and a nagging sense that maybe I am wrong after all.

Friday

  • Hot days linger a while, making thoughts of autumn more a concept than a reality.  The usual casual apparel remains shorts and T-shirts, cafes do
    a brisk business on the sidewalks, children queue up for ice cream.  More boats than normal stream through the waters on weekends, now that leisure mariners realize each warm sunny day is precious and will soon be unavailable for at least another half year.  Landscapes are green, birds sing, flowers continue to bloom.
  • Huntington is as lovely as anywhere else this time of year.  Parks are tranquil, beaches open to contemplation, busy sidewalks filled with shreds of global civilization.  I keep reminding myself that I have been privileged to live through and amazing and wonderful period of our world.  I continue to be awed by what still remains of nature, and also of what civilizations have built.  My years on Earth have been during a pretty amazing balancing act, and my main fear for the future (not so much mine as a half century or so from now) is that the balance will be lost and all I have enjoyed become either vanished or reserved for a privileged few.  But _ well I only have this moment _ and this moment, today, hot and beautiful is as miraculous as any I have ever experienced.

Saturday

  • Like most people, I suppose, I tend to consider where I live as “normal.”  So I expect longer days in summer, and shorter days in winter.  If I lived on the equator, I would find no daylight differences by season, although precipitation might vary greatly.  Near the poles the sun barely rises or sets at appropriate equinox.  That would seem strange at first, then I would adjust to the new normality, and wander happily along.
  • Yet even here at home, where I know changes are occurring each day, by minutes or clumps of minutes,  I fail to pay attention until some sudden jolt.  Perhaps I realize that I must turn on a light to read sooner, or that it is already dark when I put out the garbage.  Weeks go by, and all is the same, until suddenly it is not.  I am shocked, but soon fail to observe, once again, that such trends continue.
  • Probably I should remark that we are caught in this trap with climate change.  The temperature is changing, but gradually.  The storms are bigger, but only once in a while.  Suddenly, we will certainly notice weather and climate are not what they used to be.  I hope we adjust as well as we do to seasons.
  • Most of that lack of awareness is, of course, because we filter it out.  Daylight hardly matters when we can turn on lights any time, and too often our entire days are spent one way or another under artificial illumination.  We hardly care what may be happening around us because most of our basic needs are taken care of elsewhere, presumably with better weather for crops than the local fields.  We might never notice until there are few “elsewheres” left.
  • Only by making an effort to enjoy the outdoors do I ever retain a sense of place in the universe.  Being inside all the time has always been a personal torture.  I do not have to be outside for hours and hours each day, but a full hour is perhaps minimum.  And when I do so, I seek to embrace it with as little baggage as possible _ no electronic doodads to distract my meditations and observances.
  • So I see the sun rise a bit later, the shadows weave a bit more northernly, the sun sets magnificently much more to the left over the neighbor’s property.  I pay attention to equinox because it marks the big final turn when this area of Earth begins to radiate more heat back into space than it receives.  Cosmic consequences from gigantic events, while I scurry like any busy ant only paying attention to the trail I think I must follow.

Sunday

  • Cool air swept in with an overnight cold front, a tangible reminder that one season has gone, another takes its place.  Here at Caumsett park, fields are filled with drying brown annuals and masses of goldenrod, while butterflies and grasshoppers frolic about heedlessly.  Sighting a last lonely monarch butterfly has the bittersweet aura of encountering a lingering passenger pigeon.  
  • Heedless of warnings of ticks which effectively seem to frighten everyone else into staying on paved roads, I roam meadows and dappled forest dirt trails all alone.  Quiet mostly prevails, only an occasional airplane breaks into the rush of gentle breeze, rustling leaves, insect murmur.  High blue sky with accented white clouds seems artificial.  A few hours and I am refreshed in soul, tired in legs, happy in mind.  I ask myself why I do not do this more often, and myself replies there is no good answer. 

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