As a modern-day American I’ve grown up thinking autumn starts in late September. But as someone who loves the change of the seasons and relishes their changing signs, I’ve noticed that by the time we officially start a season, it’s well underway. Think about it — Christmas starts only days into wintertime. It’s practically an autumn holiday.
We won’t fire the starting gun for fall for nearly another two months, but here in WNC green leaves have turned yellow and pink (take a look outside), the fruits of harvest are here, spiders are spinning their webs, days are getting shorter, and on unseasonably cool days when my eyes catch a turned leaf or a silvery spiderweb, I feel it — a pang, a rush, a ghost-presence of fall. For a moment, fall is all here. Halloween, woodsmoke, those celestial blue skies! Pumpkin carving, corn maze. Cool golden days and bonfires. Nights of chill, mornings of fog, green mountains turning red and rust under a faltering sun.
Summer has a hold on the body, but o Autumn, you have a hold on the heart.
When I finally read on astronomer Phil Plait’s website that other societies celebrate the arrival of fall on August 1 (and winter in September, spring in February), I felt strangely vindicated. Someone else had noticed that there was a different way to lay out the seasons, and start them when they started to appear, when they were new, not when they were in full effect.
So when does fall start? Take your pick. Late September, or today.
As I like to say at this time of the year: autumn is here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet.