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Equinox sunset

The fall Equinox sunset beams across a stone circle at the home of Maeve Sowles and Dick Lamster in a photo by Alanna Sowles.  Four times a year, as our earth travels around the sun, humans have for eons taken note of the changes that occur in our daylight hours. This phenomenon affects our lives in ways that we cannot change…the seasons and length of daylight hours. In September, during the autumnal equinox, the sun shines directly on the equator, and the northern and southern hemispheres get the same amount of solar rays.

This year in 2022 it occurs on Thursday, September 22 at 6:03 pm Pacific time. The autumnal equinox is an astronomical event that marks the start of autumn (or fall). During an equinox, the sun crosses what we call the celestial equator—an imaginary extension of earth’s equator line into space. The equinox occurs precisely when the sun’s center passes through this line. The word equinox comes from Latin aequus, meaning equal, and nox, night. On the equinox, day and night are roughly equal in length.

After the autumnal equinox, days become shorter than nights as the sun continues to rise later and nightfall arrives earlier. From earth, one can notice the arc of the sun across the sky each day as it starts shifting south. This change is noticed by animals and plants as well, prompting birds and butterflies to migrate along with the path of our sun! The changing path of the sun begins bringing cooler temperatures, which affect all living things.

I have a garden and an orchard, so I pay attention to these events and feel connected to the cycles of our planet. They remind me that as a humans we are not in control of these cosmic forces. As harvest time nears, I feel a sense of gratitude for what the garden and orchard provide. It is an ancient connection that all humans have celebrated since our time on earth began.

Some ways to celebrate the autumnal equinox in 2022 might be to make a gratitude list as a reminder of our good fortune. Visit a local farm or go to a harvest festival to share in the local bounty of the Willamette Valley harvest. Prepare a fall harvest celebration meal using these locally grown products and share with your friends and neighbors.

Add some earth-friendly items to your list, such as:

— Clean out bird boxes used by nesting birds during the breeding season. Some birds will roost in them over winter and will be warm and safe in the clean box! We have a Downy Woodpecker that uses a box for roosting on our property regularly!

— When tidying up your home garden, be sure to leave some overwintering habitat for pollinators, such as butterflies and bees! One of my favorite ways to help the beneficial insects is by leaving fallen leaves to decompose. This brings valuable nutrients to the soil, provides a habitat for lots of valuable insect species over the winter months, and acts as natural mulch. It also protects the soil from compacting during rains. We rake the leaves and move them to garden locations where they can overwinter.

— And celebrate! Join Lane Audubon at our Vaux’s Swift event to bid farewell to this group of migrants who will be heading south for the winter! It’s that time of year!