Tonight we celebrate the fall equinox which rolled through the Northstate at 2:19 pm today.  This is the fourth Ecotopia that we have dedicated to the changing of the seasons, and that reminded us that this edition of Ecotopia is #52—so we’re celebrating a year on KZFR community radio as well as one spin of the earth about the sun.

We begin our celebration of fall with a poem by  Emily Dickinson, “Nature XXVII, Autumn”:

The morns are meeker than they were

The nuts are getting brown;

The berry’s cheek is plumper,

The rose is out of town.

The maple wears a gayer scarf,

The field a scarlet gown.

Lest I should be old-fashioned,

I’ll put a trinket on.

So just what is the autumn equinox?  Here’s the technical and scientific skinny from Time and Date. Com

The September equinox occurs at 21:19 […]Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) on September 22, 2009 [which translated to 2:19 pm today Northstate Time]. It is also referred to as the autumnal or fall equinox in the northern hemisphere, [and] as the spring or vernal equinox in the southern hemisphere […].

[Regardless of which hemisphere you find yourself in, the September Equinox occurs when] The sun crosses the celestial equator . . . ]. The location on the earth where the sun is directly overhead at solar noon is known as the subsolar point. [. . . .]This is the time when many people believe that the earth experiences 12 hours of day and night. However, this is not exactly the case.

It is important to note that day and night during the September equinox is not exactly equal length. During the time of the September and March equinoxes many regions around the equator have a daylight length of about 12 hours and six-and-a-half minutes. Moreover, the day is slightly longer in places that are further away from the equator and the sun takes longer to rise and set in these locations.

[September solstice dates also jump around on the calendar, coming as early as the 21st and as late as the 24th.]

[…] The varying dates of the equinox are mainly due to the […] Gregorian calendar, which has 365 days in a year, [while the “true” or topical year]  is approximately 365.242199 days, but varies from year to year because of the influence of other planets.   The exact orbital and daily rotational motion of the Earth, such as the “wobble” in the earth’s axis (precession), also contributes to the changing solstice dates.

Of course, such observations are largely Earth-Centric and based on the narcissistic assumption that we humans are the absolute center of the solar system. Since the earth travels around the sun, the sun doesn’t actually “rise” or “set” at all.  Nor in the grand scheme of the solar system and the universe does the sun actually “cross” the equator, even though it might seem to from the perspective of earthlings.

Here’s an autumn poem by Robert Frost, “Gathering Leaves.”

Spades take up leaves

No better than spoons,

And bags full of leaves

Are light as balloons.

I make a great noise

Of rustling all day

Like rabbit and deer

Running away.

But the mountains I raise

Elude my embrace,

Flowing over my arms

And into my face.

I may load and unload

Again and again

Till I fill the whole shed,

And what have I then?

Next to nothing for weight,

And since they grew duller

From contact with earth,

Next to nothing for color.

Next to nothing for use.

But a crop is a crop,

And who’s to say where

The harvest shall stop?

Here is  “Autumn,”by Alice Cary

Shorter and shorter now the twilight clips

The days, as though the sunset gates they crows,

And Summer from her golden collar slips

And strays through stubble-fields, and moans aloud,

Save when by fits the warmer air deceives,

And, stealing hopeful to some sheltered bower,

She lies on pillows of the yellow leaves,

And tries the old tunes over for an hour.

The wind, whose tender whisper in the May

Set all the young blooms listening through th’ grove,

Sits rustling in the faded boughs to-day

And makes his cold and unsuccessful love.

The rose has taken off her tire of red—

The mullein-stalk its yellow stars have lost,

And the proud meadow-pink hangs down her head

Against earth’s chilly bosom, witched with frost.

The robin, that was   busy all the June,

Before the sun had kissed the topmost bough,

Catching our hearts up in his golden tune,

Has given place to the brown cricket now.

