Thursday, October 20, 2016

"There is something in the autumn..."

Here's Helen DePrima!

“There is something in the autumn that is native to my soul . . .”

Fall is my most favorite and least productive season. Although I’m energized almost to point of frenzy, I have to vent the vitality out-of-doors, hiking if possible or at least driving though the incredible sights of New Hampshire in October. Rainy days are a special treat, the mists and wet black back roads making the leaving glow all the brighter.


As a child, I went into the Kentucky woods with my father where he taught me about may apples and mushrooms and how to break open honey locust pods to lick the bittersweet paste inside. To me, the scent of fallen leaves underfoot rivals the sweetest flower perfumes.


I manage to work off the mania by grubbing the dirt, digging carrots and beets, white and sweet potatoes, putting the garden to bed for another season. Cutting and stacking wood for winter keeps me close to the rough tangle of brush and woods where migrating songbirds stop to rest and gorge on wild cherries. Wild turkeys share the feast with airy disregard for the nearness of Thanksgiving.


The idea of any sort of indoor work this time of year seems ungrateful of the riches themselves outside my window. When November comes, I’ll sit gratefully beside my wood stove and start a new quilt or a new novel, but for now, look for me outdoors from dawn to dusk reveling in October’s extravagant farewell to summer.

And here's Liz Flaherty!

                I love Helen’s pictures, and, like her, I love autumn. Sights, smells, sounds—you name it. I even love the wardrobe because…well, because going back to wearing long pants means shaving my legs is less of an issue and because I just flat love sweatshirts.

                But I noticed something new the other day. I was driving into town, paying attention to the changing leaves and the fields cleared of corn and soybeans. I opened the car window at a four-way stop and just sat there and breathed deep for a few minutes. It smelled so good—the sweet smell of grain, the smoky scent of falling leaves, the aroma of summer somehow ripening into fall. And before I took off again, I had to wipe my eyes and blow my nose, because the season went from having a purely sensory effect on me to having an emotional one. I can’t explain it. I can only say it is very real.

                It made me remember when I took my youngest son to register for kindergarten. I knew I would have to leave him, that they would separate us, and steeled myself against his tears. I held his hand going up to the double doors, his curly blond head at a level with my hip. He wore his beloved denim jacket.

              When we got to the door, he released my hand and said, “Bye, Mom. You can go home now.”

              He wasn’t the one who cried.

              It wasn’t fall when he registered—it was spring—but in my mind it was autumn and the first day of school and he was never completely mine again. If I think about it too long, I will get sniffly all over again.

              I sold my first book on my brother’s birthday, October 23, in 1998. Last year A Heartwarming Christmas hit the USA Today list in October. Last week A Heartwarming Holiday became an Amazon best seller. Later last week, my editor called and made an offer—two more Heartwarmings! I mentioned to my brother that it would be fine with me if he had more birthdays just so I could have more nice things happen. He told me it was time I grew up and did things on my own. We laughed long and hard.

              In 1999, I went to Vermont for the first time and knew that in some indefinable way, I’d gone home. Whenever I think of the little state nestling in over there beside Helen’s New Hampshire, it is with waves of tenderness, especially in October, when the leaf-peepers and people selling maple syrup are out in full force and all of New England becomes a national post card.

              Saturday night was the hunter’s super moon and I stood in the back yard and watched it and was so thankful that in this time of political upheaval and anger and meanness, there are things so beautiful that even we as writers don’t have the right words to describe them.

              I haven’t said this at all the way I meant to—which is the way blogging usually goes!—but I’m so grateful to this season not only for its colors and its lovely smells and sounds, but for the emotions it brings forth. The “waves of tenderness,” the tears, the laughter, the warmth of beauty when there seems to be so much cold ugliness all around.

               I hope you get some good laughing and crying in this fall. Mostly, as we enter the holiday season, I hope you have joy throughout.

***

If you haven't ordered it yet, A Heartwarming Holiday is still 99 cents. For a limited time, A Heartwarming Christmas (last year's boxed set) is, too. 


And then, while you're out there, A Heartwarming Thanksgiving is available for pre-order. And don't forget that prize package Kate talked about yesterday!




26 comments:

  1. I love the fall, too! I like the cooler weather and the colors, the smells... I also love the foods that go with it: soups, squashes, carbs! Oh, the carbs! LOL!

