fall scene with pretty autumn leaves

Somehow, It Is … Fall? How?

Sounds fake but okay.
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It’s officially fall! Welcome autumn! Well, in the Northern hemisphere, at least. This seems strange because it’s been 2020 for seventeen years but also wasn’t March last week? If it’s fall that means we’ve been dealing with COVID for half a year and that also means 2020 is close to over and both of those things sound … impossible?

How is it fall? I know I’ve been drinking pumpkin spice for at least a month but, really, how? Well, according to all those fancy scientists and ancient astronomers and stuff, today is the beginning of astrological autumn because it’s the equinox. An equinox is a date when day and night are perfectly equal, right? Well … not exactly. It’s a bit more complicated and simple than that.

The official equinox occurs when the sun perfectly aligns with the Earth’s equator. Because the Earth is tilted on her axis, this only happens twice a year. It’s also the moment when the “terminator,” aka the line between day and night on the earth, is exactly lined up with the Earth’s poles. But the poles themselves are tilted so you can’t quite get “one foot in day” one foot in night.

Here’s a simple graphic:

It’s very cool to see the movement of the “terminator” displayed as well

So everyone on Earth has twelve hours of daylight and darkness today, right???

No! Because nothing makes sense time is an illusion trapping us in her boundless, all-consuming void!!!

Loki falling in Thor Ragnarok gif

Actually it’s a no because the earth is round and wobbly and tilted. So the whole “equal day and night” thing won’t happen at all points on the Earth today. I know, it’s strange, but just check it out. On the equator, in the city of Quito, Ecuador today, there will be officially 12 hours and 4 minutes of sunlight. Much further north, in Reykjavík, Iceland, they will get a longer day, 12 hours and 16 minutes.

Eventually though, in the next few days, everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere will make the flip from longer days to longer nights and the nights will continue to lengthen until the solstice. The wheel continues turning, no matter how wild and exhausting the world is.

And there’s a comfort to that, actually. No matter how bad things get, the seasons still change, the earth still turns and time marches on. For many faiths, both ancient and current, the equinoxes are a time to reflect on balance but also on change. The spring equinox was about coming out of darkness into a new season and see what happened … and yeah, the bad things that have happened and been cultivated and grown since then aren’t great. So this is a time when people are meant to channel their inner Kylo Ren and let that past die (I will kill it if I must). Only try not to blow up any star systems while you’re at it.

The fall equinox is also about harvest. It’s about endings and death. It was a time when ancient cultures celebrated the temporary deaths of certain gods and goddesses as they descended into the underworld and we can learn from that. This time, the fall, can be when we focus on letting the stuff that’s been terrible this year (looking at you, COVID) end and die, but it can also be when we harvest the important things we’ve been growing all summer. We can reap everything that’s grown from a summer of protest, rage, and suffering for real change. We can look into the darkness as so many of our ancestors did, and see hope for survival through the winter.

The thing about the seasons, and time, is that they don’t stop for us. And they remind us that even a day of perfect celestial balance is temporary. But they also remind us that while the darkness always comes back, so does the light.

(image: Pexels)

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Author
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Jessica Mason
Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.