September brings the changing of the seasons. In the desert, summer’s heat finally begins to dissipate as mild autumn weather reawakens the outdoors. What truly marks the arrival of fall is the autumnal equinox, one of two days each year that is comprised of equal parts day and night. While spring’s equinox signals winter’s retreat where plants begin to bloom, the fall equinox is traditionally a celebration of harvests and fruiting.
Mark Your Calendar
The autumnal equinox always falls around the 20-22nd of September and can vary slightly year to year. This year, 2018, we celebrate the equinox on Saturday, September 22nd. For those who follow their horoscope, the equinox will always occur around the time that the sign of Virgo changes to the sign of Libra. In fact, the zodiac calendar is premised upon the dates of the Earth’s equinoxes and solstices.
Make a Sundial
Equinoxes are days of great balance, and both the spring and fall are the perfect time to build a small outdoor sundial. With this year’s equinox falling on Saturday, making a sundial helps you celebrate the equinox all day long and is perfect weekend activity for kids.
The day before the equinox, choose a spot outdoors that gets sunlight throughout the day. If you have a yard or garden, you can build a semi-permanent sundial out of found materials like stones. Sundials can also be more temporary -drawn in sidewalk chalk or simply a piece of paper secured to the ground. You’ll need a stick or post that can be pushed into the ground and left in place all day long. If you are making your sundial on cement, try using a bottle filled with sand as your center post. To mark the hours on your sundial, you simply mark the line of the post’s shadow every hour, from sunrise to sunset. Set an hourly alarm on your phone or alarm clock to remind you to mark your sundial every hour.
At the end of the day, your sundial will diagram the course of the sun throughout the day. If left standing, your sundial can also be used to estimate the time of day throughout the year.
Have a Harvest Dinner
While Arizona doesn’t have the autumnal reputation of New England, the fall still brings bounty and harvest with it. The equinox is a great day to make a harvest-themed dinner with produce from a local farmer’s market. Again, this year’s weekend equinox is a great opportunity to check out some of Phoenix’s fantastic Saturday markets, like the Uptown Farmer’s Market, to find fresh local food for feasting!
You can also be playful with how you interpret your equinox foods. The balance between the light and dark parts of the day can be represented with colorful, contrasting foods. Try making a white and purple cabbage salad, or a fruit salad with green and red grapes. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, equinox may be the perfect day to treat yourself to an iconic black-and-white cookie.
Take A Hike
Part of observing the equinox is taking time to look at our connection to the Sun and the Earth and noticing the patterns that govern our planet. With the cooling off of summer’s heat, late September is a great time to re-connect with nature. In Arizona, we’re blessed with astounding natural beauty in every direction.
Hiking opportunities in and around Phoenix are abundant, even for the most committed city slicker. Try Papago Park for easy and beautiful trails around dramatic buttes. The fairly new Phoenix Sonoran Preserve also offers great day hikes and up-close experiences with the desert’s natural beauty.
Remember hiking safety in the desert. Wear comfortable shoes, loose clothes and a shade hat and bring plenty of water along with you on any hike. Try to hike at sunrise or sunset when the heat is less harsh than mid-day. Always turn around when you’ve reached the halfway point in your water supply.
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