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    1. I agree! I don't think there really is such a thing as a bad carb, is there? :-)

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    2. Hi Patricia -- Please don't mention carbs! We came home from North Carolina last month lusting for the sweet potato cake we enjoyed in Charlotte. My husband found a recipe and make one using sweet potatoes from my garden -- who says they won't grow in New Hampshire!

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  2. Your photographs are stunning, Helen. I love the brilliant colors this time of the year despite knowing what's around the corner. I'm not a fan of winter, but thankfully here in the south, it's bearable.
    Liz, I agree, the Hunter's moon was beautiful!

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    1. Wasn't it? I could hardly bear to go inside!

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    2. Hi Jill -- It's hard to take a poor photo this time of year, and everyone agrees that this October has been unusually spectacular. Like you, I hate to see winter coming, but at least we have this magnificent display to soften to coming blow.

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  3. A charming and bittersweet post! I remember walks in the woods with my father in Ohio. He'd find grape vines and we'd smoke them! Yes, smoke them. It seemed like such an adventure.
    Cynthia

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    1. I've never heard of that! I remember my dad talking about smoking cornsilk, but I never tried that, either.

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    2. Hi Cynthia -- Your dad sounds like mine; we smoked catalpa pods, otherwise known as Indian cigars. I've never forgotten those outings and still love being out in the woods in all seasons.

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  4. Lovely photos and lovely memories. On my morning walk it really felt like Fall has come to the Southwest. Cool and crisp, with haze over the Catalina mountains. Unfortunately I didn't see any colorful leaves, but we can't have everything.

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    1. You can feel fall even without the colors, can't you?

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    2. Hi Roz -- Fall here is dramatic, but I think I really prefer the slower, more subtle seasonal changes in the South. I grew up in Kentucky where every season came on at a more leisurely pace. Here we can go from tee shirts to parkas in a single day.

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  5. Ladies, thank you for the lovely post this morning. I got a little choked up myself recalling fall memories with my own dad. Bittersweet, Cynthia said it just right above. We are having a gorgeous fall here in the Northwest. I know winter is right around the corner so I'm trying to enjoy every minute.

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    1. Ours is beautiful in the Midwest, too, although it's rainy today--my least favorite part!

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    2. Hi Carol -- Hearing others' memories of their dads summons up one of my favorites. Nothing to do with fall, but rather sitting on a footbridge made of old railroad ties while my father showed me how to bait my hook with nightcrawlers and watch my red-and-white bobber disappear under the surface of the pond when a fish took the bait. The ties were treated with creosote; the similar smell of fresh road tar takes me back in an instant.

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  6. Helen and Liz, thank you for your lovely pictures and inspiring thoughts about my favorite season. I am a fall leaf collector. I can't go for a walk without picking up at least one leaf and bringing it home to save and admire. At two walks a day, you can imagine I have quite a collection.

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    1. My friend Margie Senechal says her favorite season is the beginnings of all of them, and I'm inclined to agree with her, but autumn is very special.

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    2. Hi Linda -- When my kids were small, we'd collect the prettiest leaves and press them between sheets of wax paper with a warm iron. The colors lasted forever; I recently found a few specimens in a box of my daughter's grade school papers. I've also noticed that the acid in the leaves etches outlines in the bottom of my birdbath.

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  7. Oh, my God! Both of you! After reading your post, I was ready to run to New Hampshire to be with Helen, then sit at a quiet four-way stop and contemplate with Liz. You both said it so beautifully, and as I sit here on a wet and wildly windy Oregon day, I'm enjoying fall vicariously through you. (Carol and I are on the opposite ends of the PNW. Blow sunshine this way, Carol.)

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    1. The PNW is definitely full of a charm all its own, though, isn't it? However, I do think New England gets the prize for "best autumn."

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    2. Hi Muriel -- I've never spent enough time in the PNW to appreciate its moods, but I imagine they're quite different from New England. One my one visit to Seattle we were lucky to hit clear weather and get a good view of Ranier.

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  8. So beautiful. You make me realize I've spent too much time indoors lately. Today I'll go outside and embrace autumn.

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    1. It's a good time for being out there!

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    2. Hi Beth -- Unless you're a skier, fall in New England is your last chance to enjoy the outdoors until spring. My winter sport is shoveling snow which fortunately I like.

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  9. What a wonderful post you guys. I got all teary eyed myself reading your descriptions of autumn!

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    1. I'm glad to know the emotional thing isn't just me, Catherine!

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