Posted by: jsmcfadden | September 27, 2009


Since the autumnal equinox came and went, it’s been hot. Seriously hot. 104 degrees.  It’s a topic for every conversation: “What kind of weather is this for fall? Isn’t it supposed to be cooler in the fall?”  You can tell me all you want about hotter places. I concede the fact. Actually, I happily concede that fact, because it totally plays my point: seasons are in fact absolute and arbitrary, but they feel to us to be completely relative.

It’s like this: fall may have begun here in the Northern Hemisphere on September 22, 2009 (at 5:18 p.m., if you want to be picky), but it isn’t “fall” until it feels like fall: temperatures are cooler, especially in the morning; leaves change color and drift down onto the ground, and we remember jumping into the raked-up piles on our lawns when we were children; we begin to ask ourselves if we’ve changed the furnace filter since last winter; the geese head south.

Easter in Hammond for webThis is what Easter Sunday 1977 looked like  in Hammond, Indiana. Yes, those are winter coats. No, Easter wasn’t alarmingly early that year. It was April 10, and I looked it up. Yes, that’s snow on the ground and on the roof of our house. Yes, he might have his jacket un-toggled, but you notice she has hers buttoned and belted, and she’s booted, ladies & gentlemen. On Easter Sunday. Something is wrong here.

No reason to get all political; it’s not about global warming.

It’s expectations and perceptions, instead. Easter means spring, not winter. Easter dresses are not generally made of dark-colored wools but flowery, light fabrics that twirl beautifully. Easter bonnets don’t have fur-lined earflaps.

And summer — doesn’t it start as soon as the last school bell on the last day of school stops echoing off the empty hallways? June 21 or 22 notwithstanding.

So here’s what I think. The calendar says a lot about how we see ourselves. I mean the calendar is a symbol, like words are symbols of the objects and ideas we are thinking of. This symbol shows us something about who we are.  For some reason we like to pin things down, identify & label them as if they were always that one thing and never ever any other. Then, we have the fun of being shocked and surprised when the calendar contradicts our experience. We let the calendar display the science while we merrily go about our days living in the perceived, felt world instead. Just because it’s September 27 doesn’t mean it’s fall, even though it’s fall.

I wonder if maybe this easy grasp of the symbolic is a marker in us humans. Maybe instead of freaking out at some of the other contradictions we sense between what we know and what we KNOW, we can enjoy them together, laughing about how our perceptions are so clearly more important to us than our science is.



  1. […] Don’t talk to me about the calendar date on which spring “begins.” See here. […]

  2. You may be right. I was only there two Easters.

  3. I was going to guess the photo was from 1978.

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