The Autumnal Equinox is officially the first day of Fall, but such hard demarcations have little relevance in the natural world. The temperatures always lag behind the changes in angle and duration of sunlight that create the differences in season to our tilted Earth. For months the Georgia air grew more oppressively hot even though the sun has been easing southward since late June. For the past month or so, I’ve watched as the daily temperatures crept down; highs solidly in the 90s have given way to the 70s. Warm evenings, thick and heavy with moisture and the distant rumble of thunder make me feel sluggish, and ready to shelter in a climate controlled room. But tonight is pleasantly cool, and I think we are safely done with summer temperatures. A scattering of trees are showing their colors, but it will be late October or so before the wave of reds and yellows that has already begun north of the border will sweep into Georgia. The changing of the seasons, and the turning of the leaves, is more abrupt and decisive around Athens than it was in Waynesboro; mark it down to a difference of 70 miles of latitude and 400 feet of elevation. My seasons are muted and indistinct by comparison to, say, New England, with their long summer days, long winter nights, and winters as brutally cold as ours are brutally hot.
Of course, as we look towards shorter days, the inhabitants of the Southern Hemisphere have had their first official day of Spring as their days lengthen. People in their temperate zones are enjoying the warming air and breaking buds as we did 6 months previously.
Spring is nice. but Fall is my favorite season, and the promise whispered on every cool puff of air whets the anticipation.