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OCTOBER COLOR


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Since most of the month may be gone, this may be a tribute to its now fleeting colors. Here in California where I live, the leaves may not turn those gorgeous vibrant colors, but if I listen closely, I can hear October whispering a soft melody as old as Autumn and as insistent in its call to go. Autumn is a measure of contentment. Its job has been well done.

Everybody should own a tree at this time of year. Or a hillside of trees. Not legally as in “written on a piece of paper, but in the way that one comes to know and own a tree simply by seeing it at the turn of a road, or down the street, or in a park, and knowing it is there for you to enjoy whenever you pass by. You can watch its color, see its leaves quiver in the breeze, and neither fence nor title can take it from you. Man has made October his own as far as he can ever make any season his own.

I once owned a small hillside of a mixture of trees in Washington at the Hood Canal. It changed color as it should, and was never boring because of its mixture with evergreen trees. There was an old house nestled at the base of the hill, and I always wondered who lived there and if the sight of their trees was as pleasing to them as it was to me. I have a tree a few blocks away now whose name I don’t know, it is a small tree rather like a barrel, with loose branches plunging out of its top. I think of it as I would a short fat man with feathers atop his head. I own a mountain of quaking aspen in New Mexico whose shiny leaves become like a flow of molten gold down the mountainside in October. Others may own them too. Trees are anyone’s for the finding to own forever.

I often wonder why man, in his infinite wisdom, has chosen summer as the ideal time to take a vacation, when the only thing he can hope to take from it is a sunburn or perhaps an unpleasant case of poison oak or ivy. October is at its peak and prime time for vacations. After a summer’s vacation, man returns to his job, desk and is again tied down with only a small brief glimpse of what might be outdoors if he had only waited a month.

With the promise of cold weather, and in spite of restrictions against using fireplaces, it is traditional to have a fire in a fireplace. Ancient man had his fire pit, our forebears cooked in a fireplace. Now we install gas logs or use Presto logs to give us the same feeling, but it isn’t the same. It satisfies one desire, but leaves us wanting more. I have a feeling that the dogs know the difference and miss the old smoke filled room if we forgot to open the damper.

Show someone a cabin in the woods without many conveniences and if it has a fireplace he will buy it or think about it. I say this from experience. The house was named “Cozy Nest” and was miles from anything else. It had a pond, chicken coops, and several small buildings nestled in the trees. I still think its charm overcame its inconveniences.

Thinking of “Cozy Nest” resplendent in its red coat, I wondered why so many houses and barns are painted red? Our first house was painted red with white trim. It was a grand place to begin our married life and have our children. I don’t know what the red paint had to do with it, but when it came time to buy our second home, it came already painted in red with white paint. When we built the barn on the property, there was no question but what it had to be red. After all, who ever heard of a yellow barn? The house we live in was also coated with red with white paint. Go figure.

Woodsheds differ more widely than houses or barn. After all, they are built to shelter wood and any number of things, such as old paint cans, left over chicken wire, and garden tools. We don’t need one here, but we had one while living in Washington, and I have remembrance of the ones my father had in Oregon and Connecticut they were messy places as they should be. Totally utilitarian.

I think now, as October is on the wane, it is time for some winter clean up in the garden. The figs are done, having been shared with garden critters, and the nectarines and apples are long gone. Now the leaves will drop, some of them silently in the night, falling in piles just beneath the trees. The apple looks as if she will keep her leaves for awhile, but the new flowering pear has no intention of standing naked in the garden.

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11 comments on “OCTOBER COLOR

  1. Another lovely reflection on the passing (or coming for the optimists) of seasons. That is one reason we have chosen the Highlands. Trees are indeed necessary and to hold dear. Here spring is in full swing and advanced enough for daffodils and tulips to have gone. Rhododendrons’ turn now and oaks are getting fuller. A shy maple here and there as well. The heaters now only in early morning but by ten switched off.
    Lovely piece, Kayti.

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  2. How perfectly you have captured October, a favorite month of mine, in this and the preceding posts. I love the idea of owning trees, taking possession of them by seeking them out with your eyes, drinking them in, knowing them and I’m glad you advocate for t so well for taking ownership of trees. I didn’t think of it that way, but I have practiced tree ownership since I was young. Now, thanks to you, I have a label for it and can try to spread the practice. My problem with October is trying to decide with my husband whether to stay home and enjoy our October yard or travel and let our eyes drink in new vistas. It’s a delightful dilemma to have.

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  3. The color here in PA is starting to peak and its getting colder. I love this time of year and can’t wait to have our own fire going in our hearth.

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    • We don’t get the same wonderful color as you, nor do we have such early frost. Having lived in cold country, I miss it. I loved shuffling along through crispy leaves on the way to school, and having the smell of hearth fires. You don’t get the Wintry feeling when the temperature stays neutral. Nevertheless, I like the feeling of things having been accomplished in the garden, and loose ends tied up. It’s the beginning rather than the end of seasons.

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  4. Beautiful post, Kayti. Do you know that quote from Willa Cather: “I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do. I feel as if this tree knows everything I ever think of when I sit here. When I come back to it, I never have to remind it of anything; I begin just where I left off.”?

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    • Thank you for this mrsdaffofil. It seemed familiar, and when I looked it up I find it is from “O Pioneers. Cather is a favorite of mine too. Thanks again.

      You are probably beginning to see some wonderful color in your trees. That’s one thing I miss about Seattle. The trees around the University are so beautiful this time of year.

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  5. I can vouch for the wisdom of an October vacation. Even without the splendid colors, there are delights. This morning, it was so cold I had to find a sweatshirt, and then a jacket. By 10 a.m., of course, they were coming off. But that’s part of the pleasure, too.

    There are many things I had forgotten, and the sounds made by falling leaves is one. Leaves are loud. I thought there were creatures in the woods — and surely there were — but the leaves themselves were falling with crackles and pops that you wouldn’t believe. We don’t hear these things, often. Three weeks with no television, radio, music, or such has left me in a differently-silent world. I wonder if I can maintain that? (Don’t be surprised if you see this on my blog. We’ll consider this a first draft, just the two of us.)

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    • Some leaves are noisier than others. Maple leaves are big enough to entice us to tramp through them. The birch, of which we have quite a few, are silent droppers which cling to shoes and come into the house. How wonderful that you have had this great vacation from all the TV etc. Especially the couple of weeks left of political news. I couldn’t believe the pleasure of silence the first time I went backpacking in the mountains.

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  6. I love this. Now I want to go to your wood in Washington and then off to New Mexico for the quaking aspen. It may have to be in my imagination. x

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  7. It’s the best way to have what you want; just take it where you find it. It remains only in my imagination too. I could join you there?

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