Owing to the fact that I was a swot from the first grade on, I’ve always liked September. When school started the day after Labor Day, I was ready for it, pencils sharpened. Since 2001, however, the month has had a sour edge, which is hardly fair. After all, ghastly things have happened year-round. Pearl Harbor didn’t ruin December, though it sure ruined my mother’s December 7 birthday. So what’s so great about September?
It’s the beginning of the new year in the Jewish calendar, whereas the Christian calendar (the Gregorian one anyway) is supposed to start the first day of Advent, the Sunday after November 30, the feast of St. Andrew. The Roman calendar began with the two-faced god Janus, but the Celts started their year on what became All Saints’ Day, after a chilling encounter with the ghosts of the dead on Samhain or Hallowe’en. There are also folks who start the year in February and March. I think September feels like a beginning, but it could be the beginning of the end.
If you think about it, school schedules don’t make sense, with the big holiday in summer when most parents would prefer not to see their offspring 24/7, but the schedule is a leftover from agriculture. September comes just after the main grain harvest, and before those autumnal bloodbaths, hunting season and the slaughter of animals that can’t be fed through the winter. A less gruesome way of looking at the season is to see September as the vendange, the grape harvest, squish, squish. The beginning of Wine.
The days are getting perceptibly shorter by September, coming down to equinox toward the end of the month. You would think we’d have major holidays marking the earth’s passage around the sun, but no. My brother Brian was born on the autumnal equinox–a fine equable fellow and worthy of a holiday. The Romans numbered some months and named others after gods or deified emperors. Julius and Augustus caught on, but September remains stubbornly seven. Better seven than Nero. Please to remember the fifth of Vespasian? Beware the Ides of Brian.
In September, the days and nights may be roughly equal, but the weather is not equable. Some of our finer hurricanes, not to mention monsoons, have occurred in September, thus providing us with a fire-proof topic of conversation just when we start school and meet a bunch of new people. Right now folks are cluck-clucking about the floods in Colorado. At the risk of turning this into a family blog, I will just mention that my sister, who lives in Lyons CO, did not drown, and even called to tell me she was still alive. There. Happy September.