The very cock crows lonesomely at morn—

Each flag and fern the shrinking stream divides—

Uneasy cattle low, and lambs forlorn

Creep to their strawy sheds with nettled sides.

Shut up the door: who loves me must not look

Upon the withered world, but haste to bring

His lighted candle, and his story-book,

And live with me the poetry of Spring.

Earlier in the show, we poked fun at the human tendency to see ourselves as being at the center of the solar system, even if we know better. Actually,we have always been amazed at the observations and speculations of astronomers across the milennia. Whether they believed in an earth-centered or sun-centered system, they were incredibly perceptive in observing the apparent movement of the stars:

[The] Greek astronomer and mathematician [,…] Hipparchus, [who lived approximately 190 to120, Before Common Era, is generally credited for]  discovering the precession of the equinoxes, the slow movement among the stars of the two opposite places where the sun crosses the celestial equator. Hipparchus made observations of the equinox and solstice. Astronomers use the spring equinoctial point to define their frame of reference, and the movement of this point implies that the measured position of a star varies with the date of measurement. Hipparchus also compiled a star catalogue, but this has been lost.

The word “equinox” derives from the Latin words meaning “equal night” and refers to the time when the sun crosses the equator. […]The September equinox has been used as a reference point in many calendars in the past, including the French Revolutionary Calendar. Although very little is known about the ancient Macedonian calendar, some believe that the first month began after the atumnal equinox.

That, and other information about constructs of time, date, and seasons are available on line at timeanddate-dot-com. [There you can]

calculate the approximate time and date (according to Coordinated Universal Time) of the March equinox, as well as the June and December solstices and the September equinox.  [You can also] Find out more [using a] Seasons Calculator and links to useful tools, such as the Day and Night World Map, Moon Calculator, Moon Phase Calculator, and Sunrise Calculator.  [And timeanddate dot com has a] World Clock [that] can … be used to find sunrise and sunset times, as well as the current position of the sun in major cities around the world.

Here is “Autumn Fires,” by Robert Louis Stevenson

In the other gardens

And all up the vale,

From the autumn bonfires

See the smoke trail!

Pleasant summer over

And all the summer flowers,

The red fire blazes,

The grey smoke towers.

Sing a song of seasons!

Something bright in all!

Flowers in the summer,

Fires in the fall!

As you can imagine, the equinoxes have linked to many myths, legends, superstitions, festivals, and observations over time.  Here are just a few noted by Time and Date.Com and by Religious Tolerance dot Org  []

For example:

According to Jewish superstition, when Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac at the autumnal equinox, and blood appeared on his knife. Another superstition relating to the four Tekufot, which refers to the equinoxes and solstices, is that during the September equinox a mysterious precipitation poisoned all water, which was not be drawn or drunk.

In Greek mythology autumn begins as the goddess Persephone returns to the underworld to live with her husband Hades. It has also been believed that magically it was a good time to enact rituals for protection and security as well as reflect on successes or failures from the previous months. Animals associated with the autumnal equinox in the northern hemisphere are dogs, wolves and birds of prey. Mythical creatures associated with this time of the year include gnomes, minotaurs and the sphinx.

Higan, or Higan-e, is a week of Buddhist services observed in Japan during both the September and March equinoxes when day and night are equal at length. Both equinoxes have been national holidays since the Meiji period (1868-1912). Before World War II, they were known as koreisai, or festivals of the Imperial ancestors. After the war, when the national holidays were renamed, they became simply spring and autumn equinoxes. Higan means the “other shore” and refers to the spirits of the dead reaching Nirvana after crossing the river of existence. It celebrates the spiritual move from the world of suffering to the world of enlightenment and is a time to remember the dead by visiting, cleaning and decorating their graves and reciting sutras. Buddhist prayers, rice balls and sushi are offered. It is a time for the Japanese to worship their imperial ancestors.

