Kate Flora: When my boys were little, we used to have word lists posted on the refrigerator both to improve their vocabularies, and to encourage creativity and kindness in their name-calling. My family has always had a fascination with word play. My brother John is the world’s best (or worst) punster, and I own a zillion books about word origins and the development of language. I even have (of course) the giant two volume Oxford English Dictionary—the one with the little drawer and a magnifying glass—and I use it.
Once, early in the Thea Kozak series, I had a list on the wall of a dozen words for pain—she was always mixing it up with the bad guys—and another time it was pages of words for colors. What can I say? I’m a writer. I like words.
This week, the sudden, and unwanted, nip in the air sent me scurrying to my trusty Rodale’s Synonym Finder for words to describe what is happening, thinking it would be fun to share some of them with you, and Rodale’s was a bust.
I looked up autumn and got fall and harvest. I looked up equinox and it wasn’t there at all. Undaunted, I grabbed my Bartlett’s, source of a hundred epigrams, and sighed with relief. Words, crunchy, powerful, evocative words. There are those who see autumn as sadness and an end, and those for whom it is a time of ripening and crescendo.
Arthur Symons give us:
The gray-green stretch of sandy grass,
A sea of lead, a sky of slate;
Already autumn in the air, alas!
And Matthew Arnold:
Coldly, sadly descends
The autumn evening. The field,
Strewn with its dank yellow drifts
Of withered leaves, and the elms,
Fad into dimness apace
And Tennyson captures what my small boys would have described as “happy sad,”
Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depths of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy autumn fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more
As does Shelley:
Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling lit its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies
Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet, though in sadness.
John Dryden gives us a good phrase for aging long:
Of no distemper, of no blast he died.
But fell like autumn fruit that mellowed
For some of us, autumn is a season for slowing down, and contemplation, as in this, from Thomas Hood:
I saw old Autumn in the misty morn
Stand shadowless like silence, listening to silence
These writers remind us to slow down and contemplate the world around us, and there is no better time for that than is fall, as the leaves turn, the fields grow golden, pumpkins ripen, and the last tomatoes struggle to turn red.
Do you have “fall” word that you like? A poem, a quote, and phrase that comes to mind as the days shorten and the air grows cool?