According to Science, fall begins in the Northern Hemisphere on September 22, at 10:49 A.M. EDT.
Seriously. Not at 11:00 o'clock or even 10:50, but at 10:49 precisely.
Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, of course—even Science. But I think that autumn is a state of mind. It begins when I get the urge to whip up a pot of chili. Or to sip a mug of apple cider. Or maybe it starts the first morning I see Orion, or when the first clump of yellow leaves appears on the old maple tree.
Fall has a kind of wistfulness that suddenly overtakes me, and I feel like writing a poem or going for a drive with no destination in mind. The beginning of fall, for me, is impossible to predict. It just happens.
I have a friend who says that fall begins the first day you hear an airplane fly overhead and suddenly realize that the sound is no longer muffled by humidity in the air. I love that bit of folk weather-lore, although I’m pretty sure Science would tap its foot and scowl.
Science does that sometimes. For Science has its seasons, and the heart has its own.
The changing seasons are endlessly fascinating to me—partly because they tell a story. In fact, they tell the story at the heart of all myth, the story of the hero’s journey.
Every hero must set out on a journey (symbolically in spring) and face dangers/perils (summer). And finally he must confront the ultimate test. He must face death (winter). And in some sense, he must die, but then go through a resurrection into a new life.
In the seasons we have the seeming death of nature, as autumn leaves fall and many animals migrate or hibernate and the earth is buried beneath a silent shroud of snow. I can’t help but feel a sense of dread as winter approaches, even though I know the story well, and I know that spring will come again.
According to Science, the seasons are a random byproduct of the earth getting knocked a little crooked—so that the axis of rotation isn’t perpendicular to the plane of revolution around the sun. Yeah, whatever.
But I think the seasons are a message to the people of this planet. “Hang in there. No matter how dark or cold or gray your world may become, there will always be a spring. Never be afraid to hope. Never give up.”
We are the travelers on this journey, heroes in the making, facing our fears--not always by choice. And on this journey, we have only our friends, our faith, and messages of hope. Some of these messages were written on clay tablets by the ancients, some by a blogger in Indiana only yesterday. Some were written as fiction, some as poems. And some were written into the fabric of the universe.
I love Science. Our friendship goes back to my childhood. But sometimes Science and I just have to give each other some space.
So Science can hang around the lab and wait for autumn, while I go on a hayride or start shopping for the perfect pumpkin. Because I know fall is already here.