Autumnal equinox: a different kind of twilight

Fall officially arrives Sept. 22. Weren't we just celebrating the Fourth of July?

There's something in the air: an unmistakable scent of burning wood at night; in the mornings, a cold wind blows through my open bedroom window, shuddering me awake, serving far better than any alarm clock.

Here in Colorado, the aspens in the nearby mountains are just beginning to turn yellow, giving some slopes a five o'clock shadow; when it rains these days, there's a chance that it might be snowing in the higher elevations above 10,000 feet.

We've reached that time of year again – whether we like it or not.

It's the twilight of the changing seasons, that gray area in between summer and fall where anything goes as far as weather is concerned. It's a sort of purgatory. Nothing is for certain. The verdict is out; nature is in the midst of deliberating.

The recent spikes and drops in temperatures have me confused: I'm wiping my brow by midday, reaching for my jacket by sunset, huddling under down blankets by midnight.

If the month of March comes in like a lion it will go out like a lamb. It's a proverb we were all taught in grade school. In the town of Punxsutawney, Pa., folks have a groundhog to help predict the approaching spring.

Yet we've got no gauge on when fall will actually make landfall and the manner in which its presence will be felt.

But as sure as night follows day and morning midnight, it's coming, if not already here.

And despite all this, there are people still out there who are in major denial and clinging to the summer. They're living in the past.

Yes, technically it is still summer. And mathematically, yes, the Chicago Cubs still have a shot at the National League Wild Card. But you get the point.

Summer went out the window a long time ago, right around Labor Day.

Get rid of the Crocs. Pull out the sweaters. Here comes the equinox, Sept. 22, when sadly enough, day succumbs to night. The very next day will be shorter than the night.

Hey, sun. Sit. Please stay. Rather: Earth, sit and stay. Do as we say. Stop dead in the tracks of your orbit for just a few more days, eh? After all, weren't we just celebrating the Fourth of July and looking far and wide ... for the sunscreen?

Weren't we just watching baseball's All-Star game and planning all-American, cross-country road trips to national parks like Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore?

But all that's history, my friends. We embrace the inevitable, the imminent, something we've been doing for years. We're snakes shedding our skins. We're bears looking for caves to hibernate in.

We begin the process of hunkering down. We turn on the television to football and a new prime-time season. We're overcome with occasional bouts of inspiration – to write, eat, exercise, venture out into the cool air.

There's an extra, inexplicable spring in our step that can only be traced to the cooler weather.

No question that we like it now, but we know deep down where it's leading. The prospect of falling leaves only leads to barren trees and harsher weather ahead. Soon, we'll be turning back the clocks and it'll be dark even before we leave the office.

Buckle up, my friends. The old adage is still true: "Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it."

Tom Ragan is a freelance writer and former daily newspaper reporter.

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