Ah, the October Country. If youâ€™re lucky you discover it when youâ€™re young.
Maybe youâ€™re living in the wilds of Illinois as did Ray Bradbury; or the enchanted Sleepy Hollow on the Hudson, Washington Irvingâ€™s hallowed ground; or even as a young girl in North Canton, Ohio, when you fall under the spell. A surge flows through your youthful blood, a quickening that awakens a love of autumn deep within the heart where it ever remains.
Perhaps this autumnal ardor is carried on the wind as a whisper half heard, or through the smell of wood fires, or the taste of a candy apple you once ate at a carnival. Maybe the love of October is rooted in the riotous color of foliage, bolder than it has any right to be, as your eight-year-old self rides a bike past those wild, painted trees in a late fall afternoon, excited at being alive and freer than youâ€™ll ever be again.
In Southern California we donâ€™t have real Autumn. We have Santa Ana winds, fire danger and Trader Joeâ€™s, which actually does a good job of presenting fall fare in the middle of a tropical theme. Then thereâ€™s the plethora of pumpkin-flavored beverages from Starbucks. Personally, Iâ€™m holding out for a good pumpkin champagne.
As our autumn begins, it remains ruthlessly, insultingly hot with brown hills, parched earth, and the Southern California citizenry still sporting shorts and flipflops as if trapped in an endless summer. Even pumpkin seeds planted in early summer by hopeful children at Childrenâ€™s Corner came to naught.
Oh, sometimes thereâ€™s a moon, a full fall moon, big, round and orange like a great pumpkin hanging in the sky. I consult â€śThe Old Farmerâ€™s Almanacâ€ť to find the date of whatâ€™s termed the Hunterâ€™s moon (Oct. 9). The almanac is a historical publication founded in 1792, known for forecasting the weather, offering planting and fishing advise, recipes, astronomical tables, folklore and advertisements from stump grinders to a male intimacy restorative device called the Vacu-rect. You get the picture.
The â€śAlmanacâ€™sâ€ť cover claims the contents within will be â€śUseful, with a pleasant degree of humor.â€ť Aside from the Vacu-rect, a sample of said degree of humor can be found in the title of a nature article, â€śRough Times for Ruffed Grouse,â€ť and another concerning a report on oral hygiene called, â€śThe Tooth, The Whole Tooth, And Nothing But The Tooth.â€ť Somehow, I find neither title coming anywhere close to what could be construed as a â€śpleasant degree of humor.â€ť In fact, I tend to label them â€śunpleasant,â€ť as such clichĂ©d punning is certainly not to be encouraged. But then, who am I to question a periodical that has been around for over two-hundred years?
I must admit to enjoying an informative article about pumpkins, â€śBeyond The Pumpkin Patch,â€ť and learning the best choice of pumpkin for a pie, Winter Luxury, and an essay contest that pays cash prizes. Alas, I missed the deadline to enter this yearâ€™s theme, â€śMy Most Memorable Wildlife Experience.â€ť I could have written about the tarantula in the bed, the rattlesnake in the kitchen, or tug on the judgesâ€™ hearts with the story of the little chipmunk rescued from the catâ€™s mouth in the way-back times of childhood in Ohio. That was the first living thing I ever saw die and I cried over the small, still warm body in my hand. Iâ€™d call my opus, â€śSo This Is Death.â€ť Ah, what could have been? Honorable Mention at the least, but the glory, oh the glory. I ponder a question regarding the title, â€śThe Old Farmerâ€™s Almanac.â€ť Is it the Farmer who is old or the Almanac itself? To which does the adjective â€śoldâ€ť apply?
I await the cooling of the days, the magic of the season, the glow of that moon, the falling of an oak leaf dancing down in a Topanga breeze. But there is no breeze. To expedite the season, I persuade the Beleaguered Husband to fetch down from the web-covered garage shelves numerous boxes of Halloween and Autumn treasures collected over these many years. Such an undertaking, especially on a hot afternoon, produces a vitriolic spewing forth of expletives from the now mightily beleaguered man precariously balanced up on the ladder.
I harangue from beneath, hoping to avoid crawly things. â€śNo, not that one, thatâ€™s Thanksgiving. I donâ€™t want that. Isnâ€™t there one labeled Autumn? Oh, how about the other box? No, I mean the green one.â€ť
Suddenly, a container falls heavily scraping the skin across my arm. There Will Be Blood! But then, sacrifice is needed to lure the Autumn Goddess in and I do not begrudge her my crimson offering.
Even if it still feels like summer, itâ€™s autumn! I know it is. I know it because I am walking along Old Canyon on a hot afternoon on my birthday wearing a homemade crown the children at school gave me. An old Stone Poneysâ€™ song runs through my mind as Iâ€™m looking down, watching my steps on the uneven ground, by myself. Thatâ€™s kind of the best way to be on your autumn birthdayâ€”by yourself. If not on a bicycle, at least youâ€™re walking along thinking your own thoughts about being young and old in this world. Then I see autumn right under my feet. Acorns, hundreds of them, like autumnâ€™s confetti, pinecones, too.
I think Iâ€™ll get myself a Winter Luxury pumpkin and make a pie.