Thursday, October 22, 2015

I Love October by Gloria Alden

I Love October
The month is amber
gold and brown
blue ghosts of smoke
float through the town.
Great Vs of geese
honk over head
and maples turn
a fiery red.
Frost bites the lawn
the stars are slits
in a black cat’s eye
before she spits.
At last small witches, goblins, hags
and pirates armed with paper bags,
their costumes hinged on safety pins.
go haunt a night of pumpkin grins.
                      - John Updike

Every three or four weeks while teaching third grade, I posted a poem pertaining to the season or some unit we were studying for my students to memorize. The above poem was one of their and my favorites.

In spite of the fact that my eighteen-year-old son and my six-year-old granddaughter both died in October, I still love October in N.E. Ohio. It makes me think of the Dylan Thomas poem, “Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Yes, Dylan wrote it during the final illness of his father, but I see October as making a last brave stand against the closing of the year by going out in a blaze of glory. At least that’s true here in the north.

Everywhere I look this time of the year the colors are rich and vibrant. At the beginning of the month the fields were filled with goldenrod and purple asters. Soon the leaves started to turn to orange, red, amber, gold, purple and burnt umber. Orange pumpkins like round globes appeared at roadside stands, farmers’ markets, and in stores. Corn stalks are gathered for decorations. Even the sky seems a more vivid blue.

Maggie likes the cooler days, too.

I love the crisp autumn days with cold nights and cool mornings often warming up later in the day. And then there’s Indian summer giving me that last bit of time when I can try to finish up all those chores that should have been done by now, but I didn’t quite get around to. Now I can’t procrastinate any longer. My time is running out. Not only do I need to finish planting the rest of my exuberant purchases at my favorite garden centers from last spring, but there are large clumps of daylilies that should be divided and replanted, and daffodil bulbs I dug up last spring when they were done blooming because I needed room for something else. Of course, before that can be done, I need to prepare a place for those plants to go. All the cannas and dahlias need to be dug up, stalks and leaves removed, and the roots and rhizomes cleaned, dried and packed in dried leaves or wood chips and taken to the basement for the winter. The vegetable garden needs to be stripped of dying vegetation and bedded down for the winter.

My great-granddaughter playing in the leaves. 
Fortunately I like to rake leaves even though it does get tiring when you have as many as I do. The armfuls of leaves I fill my wheelbarrow with are fluffy light reminding me of those long ago days of jumping in piles of them. What fun that was. Now I’m too old. It would take a very big pile to cushion my fall. I consider raking leaves my workout since I don’t go to a gym, nor do I have any exercise equipment in my home. When the leaves have dried enough, I’ll mow through them to chop them up, and then use them to mulch my gardens. I also have a lot of pine needles in some areas. Those I save to mulch my blueberry patch or woodland gardens.
Maggie is waiting for me at one of her treat stops. 
One of my favorite activities in the fall is my morning walk through the woods with Maggie. I enjoy the rustling sound of leaves as I walk through them, and the smell that’s unique to fallen leaves, a mixture of a pungent earthy scent with a touch of sweetness, too. A question that I always have in the fall is how did Native Americans move silently through the woods when hunting? I can even hear my soft pawed dog moving. When I was still teaching, I gathered leaves on that walk and dried them between the pages of books to prepare them for art projects for my students. I’m still tempted to do that because the forest floor is a mosaic of jewel like leaves that all too soon will lose their colors and turn brown.

October also brings Halloween. It’s a fun holiday where kids and adults can dress up, play games and get treats, too. It’s a time of ghosts, skeletons, ghouls and other things that go bump in the night, but also princesses, football players, scarecrows and less fearsome trick or treaters.  I enjoy seeing the Halloween decorations many people decorate their homes or yards with. Some people believe Halloween promotes witchcraft and evil. I don’t think that’s any truer than mystery writers, readers or movie viewers are more prone to murder. Halloween dispels fear of the boogey man. Once a child dons a costume and sees other children doing the same, no matter how gruesome the costume, the child begins to put many fears aside. Back before Halloween parties and parades were discontinued in schools, my students, fellow teachers and I had so much fun on that day and in the preparations that led up to it. I think Halloween is a fitting end for October.

What do you like about the month of October?
How do you feel about Halloween?


Margaret S. Hamilton said...

We're having a glorious run of fall weather in Cincinnati, with blazing orange maples against a cloudless blue sky. I'm cutting back the perennials, stocking the bird feeders, and cleaning out the garage. I am fulfilled and content, remembering beautiful stands of daylilies and coneflowers, and anticipating the first of the daffodils in April. Fresh cider from a local orchard, at least ten different varieties of apples, pumpkins and decorative gourds at the farm stand.

The coyotes and foxes are lurking, and we're indulging in the last of the mole-stomping.

carla said...

I'm a big fan of fall, too. And Maggie is beautiful!!

Grace Topping said...

