If you see some guy walking along, grinning like a Chessie cat, looking up at trees, swooshing fallen leaves and wearing a sweater that smells of mothballs, please stop and say “hello.”
He will be me. Autumn is here. October is my favorite month … the queen of the calendar.
Whenever I mention my lifelong love of fall, someone says, “Oh. It’s pretty, with the leaves and all, but it’s depressing. Everything is dying.”
Hey, you can’t have everything.
I’ve never been a summer person. It might have something to do with being Irish. We’re fair-skinned creatures who burn easily. I can remember as a kid, going swimming on scorching hot days. Instead of having a “healthy tan,” I was red, blistered, peeling, then freckled. People probably thought I had some weird Celtic skin disorder.
Summer, to me, means heat, humidity, sweaty tee shirts, whining lawnmowers, chattering hedge trimmers, poison ivy and enough insects to outfit the earth’s Departments of Entomology.
Then comes fall. Yes, the sun rises later than it used to, and sets earlier. But in between are cool, dry days, then even cooler nights, with the air-conditioner shut off and the windows open.
Even before October comes, the maple tree in our front yard starts to put on its annual show. It turns color early, with a pinkish tint to a leaf or two at first, then, seemingly overnight, it shimmers and blazes in all its crimson glory. Up and down the street, the big old oaks, hickories and buckeyes eventually add to the timeless Technicolor extravaganza.
Nature’s autumnal beauty is always breathtaking, especially on one of those crisp, sunny, blue-sky October mornings when, as Ernie Pyle once said, you feel as though you “just want to haul off and crow like a rooster.”
Upstairs, the trunk and the cedar chest open and old friends emerge … comfy wool sweaters, vests, caps and shirts. Flannel and chamois cloth shirts, stretched and softened by years of use and washings, replace their short-sleeved brethren in the closet.
I love fall festivals, visits to apple orchards, forests and pumpkin patches, apple cider, pumpkin pie and fall food in general. Although my breakfast always has been tea and toast, when temperatures start dipping, I like hot oatmeal with walnuts and raisins; fried eggs and bacon; waffles and pancakes, preferably with “real” maple syrup. And, of course, there’s vegetable soup, ham and beans, cornbread, chili, pot pies and other hot dishes, all of which taste better when it’s getting cold outside.
Fall never depresses me. Instead, I think of it as one big, glorious burst of quiet beauty that arrives, it would seem, only to bedazzle us before winter strips the trees bare, turns fields and rivers to iron, and forces the wild things to fight for their lives.
Until then, take time to get outside and savor the miracle of October. I am.