The Autumnal Equinox
In 2014, the Autumnal Equinox for the northern hemisphere begins on September 22 at 10:29 P.M. EDT. (September 23 1:30 am PST)
The word equinox comes from the Latin words for “equal night.” The fall and spring equinoxes are the only days of the year in which the Sun crosses the celestial equator. For us that means as autumn progresses temperatures begin to decline, the daylight begins to wane and the hours of darkness wax around us. This seasonal change happens because of Earth’s 23.5-degree tilt. The fall and winter seasons happen at those latitudes when the Northern Hemisphere is tilted away from the sun. It also means warm sweaters, crackling fires, hot apple cider and pumpkin pie!
Before the 16th century, harvest was the term usually used to refer to the season. However, as more people gradually moved from working the land to living in towns, the word harvest lost its reference to the time of year and came to refer only to the actual activity of harvesting a crop, and autumn, as well as fall, began to replace it as a reference to the season. Here in Culver, farmers have indeed been harvesting hay and alfalfa.
Unlike other parts of the country, Central Oregon doesn’t have the explosion of color from deciduous trees in the fall. Here we have to look for pockets of golden aspen or cottonwood. Oregon Grape leaves change to crimson and dogwood stems turn a deep reddish-purple; while deer and songbirds feast on the last red currents, blue Juniper berries and bright orange rose hips of the season. It’s almost as fun as a treasure hunt!
“I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air.”
– Nathaniel Hawthorne