October

It has been a beautiful October. Perfect, really. The summer heat often doesn’t break until the beginning of this month, but this year even the end of September was cool. The leaves are spectacular. Lemon-yellow maples, golden-yellow hickory, and the oaks–they are having a banner season. Many years, their leaves only turn brown. This year they have been a rainbow of bronze, russet, black-red, and bright-red.

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I have been knitting. It isn’t something I often do, anymore, but the onset of cold weather calls for it. I am favoring stocking-stitch neckwarmers over my usual preference, socks. The neckwarmers are dead useful. They turn a regular shirt into something nearly as warm as a sweater. I knit them across the narrow way, 75 stitches wide on size US3 needles, for as long as 125-150g of sock- or sport-weight yarn will go. Then I sew the ends together.

Ladybugs and wasps are abundant. The ladybugs are short-lived; every evening there is a fresh crop of dead ones in the house. The wasps come one by one. No sooner has my husband squashed one, than another shows up. Never two at once. Only one.

Flocks of Canada geese fly overhead, and stop for the night on bodies of water. The squirrels had a fruitful year. The black squirrel that has lived a quarter-mile from my house, these several years, had a litter of three kits. The mister squirrel must have been a brown one, because the kits are all the color of dark chocolate. Like most of the animals here, they are so fearless that I can get within 4-5 feet of them. Close enough to see that their coats are their father’s brown, with their mother’s black guard-hairs.

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We saw a strange animal a couple of weeks ago. I can’t decide if it was a fox or a coyote. If it was a fox, it was a big one; if it was a coyote, it was a small one. Whatever it was, it had mange so badly that all its fur was gone. It trotted across our yard before disappearing with businesslike aplomb beneath the neighbor’s porch. I am going to keep a close eye on my little daughter when she’s outside, for the rest of the season.

Smoke is everywhere, and for once, I am not avoiding it. There are leaves to burn, the dead garden material to burn, old fencing to burn. Our neighbors spent all of yesterday working on a row of defunct shrubs. They burned in great spurts of yellow-gray smoke, dwindling to almost nothing for a few minutes at a time before spewing up again, choking us. I was washing windows, early on, then watching my daughter make Dead Leaf Soup for her imaginary pet turtle. When we came inside our hair and clothes were perfumed with it. Woodsmoke. It smelled like my grandmother’s house.

This morning was probably the last warm weather of the season. It was sunny, and stretched into the mid-seventies. After weeks of long sleeves I was forced to put on something cooler, when I was outside. Now it has clouded over. Cold weather and rain are moving in. We have had two light overnight frosts. I think the first hard frost isn’t far away.

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My husband has been working like a chipmunk all month, winterizing the house and doing outdoor repairs. Our back porch needed work. Our gutters needed work. The vegetable garden needed tearing down. The herb garden needed cutting back. The windows needed tightening up. I think the weather might be turning just as his resolve is. He came in mid-afternoon yesterday, forcefully announcing that he was done for the day.

Apple crisps and short ribs have been the foods of the month. I made a beef stew, also, which is something I don’t often do. I should make chili soon.

Halloween/Samhain/Dia de Muertos is later this week. This is the thin time, the time to remember. Light a candle for someone you loved.

I’ll see you in November.

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