Growing up in central Pennsylvania, I loved fall and the colors that developed in the surrounding Allegheny mountains. It was like living in a bowl of Trix. On the mountainsides, the different colored trees looked like the colors of the popular cereal. There is something about the air and light this time of year that is so different. If I awoke from a long coma, I could tell what time of year it was just by the smell of the air and the direction of the sun. My favorite time of the year.

Jim Jackson said...

This is the first year I have not been north for fall colors. At our place in the U.P. of Michigan, peak colors are typically the third-week in September, but this year I had to leave early to take care of some oral surgery. I could drive five hours and take in the fall foliage in the north Georgia hills (er, I think they call them mountains), but it seems too much of an effort when I can rifle through the autumn-color pictures stored on my computer from years past.

As a kid I loved Halloween because I loved the candy. I still like candy, but rarely indulge.

~ Jim

Warren Bull said...

This is the best time of the year in Kansas City. The weather is great. The color of the leaves is sharp. Even the air feels different.

Gloria Alden said...

Margaret, it sounds like you're having a beautiful October. Much of ours was chilly or raining this year, and the days it was best is when I was at Bouchercon. This week I've been raking up pine needles and using them to mulch my rose bushes for the winter. I dug up three dahlias, but then it started to rain so I had to put off the rest until it passes over. Like you, I love October maybe even more than spring which is usually wet and muddy.

Thank you, Carla. I think she's beautiful, too. Unfortunately, because I can't resist her wistful look with cocked head, I have a hard time saying no to treats even though they're not much bigger than my thumbnail or the end of my little finger.

Grace, I live quite close to PA, and it's a state I really love, and have camped there at least once a year almost every year except this year. Even when I didn't camp there, I did travel through it on my way to other places.

At least you have those pictures, Jim. Hopefully, next year you'll get to experience it in person again. I love chocolate candy, but like you I rarely eat it except for maybe a tiny piece of the really dark chocolate which is supposed to be good for you.

Warren, I've never been in Kansas in the fall. Do you think you'll miss this time of the year when you head west? I suppose the trees there change colors to some extent, too, though.

Patg said...

I like fall for the colors and a certain excitement still overcomes me remembering the start of school, football games, different clothes and the anticipation of the holidays. I do NOT like the shorter days.
I love Halloween. We did not Trick or Treat. We Halloweened, and it was for money not candy. I love to decorate. I start with Fall decorations and add Halloween decor for October, then leave the Fall things up through Thanksgiving, with a few added turkeys.
My favorite Halloween things are carved pumpkins and witches. Have a thing for witches, as they used to be healers until the church got their clutches into them. Try not to collect to much stuff anymore, family not into it like I am.

Shari Randall said...

We just moved up to CT and I am so blown away by the beautiful autumn colors, the way the light slants in the window, and the crisp feel. Everything is so golden. If only it could stay this way longer!
So many wonderful things about October. I love seeing the little ones on Halloween, but seeing adults get so crazy about the holiday is just too much. Leave Halloween to the kids!

Kara Cerise said...

This is beautiful, Gloria. October is one of my favorite and most productive months. Just knowing that winter is on the way gets me motivated.

I enjoy Halloween because we have a neighborhood parade and party for the children before they go trick-or-treating. The kids on our street are already excited. I love your pictures especially the one of your great-granddaughter.

Gloria Alden said...

Pat, I haven't decorated for Halloween since I moved to my current house. At first I got a few trick or treaters - my grandchildren brought to my house by their parents and a few kids who once upon a time lived across the street. I never heared of trick or treating for money. It was only candy, apples or popcorn balls where we live.

Shari, I'm so glad you're getting to see what I've seen all my life. In some ways I wish I still lived where I'd get little trick or treaters. I so enjoyed it when I was teaching because of their excitement. It was such a shame that the schools stopped allowing it because a few opposed it. I had the parents of some students who opposed it, but instead of making a fuss about it - they didn't believe in and celebrations for holidays - they kept their children home and took them to Dairy Queen or something to treat them.

Kara, I hear you on that. I spent much of my day today working outside because I know my time is limited. Now my back is aching from all the leaves I raked today as well as the mowing, weeding and planting I did. A good hot bath later should help that. The picture of
my great-granddaughter is several years old. She's now in first grade.

Unknown said...

I'm with you: October is the best! Of course, I'm biased because it's my birthday month, but what I really love is the weather. It's the ideal time of year to travel almost anywhere without worrying about it being the rainy season, or 100 degrees, or snowing. Plus, I grew up in Oklahoma, and the state never looked prettier than when the leaves changed. Also? Halloween is my favorite holiday, so this is hands-down my favorite month of the year!

Gloria Alden said...

Marla, it certainly is a beautiful month even though there's so much to do up here in Ohio before the winter comes in. Still it's not unpleasant working outside this time of the year because I'm not dealing with extreme heat or mosquitoes.

Paula Gail Benson said...

My grandfather always used to talk about October's bright blue weather. I agree with you, Gloria. There's a more vibrant blue sky during this month!

Gloria Alden said...

Paula, I think the blue stands out more because of the brightly colorful leaves. Or maybe it's just giving us that little bit extra to remember when the skies get so gray for months and months.