We are still in second summer here in Tucson. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean I live in a fantasy land, a Shire where there are second breakfasts and such, though that would be nice. The reality of Autumn expectations rarely match up to the calendar or cultural expectations for what the harvest season should be. Seasons and seasonal observations vary greatly with place as well as with stage of life.
School Year Starts in the Summer
Students are back in school and have been for a while here in Arizona. Tucson Unified School District started classes on July 31st. Amphitheater School District started on August 7th. From what I can tell from perusing articles from news sources as well as a small statistically biased sampling of school calendars in both the eastern and western United States, most schools start during the month of August. The more wealthy the population, the later the school for an area starts, it seems. The start of school, Labor Day, and the fall are linked for most of us in the U.S., but why? Any real linkage that might have once existed has disappeared over the last few decades.
There are many kinds of seasons including calendrical, cultural, and climatological. Solstice and equinox were up until recently my default criteria for talking about seasons, but now I tend to view the seasons as centering on these celestial linked dates and beginning and ending at times that our culture no longer recognizes but which are clearly evident in more traditional, folk, or ancient ways of knowing such as the Northern European one shown here:
We celebrate the reprieve that autumn brings here in Tucson in the way that spring is celebrated in more northern climes.
Individual Views of Seasons
I often write about fall. Poetry tends to capture most of my autumnal musings about the evocative nature of lengthened, softened slant of light that October brings but I also blog about the season with some regularity.
In the early years of my life fall was the time of harvest, the hunter’s moon, seasonal depression, the start of the time of year when Mom had time to focus on me (which often was not a good thing,) birthdays of close friends, lovers and elders. The stark, almost bleak sense of stasis or dormancy, of waiting colored the months of October and November. These months seemed something like a pencil retouched photograph from the late 1800s, all shades of black and gray with soft touches of unreal color.
But these last many years, since moving to Tucson, Fall has become Autumn. Autumn in Tucson is a time of wonder: perfect days to play hooky and warm oneself on a granite rock ledge in Sabina Canyon as hints of coming coolness whisper in the breeze, preparation for late and winter gardens, evenings spent outdoors on patios with sunsets, friends and perfect weather. Preparation for the All Souls Procession alters the angle of perspective of the season in that unique way only Tucson can.
We come out as a community to express and acknowledge, mourn, celebrate, commemorate, inspire and be inspired by transition, all that has come before, personal loss, personal growth and our connectedness to the land and blending of culture that the Goddess of this place has provided as a home to those of us fortunate enough to be allowed to live some bit of our lives here in the shadow of mountains where the rivers used to flow.
Fall was once a depressing time for me, but the perspective and rituals that celebrate the place and perspective here in southern Arizona have changed that. Beautiful and poignant, that is autumn in Tucson.