Even though Thursday was the autumnal equinox, it was actually Wednesday that we came closest to having exactly 12 hours of sunlight and 12 hours of daylight in Rockville. We surrendered 2 minutes to the darkness of autumn and, by this time next week, the darkness will have stolen 12 minutes from the light. On December 22—the shortest day of the year—it will have captured an additional 3½ hours of daylight. And then, ever so slowly, the daylight will begin to regain its balance.

The autumnal equinox presents itself as a messenger of longer evenings and lower temperatures. It reminds us of lawn furniture to put away and sweaters to be retrieved from the bottom drawer. It reintroduces “winterize” into the vocabulary and hot chocolate into the diet.

As we are packing away the barbeque and getting out the raingear, restaurants are replacing their summer menu of light salads and sandwiches with menus offering hearty soups and rustic bread. We recalibrate a bit for the fall and winter; as the balance between light and dark shifts, we shift with it.

Part of the balance is practicing gratitude—taking stock of the ways we’ve been blessed over the past year. Melody Beattie wrote, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

Another part of the autumnal re-balancing can involve honesty about things that exhaust us or leave us feeling burned out. Fall is a chance to let those things go or to put them away like the lawn furniture, at least for a while. Part of the autumn balance may mean taking up something new, something that will restore or enhance our lives. Take up a new hobby. Finish up a project long neglected.

So, break out the sweaters, find a blanket for the couch, and sit down with a nice hot chocolate. What will you do with those extra hours of darkness? You can turn over a new leaf even as the old ones fall. Welcome, autumn!