The year is slowly turning away from the bright yellow and high green noons of summertime and towards the golden-syruped long afternoons of autumn. One evening in the Cotswolds last week, we went to dinner at a country pub in the bottom of a valley. When we got out of the car, the still green trees on the ridgetops were for a moment sun-honeyed and golden from the rays of the setting sun. Then as dusk fell, summer returned. Another moment that has stayed with me is time spent in the apple orchard at Lacock Abbey. The trees were heavy with fruit and a skirt of windfalls lay around each tree. The perfume of apple cordial permeated the air, heavy and sweet.
The autumn equinox is on 22nd September this year. The autumn equinox is universally observed as a time for celebration and gratitude of both harvests and of the hearth as a symbol of family, friends and the home. The name “equinox” itself is derived from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night), therefore the length of night and day, light and dark are equal. On the day of the autumn equinox, the sun enters the sign of Libra: the constellation appropriately represented as scales and balance. It is also associated with apples as potent symbols of death, rebirth and transformation.
For our ancestors this was time to reflect on the past season and celebrate nature’s bounty and accept that summer is now over. The autumn harvest festivals mark a time of rest after hard work, and a ritual of thanksgiving for the fruits of nature. This is the time to look back on the past year and what you have achieved and learnt, and to plan for the future.
To celebrate, Steve and I are cooking a feast for six of our friends. Our first dinner party! What’s on the menu?
Civet of Rabbit with Pickled Mushrooms and Caper Toasts
Chicken with Pomegranate and Walnut Sauce
Pear and Walnut Tart
We’ll drink a toast to the equinox with Somerset Pomona, a Cider Brandy aged in oak barrels. Pomona is the goddess of fruit trees, gardens and orchards.
I’ll use my laburnum oyster tray I made when I was in furniture school a few years ago.
We’ll also light a beautiful candle given to us at our housewarming party from two of our friends. This will mark the transition to spending warm, cozy candlelit nights inside in the warmth of our home during the autumn and winter months and celebrate sharing our hearth and home with friends.
O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stained
With the blood of the grape, pass not,
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.
– William Blake