Flutter, flutter Fall


This summer I have been traveling less and enjoying my yard and gardens more. In the spring, I planted a new native perennial garden and I have enjoyed watching it take shape and grow. 

As I have mentioned before, I can spend hours sitting and sipping coffee and just enjoy my surroundings. 

On a recent morning as I watched the sun rise above the trees I noticed a leaf flutter by. And then another. I looked around and noticed that yes, leaves were beginning to fall here and there. That isn't a big surprise because Thursday, Sept. 22, is the equinox when the hours of day light and darkness are the same, and fall officially begins. Or should I say autumn?

Because I am an old English teacher and a retired guy with time on my hands, I started thinking about about how we use various words in different ways to describe this season between summer and winter.

Fall is a straight forward, descriptive word to describe what happens in nature in mid to late September. The word is derived from the Old English “feallan” which means to drop from a height, decay or die.  The dramatic spectacle of woods and fields filled with trees and grasses in brilliant color is the highlight of the fall season. 

But for those of us who were born in the last century, we know that fall actually begins the day after Labor Day. 

As in the song "Maggie May," Labor Day meant it was time to pick up the books and head on back to school. It also means the beginning of football season and everything that goes with it.

Even though it has been years since schools opened after Labor Day, I still think of those early start weeks in August as prequel to the real school year.

The word "autumn," on the other hand, is a little harder to nail down, but generally seems to come from the Latin and French and related to the season of harvest which traditionally begins in August. I know that August is that time of year when I most enjoy hanging out at the farmers market to buy sweet corn, tomatoes and other fresh produce of the season.

That very word “harvest" which we now use to describe the gathering and storing of crops originates from Old and Middle English which referred to the season of the gathering of crops from August through October rather than the act of gathering.  

What got me to thinking about all of this is that I have been reading about Celtic thought, ritual and traditions.

In the Celtic tradition, Lugnasa is the season of the harvest which begins in August and runs through Oct. 31. 

The season is named after the Celtic god Lugh who reminds me of the Greek and Roman gods Bacchus and Dionysus - all of whom are associated with the celebration of harvest. 

Much like the Old and Middle English tradition, the season of Lugnasa, or autumn, ends on the last day of October which marks the beginning of winter and the Celtic new year.

While names and even the dates of the season may differ from culture to culture they are all associated the harvest and the transition from the long sunny days of summer to the dark and harsh days of winter.

I do hope that in the coming weeks that everyone has an opportunity to get out and enjoy the autumn season, and to all the yard and garden growers as well farmers, here is to a continued successful and productive harvest.


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