September is an in-between-the-seasons month at Topsmead. Summer is attempting to hang on, but the raspy cricket sounds that fill the nighttime hours are already announcing Autumn’s intention to be here soon. According to New England Today magazine, “Cricket music is to September what peeper music is to April and May — an unequivocal sign of the times.”
Autumn’s tangy scent of earth and dried leaves is taking the place of the fresh floral scent of summer. The full hi-wattage color of the summer flowers in the carefully tended north and south gardens at each end of Miss Edith’s house and the butterfly garden’s come-hither blossoms that been attracting pollinators all summer are fading. The duskier Autumn colors of yellow goldenrod, bronze autumn sedum, and white asters are making their appearance.
The hardwood trees along the boundaries of the Topsmead fields are doing their best to hang on to their bright summer green, but the reds of the swamp maples and the yellows of birch and aspen trees are beginning to assert themselves. The ground along the dirt road leading out to Miss Edith’s four corners and beyond is becoming littered with crinkly brown leaves that have let go before they had the chance to change color.
All summer long, Helios, the Sun god of Greek mythology, has been driving his chariot drawn by four white horses across the sky on his long daylight journeys. But now his daily trips are getting shorter and shorter. His starting and ending locations of sunrise and sunset are getting closer and closer to each other, and the arc of his journey across the sky is getting lower and lower as the calendar approaches the autumnal equinox.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac says, “At the autumnal equinox, day and night are approximately equal in length. The term equinox comes from the Latin word aequus, meaning equal, and nox, meaning night.” So Helios and his horses will get a full 12 hours of rest before they have to start on their next day’s journey across the sky. And as winter approaches, they will get more and more rest as the days continue to shorten. This year, the autumnal equinox will arrive on Wednesday, September 22, at 3:20pm eastern time.
The moon that occurs nearest to the autumnal equinox is always called the Harvest Moon. Why is that? Well The Old Farmer’s Almanac says, “Surprise, surprise: it has to do with farming! Around the fall equinox, the full Moon rises around sunset for several nights in a row, which traditionally provided farmers with just enough extra light for them to finish their harvests before the killing frosts of fall set in. Normally, the Moon rises about an hour later each night, but around the time of the fall equinox, the angle of the Moon’s orbit and the tilt of the Earth line up just right and cause the Moon to rise only about 20 to 30 minutes later each night for several nights in a row!” You can bet that Miss Edith’s farming crew was out taking advantage of every bit of light to finish bringing in the harvest. And who knows, maybe some of our local hay farmers will be out taking advantage of this week’s Harvest Moon to bring in their harvests.