It’s the cliche of the season, I know, but I have to agree with Anne Shirley: I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.
It’s no secret to anyone who reads here that I am not a woman who was made for hot summers. Not only am I a west coast Canadian, most at home caught between the ocean and the mountains, I am Canadian by way of the northern tip isles of Scotland and the grey middles of England. I’m freckled and pale. My ancestors made it clear: I was made for cardigans and moccasins, for cool evenings and the bite in the air.
Yet I’m not much for the big rituals of autumn; for instance, the epic outings with perfectly staged photos. I think they’re lovely, they’re just not my focus, I guess. We’re not into Halloween and you won’t ever catch me doing more for dress-up than stopping at the pop-up-shop in town and stuffing three $10 costumes that will suffice for the school costume parade into the shopping cart. I’m not pinning gold-dipped pumpkins and, much as I enjoy crafting, I don’t have much time for it these days so there aren’t any homemade wreaths. Sure, we’ll do the pumpkin patch thing and the apple orchard, no doubt, and we’ll trot around the neighbourhood in mass-produced costumes that shouldn’t be left near an open flame gathering candy in last year’s Halloween buckets like we do every year but those aren’t the moments of October I savour. Not really.
For me, the gift of October is in the light of the days, the last gracious light of this turn around the sun. It’s the golden glow of our moments as they fade away into the cool darkness, earlier and earlier. It’s the smell of dead leaves after a soaking rain. It’s standing outside in the changing woods, still, watching the leaves pirouette down in sheets during a gust of wind. It’s the vibrant colours – bright gold of the aspens, the red of oak and maple trees lining the boulevards and the playgrounds, the orange of beech, even the maroon of the overlooked ones. Perhaps it’s because these colours stand in perfect relief again the deep blue of the afternoon light. The blue of a sun-filled autumn afternoon – now there’s the argument for the restoration of creation.
Crisp mornings, sharp like a tart apple, wake me up from the stupor of summer. The air crackles with ideas and renewal, this should be the true start of the year, we come alive again.
It’s the way we gather in the autumn, too. Today in fact, our tables are set. We make the turkeys the way that our mothers made their turkeys, thumb through cookbooks with dog-eared pages, bake our goodies off of recipe cards made translucent with buttery fingers over the years. I like to consider myself a pretty good cook but I met my Waterloo in pie crust: it keeps me humble. So I buy my pies, proud in my common sense.
It’s the sound of children outside, and the old games that never seem to go away – tag, hide and seek, freeze tag. It’s school days and backpacks filled with Roald Dahl books and packed peanut-free lunches.
October’s true delights are in the small homebody rituals though. Lighting candles, full pots of tea with steam curling upwards from the new autumn blends from David’s Tea in old pots covered with hand knit tea cosies, comfort baking, pots of soup, draped scarves around our necks, revisiting the novels we have read a dozen times already just because we know we love them, sweaters on my knitting needles and old movies on rainy afternoons, dark and slow mornings, red lipstick stains on coffee mugs.
I’ve learned one secret of happiness, perhaps – be easily pleased. I’m easily pleased by small things, by lovely things, by beautiful things, ridiculous and simple things perhaps, but I’m happy in these days and so it’s enough.
October feels like a woman who knows her age and rests comfortable in that knowledge, like the woman I want to be someday. Bearing her years like a crown, beautiful but in her own beauty not the borrowed or contrived beauty of past seasons, wise and patient, crisp and alive, a bit tart but restful. October feels kind and strong in equal measure.