In praise of October
By Bill Shepard
The goldenrod is yellow; the corn is turning brown;
the trees in apple orchards
with fruit are bending down.
— Helen Jackson
The morns are meeker than they were,
the nuts are getting brown;
the berry’s cheek is plumper;
the rose is out of town.
— Emily Dickinson
Both poets speak to the sentiments of the moment. The long and hot summer days are getting noticeably shorter. Summer is winding down and the feeling of autumn is in the air. It seems such a short time ago that we were experiencing the birth of spring and rejoicing that the cold and bleak winter was past.
October is knocking at the door. By the time you are reading this article, she might already be inside. She will be a welcome visitor, although her stay will be for a short time.
Autumn, prelude to fall, casts a change over the world about us. Feelings change; sights and sounds are different. The bark of a dog, even the rumbling sound of a freight train in the distance, takes on a different sound.
My mama used to say that it was a lonesome time of year. When I asked why, she replied, “Everything is dying.” And so it is. Here in the Upstate, the leaves are beginning to show hints of fall. That may be partly due to the long dry spell we are experiencing, but fall is here and change is taking place.
Every morning my porch is littered with acorns that have fallen from the big oak where the squirrels have been at work. They can be seen busy at their work, jumping from limb to limb and tree to tree. They know that summer is gone and soon the winter season will arrive. Their instincts tell them to be prepared! If I am wise, I too will make some preparations.
Down in my garden, what is left of it, I spotted a small watermelon that looked as though it was hiding among the pea vines. It’s doubtful that it will grow to maturity before Jack Frost arrives to shorten its life. What a pity! The leaves have already fallen from the black walnut tree that stands on the edge of my garden. Their absence reveals the walnuts that have survived the dry spell and are still hanging on their limbs.
Now the question is “Will they survive the squirrels that are beginning to store their food for the winter?”
If the deer would hold off a few more weeks, I might could gather a mess of late peas, but each morning when I go to my garden, I see signs they are not dong that.
The scarecrow I placed at the end of the row isn’t working. I even tried placing a radio in the garden and allowing it to play all night, but that didn’t work either.
My blueberries are gone but the muscadine are ripening. So far the raccoons from the woods nearby haven’t found them. I’ll be lucky if they don’t. One mouth of the muscadine and I’m a boy again. Strange how a fragrance, sound or taste can send one’s mind on a sentimental journey.
I spent a lot of Sunday afternoons in the top of a spreading oak tree, eating wild muscadine. What fun that was! Harmon Baldwin’s father could step out into the narrow street that ran past his house and whistle loudly; immediately, boys would spill out of their houses and follow him to the nearby woods.
We felt safe and secure in his company and knew we were in for a beautiful outing among nature. In the springtime we would search for wild plums ripening along the edge of the forest, but in the fall our minds were on the wild grapes hiding in the tops of the tall trees. Thank you, Mr. Baldwin, for giving of your time so that lasting memories could be made.
The first ripe mountain apples are appearing at the roadside stands and soon will be joined by yellow pumpkins and stalks of blue ribbon sugarcane. I’d better not start down that lane of memories. I’ll save that trip for another time.
The Darlington Sweet Potato Festival is another reminder of the ending of summer and the beginning of fall. My mouth waters when I read about all the goodies available at that festival.
Yes, summer has slipped away and fall is here – at least by the calendar on the wall. That evidence is backed up by signs appearing all around. Changes can be seen all about us. We can add to that list things like hay drying in the fields where it has been cut and baled; small patches of turnip greens, mustard salad and collards in yards here and there; and squirrels busy gathering acorns.
And if all of that is not enough, visit your nearest shopping malls and see the displays inside the windows. Fall colors of
clothing are on display along with Halloween costumes of ghosts and goblins. You might even see a Thanksgiving display here or there. I wouldn’t be too surprised if a Christmas decoration was seen!
Enjoy it – make that last trip to the beach; plan a weekend to the mountains and view the handiwork of God among nature. It won’t last long. Just as summer has given way to fall, so will fall give way to winter. The cold and biting winds will be blowing sooner than you realize.
Now it is fall and the poet Emily Dickinson said it best: “The morns are meeker than they were, the nuts are getting brown; the berry’s cheek is plumper and the rose is out of town.”