Posted by: justawriter | September 23, 2009

Far Afield – For every season there is a purpose

As I write this it is the last day of summer and the first day of fall. At about 3:18 in the afternoon Tuesday the sun crossed an invisible line in the sky, like a snowbird, on its journey south for the winter.
That line is corresponds to the equator. When the sun is north of that line, we enjoy spring and summer. As it journeys south, we have fall and winter. It is an ebb and flow that has existed for as long as there has been an earth.
I’ve read that the seasons travel about 16 miles a day on they perpetual journey north and south. Starting at the equator in March, spring creeps north followed by summer in June. As our slightly cockeyed planet continues to swirl around the sun, fall vanquishes the midnight sun at the North Pole and begins its relentless march back to the equator followed by Old Man Winter nipping at its heels.
Of course, our seasons don’t line up perfectly with the sun. Growing up on the farm I always marked the beginning of fall as the first day Dad started swathing barley. That was usually some time around July 20. And anyone who actually thinks winter is limited to Dec. 22 to March 20 definitely doesn’t live in North Dakota. Of course, any child will tell you the first day of summer doesn’t have anything to do with the location of the sun but starts when that last schoolbook is closed and pencil is put down.
Of course, the seasons are actually caused because the earth is a little off center. Rather than pointing straight up and down with respect to our orbit around the sun, our north-south axis is off by about 23 degrees. In the summer, that tilt is toward the sun and we bask in its warm glow. During winter, we are pointed away from the sun and chill winds and long nights are the result. But spring and fall, like baby bear’s bed, we are just right. We line up with the sun directly overhead at noon and the whole world gets exactly a half day of sunshine. That day of equal sun is why Tuesday is known as the equinox.
Somehow, the division between summer and fall this year seems more appropriate than usual. This past weekend saw a last wave of heat and humidity that felt an awful lot like high summer. The cold front that came through Monday brought a chilly fall rain and today dawned with that crisp taste in the air and that unmistakable quality of light that makes fall a delight for the senses.
Fall is a time of transitions. I thought it was appropriate that Mary Travers, of Peter, Paul and Mary would finally lose her courageous battle with cancer as summer was ending. While it was The Byrds who had a hit with Pete Seeger’s song “Turn, Turn, Turn,” I always loved PP&M’s version. The song was taken from the Bible, from the Book of Ecclesiastes.
The line “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;” always seemed to be the most appropriate one for fall. Fall is a time of celebrating the bounty that the earth has provided. In good years, the bins would be bursting with grain, produce from gardens would be canned and put away, and the livestock would be heavy from grazing on lush pastures. It is a time to put down the shovel and plow and celebrate all the good things provided by the earth and hard work.
But with celebration comes commemoration. We look back at past harvests and celebrations and remember the people who celebrated with us in the past and are no longer with us. In the good years we can smile at the memories and think, “They would have loved this.” We laugh and dance because they would have wanted us to laugh and dance.



  1. thanks for sharing your stories about the changes of the season. appreciate them and your memories of Mary.


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