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Today is October 4, 2022

Mississippi Seen

Signs of the season

By Walt Grayson

Signs of the season

Labor Day is to autumn what Memorial Day is to summer — the marker for the unofficial beginning of the new season. The actual changing of the seasons are offset a few weeks determined by the position of the sun in relation to the equator. Autumn begins when the sun passes over the equator heading south in late September, and winter starts as soon as the sun gets as far south as it is going and heads back north in late December. Then spring begins when the sun passes over the equator again on its return trip back north in late March. Summer starts when the sun makes it as far north as it going to go and starts back south in late June. Celestially, the sun dictates the seasons. 

 However, in practical terms, the way we live our lives isn’t tied to the earth and the sun so much as it is governed by things such as the school year starting and ending. Holidays like Christmas, Memorial Day, and Labor Day make good way markers, too. Besides, back to school has more of a tangible effect on our lives than the sun crossing some invisible line. Settling into the routine of the kids off to class is a distinct way-of-life change from the unstructured days of summer.

 Years ago, back when school didn’t start until after Labor Day weekend, it really made September seem more like fall than summer. But with school starting in early August nowadays, it muddles up my September “clean break” theory. It’s a blend more than a bang.

 Another of my signs of fall came early this year. I watch for the hummingbirds to swarm our feeders every September. That’s when they start coming through Mississippi migrating back to Mexico and Central America from summering in places as far north as Canada. But I have already been seeing more than normal numbers at our house beginning back in late July and early August. Maybe it’s been so hot they decided not to make the whole trip this year and found some shade and stayed. Then again, maybe I’ve seen more because I’ve been keeping my hummingbird feeders filled better this year. 

 Back when we were kids, we rarely saw hummingbirds. Maybe we were too busy. But it was an event worthy of telling the rest of the gang when one whizzed past. Of course, by the time I could tell them, the hummer would have flitted on and none of the other kids saw it. But with feeders at the end of our porch just outside the kitchen window, we have hummingbirds so often that I rarely bother to announce seeing one anymore. Although occasionally I do.

 By the way, the hummingbirds come back through Mississippi in great numbers in March heading north. Just like the sun, both sun and birds head south in the fall and north in spring. Another practical marker of the ongoing seasons. 

 

Walt Grayson is the host of “Mississippi Roads” on Mississippi Public Broadcasting television and the author of two “Looking Around Mississippi” books and “Oh! That Reminds Me: More Mississippi Homegrown Stories.” Walt is also a reporter and 4 p.m. news anchor at WJTV in Jackson. He lives in Brandon and is a Central Electric member. Contact him at walt@waltgrayson.com.

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