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By Lacey Gardner

In the Outdoors: Saturday’s equinox

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“…at that moment, everyone on earth had something existentially in common”

By Oak Duke

    For most, Saturday’s Equinox passed unnoticed.

    No fanfare.

    No parades, no announcements, and even with the scantest mention on social media.

    The Equinox passes in quiet, like a shadow.

    If we can raise our heads skyward, pulling our attention away from cyberspace in our phones and screen devices, there is really nothing there to see.

    No big moon.

    No eclipse.

    But a cataclysmic celestial event nonetheless.

    There are two equinoxes each year, one in the fall and one in the spring.

    The Autumnal Equinox, September 23, 2023 signified an amazing moment… when daylight and darkness became ever so briefly, the same amount of time… that would be 12 hours.

    The longer days of summer are behind us, and ever more rapidly now, our nights are becoming longer with quicker sunsets.

    Though we maybe haven’t noticed, wildlife is undergoing seismic shifts in response to these shortening days, longer nights, and cooling temperatures.

    Instead of fanfare and noise, the Autumnal Equinox comes with quiet, something that receives scant marketable value these days.

    If we put down our phones for a minute, get away from the TV and laptop, and just listen now, we may notice the change.

    Birds are no longer singing.

    Well, some still do.

    Our yearlong residents such as Blue jays still shriek and chortle, Crows still caw, and Ravens occasionally croak, while the ubiquitous Chick-a-dees, Tee-hee-hee.

    But gone are the robins singing in the morning.

    Gone are their cousins the Wood Thrush, the oboe players of the evenings of summer,

…and all the myriads of tiny tweets, the warblers.

    The shortening days signal that it’s time for these feathered migrants to pack their bags again, set their odometers, and head due south.

    If we are lucky, sometimes we briefly experience northern flocks heading through, a quick stop on the road south as far away as South America.

    But most are high flyers, and go over unnoticed…day and night, the exception of course is those noisy migrating Canada geese, some of which are actually Canadian geese.

    Every one being a Canada goose, but only a relative few in the honking, gabbling “V’s” overhead are from north of the Great Lakes, across the border, and therefore truly deserve the appellation of being “a Canadian.”

    Speaking of shadows, the Autumnal Equinox showed us the exact East and West coordinates, amazingly not just here…but everywhere in the world at sunrise and sunset.

    At the equinox, the sun rises precisely east and west.

    For the rest of the year, the sun does not rise exactly east and set exactly west as one may suppose.

    But of course, now with our GPS machines and devices, east and west and all directions are easily ascertained at our fingertips while walking with a handheld GPS, or driving with a big GPS screen built into the dashboard.

    Not much use for the antique directional finding devices…a handheld compass and a paper map to determine direction.

    Where are we in the world?

    Tough to figure if the Internet was down, reception poor, in a ‘black hole’ or the proverbial bane of our modern age…the battery went dead. 

    Historically, the Autumnal Equinox was considered by some ancient peoples, such as the pre-Christian European Druids as one of the most important dates of the year, signifying the beginning of the year.

    But for us modern folks, the September equinox, occurs on different days, from September 21 to September 24 because our calendar, the Gregorian calendar is an imprecise tool, (doesn’t line up with the exact number of days in a year) and needs to account for the “drift” of the equinoxes (spring and fall.)  

    “Drift” being especially important for Christians because the date of Easter each year changes, not set on a specific date like Christmas and Halloween, being determined as the first Sunday after the first Full moon after the Vernal Equinox.

    By looking up, we see that the sun and moon have regular changes, shifts that occur each year.

    And on this past Saturday night’s Autumnal Equinox…

at that moment, everyone on earth had something existentially in common.

    All beings on planet earth experienced precisely the same length of daylight and nighttime.

Oak Duke/Wellsville, NY/ September 2023

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