Friday, September 15, 2023

Friday Ramble - Autumn

This week's word comes to us through the Middle English autumpne and the Old French autompne, thence the Latin autumnus. The Latin form may hail from even older Etruscan forms, the first part of autumnus (autu) originating in the Etruscan root autu or avil meaning year, and the second part (mnus) from menos meaning loss, minus, or passing. There we have it. At the end of our wordy adventure is the burnished but wistful thought that another year is ebbing. Another circling in what I like to call simply, "the Great Round," the natural cycle of our existence, is drawing to a close.

September is about harvest and abundance, but it is about balance too. The Autumn Equinox in late September is one of the two times in a calendar year when day and night are balanced in length. The day is most often celebrated on September 21st, but this year the astronomical coordinate for the event falls on September 23rd. At that time, (also called Mabon or "Harvest Home"), the sun seems to pass over the equator on a journey southward, moving steadily away from us who live above the 49th parallel. Things are actually the other way around of course, and it is the earth and her unruly children who are in motion. Between the Midsummer Solstice and the Winter Solstice, our planet's northern hemisphere tilts away from the radiant star at its center, and we, hardy and indomitable northerners that we are, go along for the ride.

The magnificent constellations of winter are starting to appear, and the dome of night is a treasure trove of deep sky wonders, a gift for stargazey types like this Old Thing. Late last night, a tapestry of stars covered the sky from here to there, and Jupiter and Saturn dazzled in the velvety southern sky, borrowing light from the sun and acting for all the world as if they were stars, not planets. Perhaps I should do the same thing?

This morning, Beau and I were out in the garden before sunrise, and it was cool. Orion, our favorite autumn constellation, was clearly visible in the south. Sirius, brightest of all stars, twinkled below and slightly beyond the hunter's right foot, and the red giant Alderbaran danced over his left shoulder. When the sun rose, the stars vanished and every roof in the village was sewn with sequins of dew. With mornings like this, can one feel anything except rich as Croesus and jubilant in spirit?

On early walks, falling leaves drift around our ankles and make a fine rustling music. Earthbound foliage on the trail is going transparent and turning into stained glass in splendid buttery colors. We pause to look at all the wonders around our feet, and it's a wonder to the heavens we ever get anywhere at all. When I stopped to look at a leaf in our path this morning, Beau looked up at me curiously. I started to say that I was looking for a perfect leaf, then stopped and started the sentence over again. Pristine, unblemished and golden, or faded, tattered and torn, every single autumn leaf is perfect, just as it is.