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.

SEPTEMBER COMES


September comes and lived among us matching the colors of my dreams. Then she quietly slipped away as October unobtrusively turned the page, and began another phase in the cycle of Nature. All in all, she was a courteous and well-mannered guest. The land had absorbed heat in spots foreign to such heat, and plants withered and died without necessary water. But though a hundred things may be wrong, a thousand things are right, and completely in order.

A skein of ducks or geese, intent on answering their age old call to the south, flew high in the sky the other morning. Winter will come, as it has for millennia, in spite of our expectations as to the weather.

Whether it was ducks or geese on their lofty journey, I cannot say, but the sound of their passing was comforting, knowing it as another sign that all is right with the world.

While ducks are thought of as privileged and charming creatures, geese are much maligned by descriptions such as “silly goose”, etc. I agree that geese can sometimes be loud and annoying, but they are useful as guard dogs in many cases. Because of their profound family sense, Penny. our small dachshund, refused to walk again after being attacked by an angry Father Goose protecting his nesting partner. My mother’s geese in Grants Pass, Oregon, lived lively lives across the ditch, and heralded the approach of anyone brave enough to come across the small bridge. A friend was given a few baby geese who instead of bonding with her as hoped, made it necessary to simply throw food over the fence for them.

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In spite of these unpleasant qualities, we must thank the goose for its feathers to fill warm duvets and pillows when winter bares its gnarly teeth. As writers we must thank the goose for the quill, which enabled those who came before us to write down their thoughts so that we may wonder at their brilliance, and gain the knowledge which gives a foothold in teaching those who follow us.

Thinking back to my early Latin study, our word pen comes from penne which meant feather or quill. Just think, the lovely Italian pasta penne, really means feather. I guess that would be food for thought.

Goose plumage feathered the arrows which indirectly won the Battle of Hastings, which was a major turning point in English history. Goose feathers on the longbow was as epochal as the invention of the bomb today.

November is just over the hill to the east and will bring a sweet chill.