The Christian church replaced many early pagan equinox celebrations with Christianized observances over the years. For example, Michaelmas (also known as the Feast of Michael and All Angels), on September 29, fell near the September equinox because it was associated with the beginning of autumn. During the middle ages it was celebrated as a holy day of obligation but the tradition waned in the 18th century. It is still celebrated in some places as the “festival of strong will” during the autumnal equinox.

Neopaganism is a group of [contemporary] religions which are attempted re-creations of ancient Pagan religions. Of these, Wicca is the most popular; it is loosely based on ancient Celtic beliefs, symbols and practices, with the addition of some more recent Masonic and ceremonial magic rituals. [While] Monotheistic religions, like Judaism, Christianity and Islam, tend to view time as linear [, starting] with creation–the world as we know it [and ending] at some time in the future, Aboriginal and Neopagan religions see time as circular and repetitive, with lunar (monthly) and solar (yearly) cycles. Their “…rituals guarantee the continuity of nature’s cycles, which traditional human societies depend on for their sustenance.”  For example, among the Neopagans, Wiccans  recognize eight seasonal days of celebration. Four are minor sabbats and occur at the two solstices and the two equinoxes. The other are major sabbats which happen approximately halfway between an equinox and solstice. Wiccans may celebrate Mabon [(May-bun)] on the evening before, or at sunrise on the morning of the equinox, or at the exact time of fall equinox.  […]  Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary comments: “The Goddess manifests in Her Bountiful Mother aspects. The God emerges as the Corn King and Harvest Lord. Colors are Orange, Dark Red, Yellow, Indigo, and Brown. It is the festival of thanksgiving.”

Here’s a poem entitled Mabon by Akasha

Autumn colors of red and gold

As I close my eyes tonight

Such a wonder to behold

I feel the God/dess hold me tight

Watch leaves turning one by one

Though it grows dark, I shall not fear

Captured bits of Autumn Sun

For Divine Love protects all here

Soon they’ll fall and blow away

Through the night, until the morn

The golden treasures of today

When the shining Sun’s reborn

When the trees are bare

Time to sleep, time to dream

And the ground grows cold

Till warm gold rays upon me stream

These warm memories

I’ll still hold….


In China the Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, is celebrated around (but not precisely) the time of the September equinox. This occasion dates back more than 3000 years and occurs around the time of the full moon. It celebrates the abundance of the summer’s harvest and one of the main foods is the mooncake filled with lotus, sesame seeds, a duck egg or dried fruit. This tradition originated from the ancient tradition of making offerings to the sun in the spring and to the moon in the autumn. It is also a time for families to get together and people often travel long distances to be with their loved ones. The streets are decorated with lanterns, incenses are burned and fire dragon dances take place.

Here is a Chinese story about the [full] moon at the time of the Latern Festival.  From

Fish for the Moon in the Well

One evening, the clever man, Huojia went to fetch some water from the well. To his surprise, when he looked into the well, he found the moon sunk in the well shining. “Oh, good Heavens, what a pity! The beautiful moon has dropped into the well!” so he dashed home for a hook, and tied it with the rope for his bucket, then put it into the well to fish for the moon.

After some time of hunting for the moon, Haojia was pleased to find that something was caught by the hook..[…] He pulled hard by the rope. Due to the excessive pulling, the rope broke into apart and Haojia fell flat on his back. Taking the advantage of that post, Haojia saw the moon again high in the sky. He sighed with emotion, “Aha, it finally came back to its place! What a good job! He felt very happy and told whomever he met with about the wonderment….

The month of September also marks the ‘Wine Moon,’ the lunar cycle when grapes are harvested from the arbors, pressed and put away to become wine…The full moon closest to the Autumn Equinox is known as the ‘Harvest Moon,’ since farmers would also harvest their crops during the night with the light of the full moon to aid them.” [Shine on, harvest moon!]

