Equinoctal Musings

According to the cosmic clock, I must have experienced the fall equinox about the time that I checked into the Trade Winds Motel in Valentine, Nebraska, last Wednesday evening.

The next day I would be driving through miles of the Sandhills, the climax prairie ecosystem, homeward bound from the annual North Dakota sharptail grouse hunt.

From a ritual perspective, I am never quite sure what to do about the equinox. Years ago, a member of our coven suggested that the quarter days (equinoxes, solstices) were “outer” while the cross-quarter days were “inner.”

In other words, you do magic at Samhain and party at Yule. (Of course, Samhain, which falls this year the evening of November 6 in North America, has its “outer” companion, Hallowe’en.)

So, “outer.” It could be a harvest celebration. We are cleaning out the garden ahead of the first frost. Wednesday is the last pickup at our community-supported agriculture farm. We had a brief but intense mushroom harvest in August—now the greenhouse is full of drying tomatoes.

A friend posted on Facebook that the equinox made him ready to go elk hunting. I get it. But it is on Samhain that I have more than once stood shivering and watching at the edge of an aspen grove as the sun sinks away.

Home thirty-six hours after the equinox, I took the dogs for their morning walk. A Townsend’s solitaire was calling in the woods, its winter call, just one note whistled slowly again and again.

When I heard that winter call, I felt as though the gears of the cosmos had just gone “clunk.” Something had changed. And maybe that is the equinox’s outer manifestation.

One thought on “Equinoctal Musings

  1. Birds are so often the harbingers of the changing seasons. Any day now the English sparrows that feed on weed seeds in my driveway will be joined by slate-colored juncos, and I will know autumn is underway.

    BTW, and off-topic, the Trade Winds is HQ for our annual Niobrara River kayak trip.

    Hope you had a good hunt.

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