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October Thoughts

Bru picks crabapples.

"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers." — L. M. Montgomery


I saw that quote on the National Park Service's Facebook page a few days back, paired with a lovely image of a glowing aspen grove with the Tetons in the background. I have always loved October.


Besides the jaw-dropping beauty of this time of year in my native Michigan, October has always meant Halloween—one of my favorite days of the year when I was growing up. I loved exploring the neighborhood after dark while pretending to be someone other than who I was.


My husband, however, doesn't like Halloween, didn't grow up with it in Australia, and doesn't understand it. I tease him that it's because it steals the thunder from his birthday just a few days before. But really, I think it's because he has always felt comfortable being who he is, and he doesn't get why people would feel such joy in pretending to be someone else. One of his favorite conversational refrains has always been, "I know who I am."


I haven't heard that for a while, though. Bru will turn 86 next week, and while his physical health is amazingly robust, his cognitive abilities have really taken a beating in the social isolation of the past few pandemic years. While we are getting out more often now and seeing friends and acquaintances, he is not the same conversationalist he used to be. He is not the same confident photographer and teacher he once was. And this is confusing and frightening to him. More and more, rather than engaging with the present, Bru prefers to revisit the stories of his adventurous youth and the accomplishments of his long and vibrant middle age--all great material, I don't mind adding.


Two nights ago, we had our first hard frost in Iowa City. The growing season has ended, and I feel winter barreling in, as well it should this time of year when all is right with the world.


Many years ago, when I was in Iowa for the first time ever, I had a conversation about the seasons with an older gentleman. (This older gentleman was probably not much older than I am now.) It was springtime, the weather was warm, and the rural landscape was turning green all around us. Spring was his favorite time of year, he said, and I replied that I liked the fall best. He smiled and said, in that voice wise old people use when talking to young folks, "I used to like the fall, too. But now I know what's coming."


Having experienced the Upper Midwest's mid-continental winters for over twenty years now, I know exactly what he was talking about.


Still, I love the glory of fall, the last beautiful gasp of the deciduous, the heavy red fruit of the crabapple and hawthorn trees in our back yard. I love the asters purpling the meadows and ditches of Iowa. I love the stories Bru tells me of delivering milk with a draft horse and cart in the western suburbs of Sydney, seeing Bud Powell play at the Jazzhus in Copenhagen, and having his photographs hanging in the lobbies of London's brand new National Theatre. It's autumn, and I do know what's coming, and I try to love what is here and now all the more for it.

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