The official first day of autumn was Thursday, September 22nd this year. The official first moment being 10:21 AM local, and believe it or not, I am not making that up. Determined by how the Earth orbits the sun and the tilt of it’s axis, this was the exact moment of this year’s autumnal equinox, the sun’s crossing of the celestial equator. On this day the tilt of the planet’s axis is perpendicular to the sun’s rays and day and night are nearly exactly twelve hours each everywhere in the world.
There are several other, less astronomical, points that people use to mark the passing of summer into fall. For many it’s the celebration of Labor Day, the last three day weekend of the year and often the last picnics and barbeques before the air turns cold. School age parents might say it’s that hectic first morning back and the stress of trying to get everybody ready and out the door in time, laden down with bagged lunches and shiny new backpacks. For sports fans it could be the first full weekend of football, either college or professional, or that last trip of the year to the ballpark for a baseball game.
For the past several years summer for us has meant trying to get as much time poolside as our New England weather will allow. Some of this time is spent reading and sipping margaritas, much more spent scooping out leaves and watching over a five year old who is quite possibly already a stronger swimmer than I am, but still has some work to do before becoming the mermaid that she sometimes seems to believe herself to be.
For me the true end of summer comes around the last weekend of September, sometimes even into the the first week of October. Weeks after most reasonable people have started storing away their shorts and swimwear my wife and I can still be found shivering in our backyard, stubbornly trying to take advantage of every ray of sunshine and days now free of calls to “watch this!”
The end of summer is an admission of defeat, a time when reality must be faced and cooler temperatures acknowledged. It means putting on snow pants, duct taping the ankles tight, and jumping into arctic waters to remove as much residual debris as possible before covering the pool and completely losing most lower extremity sensation.
No matter what day is chosen, whether based on scientific, societal, or personal preference, the end of summer is a melancholy time, a time of dark mornings, grey skies, and long nights. For myself, it’s also a time of trying to raise my core temperature back up to a safe level.