Today’s equinox is nature’s way of turning the page for us in the book of days, a moment of sadness at summer’s end for some and wonder at autumn’s arrival for others. Just as the first light in America touches Maine before any other part of America, we are also among the first in our country to welcome the fall. For us, whether its joyful or sad, today is special. It reminds us who we really are.

Long before pumpkin spice flavorings seeped their way into our lives, we’ve found ways to mark and honor this moment. In my youth, I remember folks in pagan costumes gathering in the Camden harbor park and performing ritual dances to a beating drum and shaking rattles. Some of the faces were quite scary. Families go apple picking on the weekends; if they’re lucky, someone bakes a pie, and cider returns to the fridge.

Soon, there will be gourds in abundance. Both the Common Ground Fair in Unity and the Cumberland Fair will open this weekend, allowing fairgoers to choose between organic and just regular. It is the time of what the Celts called Mabon, or the second harvest, and one of the eight Wiccan sabbats, so even if neither of these annual festivals is nearby, your closest farmers market offers a taste of the season. And you don’t have to be pagan, either. Consider Galatians 6:7-8:

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to the flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”

To Japanese Buddhists, the equinox, or shibbun no hi, marks a fitting time to honor the dead. It is the moment in time when the barrier between the physical and the spiritual worlds is at its thinnest and is therefore the best opportunity to have some form of connection with those who have passed.

While chipmunks and squirrels frantically gather acorns to carry them through our long winter, some of us on two legs consider this moment a good time for de-cluttering, and getting rid of those things we no longer need, both figurative and literal. It is a good time to burn brush and straighten up the earth before it is covered in winter’s snowy embrace. It’s a great time to gather around fire pits in the evening as our bodies transition to the season, craving root vegetables and slow-cooked meats.

There is a certain Gestalt to the physical labors of autumn, whether that’s stacking wood away somewhere dry for winter, raking leaves or hauling bales of hay around the foundation of one’s home for insulation. Your blood gets flowing as your body is at the same time cooled by the crisp air and this combination gives you a renewed sense of vigor. We’re a little drowsier in the morning when the night slips further into day with its dark and cool, soporific embrace.

I’m an AirBnB host, and while I note a slowdown in bookings after Labor Day, they will nonetheless continue well into October. In the cities, even urban slicksters sense there’s something happening out here in the country. Leaf-peeper season is just around the corner and will bring an Indian summer of tourists. It’s time to break out the wicker balls and start thinking about carving pumpkins.

I just learned of a neat Norwegian tradition by which people who have apple trees on their land don’t let the fallen fruit just rot. Instead, they gather, bag and hang the apples on their fence for passers-by who may want them. Such habits remind us of our pilgrims and their cornucopias, which, unlike wicker balls, once had a useful purpose beyond mere decoration.

Hail to autumn, what a glorious season!

Sam Patten is a recovering political consultant who was raised in Knox
County and worked for Maine’s last three Republican senators.