Copyright © 2013 by Ralph Couey
Image and written content.
There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir,
We must rise and follow her;
When from every hill of flame,
She calls and calls each vagabond by name
--William Bliss Carmen
The road lies before me, dappled in sunlight. The black asphalt curving beneath the trees serves to highlight the bright colors of the leaves scattered across the surface. A cloudy morning has given way to bright sunlight and a sky of the purest blue. The air is cool, but not yet cold, and the sunlight slants through the trees illuminating the leaves, leaving them almost incandescent. To the left, the Blue Ridge rises from the valley, its flanks alive with bright colors. Besotted by this unmatched beauty, my heart is full; my spirit joyful. It is October, and I am at the center of my world.
Autumn has always been, and will always be my favorite season, within that three months, October is the crown jewel.
There's to much to love. Summer's oppressive heat and humidity is a fading memory. Winter, with snow and cold, is still weeks away. In this short span of time, my days are full of beauty. That they are noticeably shorter only serves to heighten the pricelessness of each daylight hour.
For sports fans, it's the best time of year. Baseball is in it's final climactic act of the season. Football has hit its stride. Basketball and hockey have begun to stir from their off-season slumbers. There is a snap in the air that heightens the senses sparks the spirit. Unlike the other seasons, each day is different as the leaves slowly change, from spotty color on the first, to a brilliant palette on the thirty-first.
To walk in the woods during this time of year is to discover the secret poet/philosopher that lives within. There is a certain scent that lives in the air only during October. It is equal parts cool air and dying leaves. It is most obvious when the feet kick up those leaves that now cover the ground. I can't find the words to describe it, save perhaps to call it a musty sweetness. And that sound, that raspy, rustling of leaves as they are momentarily disturbed before settling back again. Birdsong, the soundtrack of spring and summer has mostly faded. Overhead, however, you can occasionally hear the honks of flocks of geese as they pass overhead, neatly arrayed in their perfect Vee's. Squirrels scurry back and forth, their tiny cheeks bulging with the harvest that will see them through the hard winter. Deer become bolder, coming into the roadways and even neighborhoods as they, too store up for the winter. In a few days, the rut will start and the mindless passion of their mating season will drive them into risky behavior, falling prey to their chief predator, humans and their vehicles. But for now, you see them, the bucks resplendent in their antlers, dancing through the woods, the very picture of grace and strength.
Night comes ever earlier, but with the clear, cold air, the stars are revealed with a startling clarity. The constellations begin to change. Orion The Hunter begins to rise as Sagittarius sinks towards the horizon. The dimmer points of light which were obscured in summer's haze now become visible.
But its the autumn sunrises and sunsets that amaze the eyes and stir the heart. The rising or setting sun paints the horizon in precious golds and purples while the few clouds pick up and reflect the rays of our star. I spent many years at sea, witnessing countless such displays. It is during the autumn that the beauty usually reserved for sailors is shared with those on land.
I've spent a lot of time thinking about this month, trying to divine what it is about this month that resonates so deeply inside of me. The exact nature of the stimuli still escapes analysis, and as a writer, is most exasperating. It is, after all, a time of the heart for me, and the heart in the end defies the prison of words. One thing I do know, however. When the calendar turns over in the darkness of Halloween, a part of me mourns.
No rational person knows the exact date and time when their time allotted for this life ends. But were it up to me, I could leave this world at midnight October 31st without a shred of regret, knowing that in the land and the sky, I had seen God's greatest work of art.
There are still good times to come, of course. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years will arrive and pass, that tripartite celebration of family. Winter, though drab and colorless for most of its stay, will astound on those rare days when the bright sunlight turns a fresh fall of snow into a carpet of a million diamonds. Spring will bring life back to the world, and after that, the endless days of summer. Yes, every season has its own peculiar charms. But for me, there is no time in the year, or even in life, that touches and lifts my spirit quite the same way as does October.
And I am never more sad when it is gone.
"I should be over it now, I know;
It doesn't matter much how old I grow,
I hate to see October go."
--Johnny Mercer and Barry Manilow