Since she wrote so beautifully about country living and the changes of the seasons, I thought I’d share one of late mother’s posts today. This comes from the October chapter of her essay collection, From The Orange Mailbox.
A Carman Clark: When the moon slipped down behind the western ridge the valley was
gray and quiet. A few house lights were visible across the pond. The headlights of one car flickered along the ridge but mostly there was sense of a still sleeping world.
Within minutes—as though it had been waiting for the great eye of the moon to depart—mist flowed down the river and up from the brook which runs through the swamp on the east. The pond vanished from sight and the orchard disappeared. Thick, deep, and heavy, the white vapor engulfed my farm until even the edge of the kitchen garden was hidden and a damp cold seeped in. I built a fire in the woodstove, snuggled into the wing chair, and watched the whiteness crowd against the windows.
When the rays of the rising sun pierced through the mist, it dissipated as quickly as it had come, leaving the valley dripping, clean, and clear. Across the pond in the long light of the early sunlight, flashes of red, yellow, and orange showed among the spruce and pines from the shore to the crest of the ridge.
The colors of autumn—the brilliance of this shift in the spiral of living—stimulate a special quality of energy and enthusiasm. Some is based on nostalgia. When I received my first check from Farm Journal for writing, I bought a red sweater, filled my pockets with apples, and went forth in October sunshine to scuffle the golden leaves and dream of being a writer.
At about the age of ten I begged, argued, and pleaded for permission to go mountain climbing in October and was firmly refused because of the dangers from hunters. But some ingenious manufacturer came forth with a harp-shaped musical (?) instrument made of wax and played like a harmonica. The tones and colors of this were equally obnoxious but—on the theory that such sounds would alert any hunters—I was allowed to climb.
The magic of those days is a treasure neither thieves, nor rust, nor moths can steal nor destroy. The path through the woods was a golden glow. About the tops of the trees along the ledge and rocks the huckleberry bushes clung to crevices with crimson leaves spread out above the mosses and lichens. From the open summit, the valley with its chain of lakes was a glorious stretch of color too vivid, too spectacular for description with mere words. It was even hard to breathe in the midst of such glory.
My children used to say “Let’s go outside and be in the world.” Good to remember this
week—to do or go but just to be and take time to savor October.
But lazy rides for foliage viewing can be a special delight on unfamiliar roads when you’ve no idea what may be over the next hill or around the next curve. The rolling hills of Waldo County have miles of green fields bordered with maples dazzling in scarlet and gold. Each pond and lake is a spectacle—vibrant and surprising. Coming back almost sated with beauty, there is a new angle of light upon your own bit of Maine. The range of colors covers the spectrum—too varied for words to do half justice in description. October needs to be experienced.
Nature’s shut-off systems vary in timing and texture as well as in color. The milkweed turns brown and yellow, standing straight among the limper grasses like slender tombstones pointing skyward while sending out fragile clouds of floating seeds. The rhubarb, which has a clenched fist, resilient toughness in April, has flopped down, giving up in a mushy flatness.
The asparagus with its tough but feathery ferns is sturdy to the end. While the fronts turn yellow, the green seeds turn red and each plant seems to try to outdo the others in its determination to reproduce and create multiple weeding problems in the spring.
While the blueberry shrubs and woodvines turn crimson, the potato tops crumble into weak brownness as though trying to quickly return to the soil. The beans become yellow, then brown, while the kale gets deeper green, fuller, and more luxuriant.
There seems to be a last surge of energy within the plants to flower or produce—to fulfill their seasonal purpose. Along the stone wall, tiny pig weeds—only four inches high—are putting forth seeds. Some yarrow, defeated weekly by the lawnmower, has given up growing tall and is in blossom at ground level. And down along the pond path, two violets bloom. October energizes. It’s a good feeling.