We are observing the September or Autumnal solstice, which took place just a few hours ago, at 2:19 Pacfic Time.  Can you feel the difference?  Perhaps it’s because at the same time, the sun entered the sign of Libra—the constellation of the balance of scales.  Traditionally libras are:

Diplomatic and urbane
Romantic and charming
Easygoing and sociable
Idealistic and peaceable

But they can also be:

Indecisive and changeable
Gullible and easily influenced
Flirtatious and self-indulgent

Happy Equinox, Libras. May your better traits dominate!

The CHUMASH are a Native American tribe from Southern California. They celebrate their fall equinox sun ceremony during their month of Hutash (September). It takes place “after the harvest is picked, processed and stored….”

Here’s a retelling of the legend of the Rainbow Bridge by 15-year-old Jesse Moon.


The Chumash people have lived for centuries along the California coast between San Luis Obispo and Malibu, whose very name calls forth the memory of the Chumash village Humaliwo, meaning “The Surf Sounds Loudly.” Here they created a special way of life, and while some other California tribes had similar customs, no other Native Americans lived in exactly the same way. Their invention and use of the ocean going redwood plank boat (Tomol), their complex village and religious life and their extraordinary craftsmanship are what make the Chumash unique. Even their language, with eight regional dialects, belongs to the Hokam language family, which is the oldest in California. This suggests that Chumash-speaking peoples were living in this part of California for thousands of years.

According to legend, the First Chumash people were created on Li-Mu Island, which we now call Santa Cruz Island. This island lies off the coast near Santa Barbara. The people were made from the seeds of a magic plant by the Earth Goddess whose name is Hutash.

Hutash is married to the Sky Snake, the Milky Way. He can make lightening bolts with his tongue. One day, he decided to make a gift to the Chumash people, so he sent down a lighting bolt that started a fire. After this, people kept fires burning so that they could cook their food and be warm.

After the Sky Snake gave them fire, the Chumash people lived more comfortably. More babies were born each year, and the villages grew larger and more noisy. The island was growing very crowded and the noise began to bother Hutash, keeping Her awake at night. She finally decided that some of the people would have to leave the island and move to the mainland, where no one lived. Hutash wondered how to get the people across the water to the mainland. Then She had an idea. She built a bridge out of a very long, very high rainbow, which stretched from the tallest mountain on the island all the way to the tall mountains near Carpenteria.

Hutash told the people to go across the Rainbow Bridge, and fill the world with people. So the Chumash people began to cross the bridge. Most got across safely, but some made the mistake of looking down. Far, far below the water shone, and the fog swirled. They got so dizzy that some of them fell off the Rainbow Bridge, down, down, through the fog, into the ocean. Hutash felt terrible about this, for she had told them to cross Her bridge. She did not want them to drown, so She turned them into dolphins. Later, when the Chumash went to sea in their plank Tomol, they always remembered that the dolphins were their brothers. And in September, they honor Hutash with a great Harvest Festival, which is named after Her.

Here’s a poem about Autumn Night by T. E. Hulme

A touch of cold in the Autumn night—

I walked abroad,

And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge

Like a red-faced farmer.

I did not stop to speak, but nodded,

And round about were the wistful stars

With white faces like town children.

This is Ecotopia on KZFR, and we are exploring customs, stories, and poetry about the fall equinox. Here’s an interesting supersition about the fall equinox:

Many people believe that since the equinox is a time of balance where the daylight hours and nighttime hours are equal, that — by some mystical force — one can balance eggs on their end on these days. Some believe that one can only balance an egg within a few hours before or after the exact time of the equinox.

[KZFR listeners: We are still in that time frame! Get an egg and give this a try at home!]

[But] Philip Plait (a.k.a. the Bad Astronomer) [brings us back to annoying reality]:

“Usually you cannot stand a raw egg because the inside of an egg is a very viscous (thick) liquid, and the yolk sits in this liquid. The yolk is usually a bit off-center and rides high in the egg, making it very difficult to balance. The egg falls over. However, with patience, you can usually make an egg stand up.

