“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” — Albert Camus
For a species whose existence is so often mired in life’s chaos, it’s no wonder we laud those rarified moments of balance. Through innocent childhood and oftentimes into confusing adolescence, our parents generally do much of the work necessary to maintain that balance for us. However, soon enough adulthood marches in and kidnaps us into an increasingly more complex world.
For a time we are indeed swept up by the waves of a “new reality,” and have neither the tools nor the experience yet to handle this sudden surge. Upended by life’s new demands upon us, we try to find our feet in the rushing current of schedules, commitments, and deadlines. With time, perhaps some guidance, we start to see the patterns that dwell within this chaos, as if charting anew the tides of the ocean or the seemingly random movements of the stars.
One of Nature’s patterns is in the solstice and equinox. In our all-too-well-known climate here, we eagerly anticipate summer’s arrival, a brilliant but exceptionally short season. The summer solstice, however, we tend to mark as a mere formality. It is but a point on the calendar against which we measure summer’s reality versus our expectations of it. By the time of the winter solstice, six months later, we’ve stopped caring entirely! We’ve been huddled for some time already against the early darkness and the cold temperatures, both quite well established. It’s simply too depressing and uncomfortable to acknowledge, let alone celebrate, that winter has only now officially just arrived.
Then comes wondrous equinox. During our annual orbit through darkened space, flying around the Sun on an invisible tow line of gravity, our planet twice finds a particular point of “balance”. During an equinox, the Earth’s North and South poles no longer tilt toward or away from the Sun. Equinoxes are exact opposites on either side of the equator – in the Northern Hemisphere an autumn equinox, while in the Southern Hemisphere a spring equinox, and vice versa. In each, day and night fall into perfect balance, as the duration of daylight is the same at all points on the Earth’s surface.
It is interesting that, whether spring or autumn, the equinox is seen as a time of renewal, a fresh start. In spring, we happily shed winter’s ravage, turning our faces to a brighter sun and new green buds of life. Yet in autumn, even as we bid a reluctant farewell to summer, the equinox gives us a new perspective as well. It is another and perhaps the most vivid display, in the flaming colors of fall, of relinquishing what once was. We must again turn the page on a new chapter of ourselves, discarding that which is done and stepping forward better prepared for what fresh imbalances may lie ahead on the journey.