Thursday, September 22, 2016

First Day Of Autumn 2016.

One of the things I most enjoy about living in north Georgia - albeit metro Atlanta - is the seasonal transitions. Granted this is a four season climate even in the southern Appalachian region; however, one is hard pressed to determine exactly what season embraces you if your sole factor is temperature. Today is the first day of autumn but our high temperature reached 90 degrees and the humidity was more like a measure reserved for the Rockies and the central Continental Divide rather than the rolling Appalachian Piedmont a half hour east of the Atlanta Perimeter. In other words it was a stunningly beautiful summer day unless you looked at the calendar.  Our drought may have yellowed the tulip poplars in late August, but those leaves are long gone. Looking in our woods today you'd see nothing but a rich green. It doesn't mean change is far away. The clouds are a give away that cooler fronts are closing in on our woods.  Autumn waits.

To Autumn

O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stain'd
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou may'st rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.

'The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of Morning, and
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest Eve,
Till clust'ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather'd clouds strew flowers round her head.

'The spirits of the air live in the smells
Of fruit; and Joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees.'
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat,
Then rose, girded himself, and o'er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load.

William Blake (1757-1827)

And sometimes Autumn has nothing to do with temperatures and cloudsEarly Autumn was composed in 1949 by Ralph Burns and Woody Herman. Johnny Mercer wrote the lyrics. I think Ella Fitzgerald has owned this song for over sixty years.

And if you're somewhat revolutionary perhaps you'll enjoy the season as Vendemiaire, the Grape Harvester, on Grape, the first day of the Napoleonic Fall.


Leave it to the French to have a sweeping, violent revolution that would attempt to wipe out all traces of monarchy and replace it with enlightenment and the Age of Reason. One of the features of the revolution was the Napoleonic Calendar. Its ten day weeks, twelve months of thirty days, and assorted extra days to add up to the essential number, 365/6, made it confusing as a time piece. On the other hand, using seasonal events, plant and animal names, and farming implements to label the days and months made the calendar a work of art. And so we have on this day, September 22, not only the autumnal equinox but also the anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic (1792) and the first day of the new Napoleonic Year.

Here in the next 29 days is a vivid picture of the season:

Safran (Saffron)
Chataignes (Chestnut)
Colchique (Autumn Crocus)
Cheval (Horse)
Balsamine (Yellow Balsam)
Carrotes (Carrots)
Amaranthe (Amaranth)
Panais (Parsnip)
Cuve (Tub)
Pommes de terre (Potatoes)
Immortelle (Strawflower)
Potiron (Giant Pumpkin)
Reseda (Mignonette)
Ane (Donkey)
Belle de nuit (Marvel of Peru)
Citroville (Summer Pumpkin)
Sarrazin (Buckwheat)
Touresol (Sunflower)
Pressoir (Wine-Press)
Chanvre (Hemp)
Peches (Peaches)
Navets (Turnip)
Amarillis (Amaryllis)
Boeuf (Cattle)
Aubegine (Eggplant)
Piment (Chile Pepper)
Tomate (Tomato)
Orge (Barley)
Tonneau (Barrel)

I think Vendemiaire provides us a comforting association with a different time and place, a pre-industrial existence where we can easily recognize ourselves as part of nature and not separate from it. That's as it should be. This is the season to be close to the earth and its harvest that sustains us through the cold and dark months to come. Welcome to Fall and the grape harvest. Let us enjoy it whether it be early or late or whatever it means.


Illustration:Wikipedia entry: Vendemiaire, author unknown, National Library and Bureau of Measures,


Blake poem, Poetical Sketches, 1783
Fondation Napoleon,

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