Autumn comes to us through the Middle English autumpne and the Old French autompne, thence the Latin autumnus, and the Latin likely derives from even older Etruscan forms - the first part of autumnus (autu) may come from the Etruscan autu, related to avil, or year. There may also be a connection with the old Venetic autu or autah, meaning much the same thing. The second part of autumnus (mnus) comes from menos meaning loss, minus, or passing. There we have it - the year is passing away.
At the end of our etymological adventure is the burnished notion that autumn, both word and the season, signifies the ebb of another calendar year in what I like to call simply, "the Great Round," the natural cycle of our days and seasons. September is about harvest and abundance, but it is about balance too.
The Autumn Equinox on September 21 is one of the two times in the year when day and night are perfectly balanced in length, the other being the Vernal Equinox on March 21. On that day, (also called known as Mabon or "Harvest Home"), the sun seems to pass over the equator on a long journey southward, moving steadily away from us. Things are actually the other way around though, and it is the earth and her unruly children who are in motion. Between the Midsummer Solstice (Litha) in late June and the Winter Solstice (Yule) on or about December 21, the planet's northern hemisphere tilts away from the radiant star at the center of its galaxy.
This week, early evening skies are lit by a waxing gibbous moon, but the hours before sunrise are without moonlight and the breathtaking constellations of winter are starting to appear, a veritable treasure trove of deep sky wonders and breathtaking beauty, a gift for stargazey types like me. Spencer and I stood in the garden this morning and watched Orion climbing higher into the southeastern sky, Sirius lower and beyond the giant's right foot. The Pleiades, Auriga's Messier clusters and Gemini's double star Castor were also visible. A tapestry of stars covered the sky from here to there, and when the sun peeked over the horizon, every roof in the village was dappled with dew. With mornings like these, how can one feel anything except rich and jubilant in spirit?
On our early walks, there are twigs, pine cones and needles everywhere, fallen leaves drifting around our ankles and making a fine rustling music. The earthbound foliage on our trail is going transparent and turning into stained glass in splendid buttery colors. We stop now and again to look at all the wonders around our feet, and it's a wonder we ever get anywhere at all.