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September & The Autumnal Equinox

Monarch butterfly on goldenrod
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Northeast Region
Marked with Public Domain Mark 1.0.
Monarch butterfly on goldenrod

Try to remember the kind of September
When life was slow and oh, so mellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When grass was green and grain was yellow.

Can you remember that '60s song, "Try to Remember" by The Brothers Four? It seems that every September I play it more frequently.

When the calendar turns to September, we know that another school year has begun, it is Friday night football at the high school, and the smell and feel of fall is in the air.

But if we take the time to look around, the natural world has been telling us that September is upon us: The goldenrods are in full bloom, as are the fall asters. The songbirds are flocking up, and flocks of geese can be heard overhead. The evenings are getting cooler, and the days are getting shorter.

Autumnal Equinox

The autumnal equinox is coming up next Saturday, September 23. That's when the sun will be directly over the equator, which will not happen again until the spring equinox next March.

You may have noticed that the sun has been arcing further southward in the sky since the summer solstice back in June. It will continue to arc further southward until the winter solstice in December before it begins to move northward again.

On the spring and fall equinoxes, the daytime and nighttime are of about equal length. As most everyone knows, the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice, will occur on or around December 21. The days then begin to lengthen through the spring equinox around March 21 until the longest day of the year in June.

Equinox Celebrations

The equinoxes and solstices were major events in early cultures. Festivities marking them were held in most if not all cultures around the globe, and monuments such as Stonehenge, Chicken Itza, and Newgrange were constructed to document the equinoxes and solstices.

Mystical Horizons on the west end of Turtle Mountain and the Medicine Wheel in Valley City are modern day structures that mark the seasons.

Give some consideration to celebrating the equinox at one of those locations around sundown. If that is not feasible, consider creating your own celebration.

Further Reading

Chuck Lura has a broad knowledge of "Natural North Dakota"and loves sharing that knowledge with others. Since 2005, Chuck has written a weekly column, “Naturalist at Large,” for the Lake Metigoshe Mirror, and his “The Naturalist” columns appear in several other weekly North Dakota newspapers.
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