shade of autumn: equinoxes, hot air balloons, and flying


Depending on which website you consult and which standard of time measurement you follow, the autumnal equinox either happened at 3:08 am on September 23, or at 11:09 pm on September 22. Either way, the autumnal equinox ushers in my favo(u)rite season and months: 

September surprises and fruits of the harvest: Acadian fields (2)pears turning golden yellow; squash in all shapes, sizes, and colo(u)rs: turbans, crooked necks, mini-pumpkins; dodging dropping acorns along oak-lined paths; sighs and laughter on school playgrounds; electric  blue skies with warming splashes of sunlight 


October delights: fresh, see-your-breath mornings; landscape of reds, golds, yellows; first taste of crisp, sweet old variety apples in colors that mirror the autumn; kicking up storms of multi-colored leaves; laughing, costumed children reveling in the freedom of disguise; the promise of winter snows and the rebirth of spring  

November is a magical month; it hints at the snowy whiteness of winter but reminds me of the glorious colors of autumn just passed. There are the special smells of Thanksgiving: bubbly, homemade cranberry sauce with maple syrup, roasting turkey, herbed stuffing, sweet aromas of apple and pumpkin pies. Gatherings of friends and family to share food, stories, and memories. A day of good friends, good conversation, and good times. But, most of all I love the rituals of birthdays: the picking and hiding of gifts; the exquisite excitement of unwrapping; the bouquet of autumn flowers; the helium balloons, and especially the carefully chosen dessert of choice: pecan pie, or chocolate cake or cheesecake. Served with ice cream of course! 

These days, the solstices seem to get more attention given our media-driven, reality show-fueled, superlative/supersizeWandalbert von Prüm - Juli.jpgd culture: the LONGEST and SHORTEST days of the year. But, historically, the equinoxes (day and night of equal length) were also cause for celebrations: sowing of seeds and reaping the harvest.  

the belles heures of jean de france duc de berry|herman paul and jean de limbourg|1405–1408/1409|54.1.1 

A wonderful illuminated manuscript that is part of the collection of medieval art and architecture is the Belles Heures de Jean de France, Duc de Berry held by the Cloisters Museum, a piece of medieval Europe in New York City.  

This summer pages from this incredible book were on display at the Metropolitan Museum. Each viewer had access to a magnifying glass which was needed to see the fine detail in the lettering and illustrations. Every month/zodiac sign had a page, listing the saints’ days, and illustrated with images of the season: sowing  seed; scything wheat; harvesting grapes which provide windows into the world of fifteenth-century France. But it was more than a book of hours or the annals of an agricultural season: meant as a devotional book, it had the requisite images of martyred saints, and other Catholic Christian imagery of the time. The attention paid to details, and the inclusion of the secular seasons makes this an incredibly rich resource. 

I marveled at both the lettering and the illustrations. I was surprised to learn that the book was produced in stages by many people, not the painstaking work of an obscure monk. Under the stewardship of the Limbourg brothers, Pol, Jean, and Herman, the parchment was produced, then cut to size, and folded. While one person might do the illustrations, yet another would draw the lines for the script (which, interesting weren’t removed/erased), and yet another would do the calligraphy, and someone else might add the gilding, or illuminate the ornate capital letters at the start of a page or piece of text. 

There apparently were plans for a second volume, but Duc de Berry, and the three Limbourg brothers all died of the plague when it swept through Europe a few years later. 

 earth, wind, and flyers: the albuquerque international balloon fiesta (October 2 – 10, 2010) according to count-down clock only: 8days, 17 hours, 37 minutes and image53 seconds (at time of writing) remain until the first whoosh of hot air begins to inflate balloons in the pre-dawn light; towers of flame making the envelopes glow like a 15th century illuminated manuscript or a 19th century Tiffany stained-glass window. 

I’ve always wanted to go up in a hot air balloon: fall would be an exceptionally grand time to do so. Many of the balloon festivals are held in late August through early October, I assume as flying conditions are good then. 

When I think about going aloft, funnily the song that comes to mind isn’t Up, Up, and Away from the 1960s, but rather Let’s Go Fly a Kite from Mary Poppins. image  

Oh, oh, oh!
Let’s go fly a kite
Up to the highest height!
Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let’s go fly a kite!
When you send it flyin’ up there
All at once you’re lighter than air
You can dance on the breeze
Over ‘ouses and trees


 Sidebar: I’ve been at this post in various forms for so long, I’ve had to keep readjusting the countdown. It’s off, again! And, at the rate I’m going, the balloon fiesta will be over!) 

That song, and how I think it would feel to be truly flying are what attracts me to a balloon ride or a trip in a hang glider! I want to image experience what an eagle, a vulture, a hawk does when they spread their wings and float on the breeze. What is like to catch the draft of a rising warm air current and circle every higher and wider. What does the world look like when you are skimming along just about the tree tops. 

The closest I have come to that feeling was in a very small airplane (that sat less than 20 people) flying lower than I ever had in a plane over the spring-flooded Saint John River in New Brunswick. I could make out so much detail in the scene below and had travelled beside the river, even in close to flood stage but hadn’t experienced the depth and breadth of it: islands of houses and trees, a solid in a shimmering, shifting mass of water. Chunks of ice like icebergs smashed up against the shores, pulling one on the other into massive ice sculptures. In dreams, I have flown skimming roof tops and tree tops. Twirled mid-air to see beyond the horizon. But like the dreams where I am driving (and don’t drive), I realize that I’m not a monarch butterfly heading off at summer’s end, nor a hawk image streaking past Hawk Mountain during the fall migration. I awake startled but somehow feeling lighter than the air itself. 

Now, I want to see the real world from that view point I had in the small plane, but closer so I can smell the spring flowers, feel the warm touch of spring breezes . . .  Well, Fall in Albuquerque will do! 

  When . . . I’m . . .flyin’ up there
All at once . . .  I’m . . . lighter than air
. . . I . . . can dance on the breeze
Over ‘ouses and trees



Très riches heures du Duc de Berry: Juin (June...
Image via Wikipedia




(Bird Images from 


2 thoughts on “shade of autumn: equinoxes, hot air balloons, and flying

  1. spicyt September 24, 2010 / 5:53 pm

    Phylor…you are such an amazing writer! You write with such wonderful descriptive sentences, I feel I am seeing it. As far as hot hair balloons or hand gliding….I’m afraid of heights, so I will leave that to you to describe and I shall experience it that way!!! Awesome post! xoxo


  2. hibernationnow September 24, 2010 / 11:52 am

    was it your birthday? I hope not, I wouldn’t want to miss it!!! let me know.


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