High Points: Fall falls

Paul E. Anna
High Points

You may have missed it, but this past Tuesday morning at 9:31 the seasons changed. Yes, fall, the most beautiful of all the four seasons, in my opinion, rushed in like a lion. Or as they say in an old Irish proverb, “autumn comes quickly, like the running of a hound on the moor.”

Well, we don’t have moors here in the high country but my hound, a Chocolate Lab, certainly does love running the leaf filled trails on our Mesa in the fall. Though the temperatures remain high, still flirting with daily records, the angle of the sun is a tad lower, and thus, the heat doesn’t feel quite so oppressive. She and me are able to get out mid to late day for our daily regime rather than the early mornings we have became accustomed to in this searing hot summer. That is just one of the pleasures of the season.

The autumn equinox marks a time of change for the entire world. In the northern hemisphere it is the harbinger of winter’s approach, or as we call it, ski season. In the southern hemisphere it is the beginning of spring, the reawakening of the earth. And, unlike most arbitrary, manmade dates of demarcation, the equinox is based on a specific moment tied to the tilting of the earth.

The September 22, 9:31a.m. equinox marked the exact time the sun crossed the “celestial equator,” an imaginary line that extends the line of the earth’s equator into space. At precisely the time the center of the sun passes through that

line, from north to south, it marks fall in the northern hemisphere and spring below. When it goes the other way, from south to north, this marks the vernal equinox, or springtime up here. It’s just science.

And this moment of change happens at the exact instant throughout the globe. Talk about a binding moment. While it depends on how far from the equator you are, generally speaking there are 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness on the days of the fall and spring equinox. In Aspen, for example, the sun rose this morning at 6:59a.m. and will set at 6:57p.m. That means the length of day is 11 hours and 58 minutes. Pretty close to perfect.

What is perfect are the changing colors this time of year in our town. We are fall colors central and the rest of the world views photos of the Maroon Bells, surrounded by quaking Aspens, with envy. This year there seems to be much discussion about the riotous, rich red colors in the scrub oak and serviceberry trees. It feels a little darker. Maybe it’s a reflection of the times.

I took a flight on Monday into Aspen and it appeared to me that the Aspen trees on the north facing slopes, near Vail, were pretty close to peak. There was a lot of bright yellow. But as we crested the mountains, the Roaring Fork Valley still had some green to go. Maybe this week we peak.

Regardless, the hounds are happy with the change of season.