Driving to school each morning, there is observable evidence that the process of the shortening and the lengthening moves much more quickly around the times of the equinoxes. At the moment about four minutes of daylight are being lost on a daily basis. The process of the shortening of days slows as the weeks pass, and comes to a virtual halt around the time of the winter solstice when the variation over successive days is no more than a few seconds. The solstice comes and the days turn and gradual momentum develops in the other direction as the spring and summer approach.
Perhaps the acknowledgement of the effects of the present tilt of the Earth is as important as someone coming in off a rain-swept street and complaining, “It’s very wet out there.” Perhaps our perception of reality depends, in part, on it being verified by others. If it was not declared “very wet” by someone else, we might not be inclined to trust our own assessment, thinking, perhaps, that our view might be exaggerated.
Those observing the shortening of the days will become buoyant in the new year for seasons are as much about emotions as about the hour of sunrise and sunset. Autumn sometimes seems the season most closely aligned with mood. It’s not just about September, October and November, it’s not just about the thirteen weeks from the autumnal equinox to the winter solstice. Autumn is not so much a season, it’s more a state of mind, as Tom Stoppard’s Guildenstern puts it:
Autumnal-nothing to do with leaves. It is to do with a certain brownness at the edges of the day… Brown is creeping up on us, take my word for it… Russets and tangerine shades of old gold flushing the very outside edge of the senses… deep shining ochres, burnt umber and parchments of baked earth-reflecting on itself and through itself, filtering the light. At such times, perhaps, coincidentally, the leaves might fall, somewhere, by repute. Yesterday was blue, like smoke.
A brownness at the edge of the day? Yesterday was blue, like smoke?
Guildenstern would have found days that were autumnal throughout the year, but if there are autumnal days in the spring and summer, then might there not be spring and summer days in the autumn? Might there not be buoyancy in November? Might the hope of longer days permeate the present season?