In-your-face October

October is in-your-face autumn!

Sure, the season started officially the last week of September. But that’s just an astronomical marker, a convenient listing date for calendars and almanacs.

Seasonal reality comes in October—that’s when its fact can’t be overlooked or denied.

But how could anyone ever miss or ignore October’s splendor…and who would ever want to do so?

October is one of those months you dream about! Gaudy of dress and mild of temperament, with each successive day seemingly bent on outdoing the one before. This tenth month is simply made to enjoy!

There’s an elegance to the days themselves, a natural grace that seems to sum up and define the season while coalescing all that has gone before. April’s promises have been fulfilled, while July’s efforts are hereby acknowledged.

“There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir,” wrote Bliss Carman—before going on to add how we “must rise and follow.”

The old poet understood the stimulation and subsequent compulsion. He realized the personal necessity for some of us to become both witness and participant.

It’s a reaction I completely understand because it precisely mirrors how I feel every year when October rolls around. What I don’t understand is how anyone with a whit of interest in the natural world could ignore the call and spectacle of this extraordinary month.

Savoring October can be as brief and easy as a half-hour’s foray ambling around your local village’s sidewalks. Or if you prefer, taking a long, slow drive on various rural backroads and byways.

Better, of course, would be to spend a morning following a sparkling stream on its bankside path. Or a whole day down in the state’s southeastern corner, hiking and scrambling about the steep and densely timbered hills and hollers.

Still, the important thing is the doing—the personal experience and savoring—regardless of how and where we choose to become a proactive part.

October begins under the silver gleam of a waxing Hunter’s Moon. The sky is black-velvet, spackled with a scintillating array of twinkling stars.

Amid this pale light, you might still hear the last hurrahs of katydids and crickets—midnight fiddlers whose performance time is fast running out. Two or three cold nights in a row and they’ll be gone.

Along the river, owls hoot into the shivery darkness—a lonesome sound, ancient and mysterious. And as the Hunter’s Moon swells and intensifies, you might hear the wild gabbling of northcountry geese, now making their annual move south, having felt that inner tug that says it’s time to go.

October is the month of dramatic leaves. One of the initial instigators of that dazzling autumn color is the sumac.

Sumac gets our local show going. Just a few leaves, at first. A splash of scarlet-red standing out from their adjacent peers. Startling misfits among the fading but familiar green monotone.

You then start to notice woodbine—or as you may know it, Virginia creeper. Viney and blazing whirls of crimson and scarlet, vermillion and maroon twining in cool flames up the trunks of trees.

Hickories join and go a rusty saffron.

Finally, the little sugar maples chime in with snatches of orange and yellow and red—colors so bright and lively they appear filled with an inner light.

Embers to kindling to flame.

A deliberate process of nuances and degrees.

Once this autumnal fire is lit, the color seems to increase daily. By the middle of October area woodlands are a patchwork of red and gold, orange and burgundy, yellow and amethyst—plus assorted shades of beige, ruby, lemon, hazel, and salmon.

Some trees even sport leaves in two or three different colors, while others might wear them with edges trimmed in one hue and centers of something entirely different.

The variations are endless.

October is the pageantry of kaleidoscopic leaf color, a chromatic feast. Beeches so golden they light up the woods. Maples like scarlet drops of blood.

An old English proverb says, “October hath always one and twenty fine days.” Which seems about right. You can seldom fault October for its weather.

October’s skies are vast and blue, sometimes dotted with clouds so white and puffy-thick you think they could be made of whipped cream. The air is rich and redolent of the season—a smell infused with apple cider and woodsmoke.

There’s an elegance to the landscape. An enchantment. As if myth could find form and appear like a dragon in the nebulous dawn. Or sunsets might reveal the treasure of a castle keep.

Geese pass overhead amid dusk and dawn’s crepuscular skis, whispering secrets of faraway lands. Country lanes grow metallic, burnished shades of copper and gold, and seem to hold some runic message scratched in their dust.

October is a time for amblers and ramblers, mystics and meanderers, vagabonds and dreamers. In-your-face stunning…and in your heart forever.

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