None of […this, he concludes, has] anything to do with the passage of the seasons. So, a person probably has as much luck standing an egg on its end on the equinox as on any other day of the year.

Autumn is also the time for traditional celebrations. Here’s:


By Harry Behn

Tonight is the night

When dead leaves fly

Like witches on switches

Across the sky,

When elf and sprite

Flit through the night

On a moony sheen.

Tonight is the night

When leaves make a sound

Like a gnome in his home

Under the ground,

When spooks and trolls

Creep out of holes

Mossy and green.

Tonight is the night

When pumpkins stare

Through sheaves and leaves


When ghouls and ghost

And goblin host

Dance round their queen.

It’s Halloween.

Along with Hallowe’en, which has become a global holiday, in late October and early November many observe Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Here’s a poem by Julia Sopetran, a Spanish poet, “Beauty which Departs but Returns to Mixquic”:

The small floating island travels through the canal.

– Open the door, mother! So that we can surprise

that wandering soul who has arrived at our offerings;

the mirrors of the waterways have blinded her…

but she can feel her way, alone, to our house.

Prepare the food. That death may see

that this love of life we offer as a gift

so that she may better understand what the mystery

has bequeathed.

Yes, dear daughter. Our house, clean, welcomes our


Lights. Incense. Tamales. Chairs.

The bed is made with flowers which we bought.

The little floating house is beauty that traverses

by the unparalleled road of all the river banks

we get on and then… Will we return?

Source: Poem found in Mexico City, Mixquic & Morelos- Through the Eyes of the Soul, Day of the Dead in Mexico

And everyone looks forward to Thanksgiving as in this anonymous, “Ode to Thanksgiving”

May your stuffing be tasty

May your turkey plump,

May your potatoes and gravy

Have nary a lump.

May your yams be delicious

And your pies take the prize,

And may your Thanksgiving dinner

Stay off your thighs!

We close in praise of October, one of the most beautiful months in Northern California:  “October’s Bright Blue Weather” by Helen Hunt Jackson

O sun and skies and clouds of June

And flowers of June together,

Ye cannot rival for one hour

October’s bright blue weather;

When loud the bumblebee makes haste,

Belated, thriftless vagrant,

And goldenrod is dying fast,

And lanes with grapes are fragrant;

When gentians roll their fringes tight,

To save them for the morning,

And chestnuts fall from satin burs

Without a sound of warning;

When on the ground red apples lie

In piles like jewels shining,

And redder still on old stone walls

Are leaves of woodbine twining;

When all the lovely wayside things

Their white-winged seeds are sowing,

And in the fields, still green and fair,

Late aftermaths are growing;

When springs run low, and on the brooks

In idle, golden freighting,

Bright leaves sink noiseless in the hush

Of woods, for winter waiting;

When comrades seek sweet country haunt

By twos and twos together,

And count like misers hour by hour

October’s bright blue weather.

O sun and skies and flowers of June,

Count all your boasts together,

Love loveth best of all the year

October’s bright blue weather.

Playlist for Ecotopia #52: Autumn Equinox

1. The Four Seasons: Violin Concerto in F Major, RV 293, “Autumn”: III. Allegro3:12 Candida Thompson, Henk Rubingh, Jan Jansen, Janine Jansen, Julian Rachlin, Liz Kenny, Maarten Jansen & Stacey Watton   Vivaldi: the Four Seasons

2. Les feuilles mortes (Autumn Leaves)  4:49    Andrea Bocelli & Veronica Berti    Amore

3. First Day Of Autumn       5:03    Anne Hills    Bittersweet Street

4. Harvest Moon       5:05    Neil Young     Neil Young: Greatest Hits

5. Shine on Harvest Moon 3:12    Leon Redbone   Double Time

6. Thriller (Single Version) 5:12    Michael Jackson      The Essential Michael Jackson

7. Weave Me the Sunshine           4:28    Peter, Paul And Mary