Almanac October 2023
October dares you not to look away.
These early days of autumn, deciduous trees edging toward full glory, you wouldn’t dream of it. Brisk mornings enliven your senses. You can nearly taste the crispness through your skin.
As golden light alchemizes a brightly colored skyline, yellow becomes more than yellow; red, sharper and truer; orange, otherworldly so.
The merging of light and leaves mesmerizes you. There is nothing soft about this symphony of color. Nothing subtle. The dance is as stunning as molten gold.
Trees become torches. Foliage laps against cerulean skies like ravenous flames licking silent blue heavens. This amalgam of color transforms your very being. You feel both awestruck and emboldened. Ancient and brand new.
Suddenly, a gust of wind sends a wave of leaves swirling earthward. Another gust follows, releasing howling, coppery flurries.
The wind goes rogue.
Wave after furious wave, the leaves descend with reckless abandon. As starling murmurations flash across a brilliant sky, the fleeting beauty makes you ache.
The paradox is arresting: The season has reached its full potential, and there’s nothing to do but watch it make a raging, riotous exit.
Do not look away, you tell yourself. A shock of crimson shakes from open branches. Do not miss one glorious moment.
October commands your faithful presence. As the trees free themselves of all adornment, you soften to their naked truth. This, too, shall pass.
Hold tenderly this precious knowing — this visceral aliveness — and, in the next breath, let it go.
There is a far sweet song in autumn
That catches at my throat,
I hear it in each falling leaf
And in each wild bird’s note . . .
— George Elliston, “Mine Own” (1927)
Birds of Autumn
Yellow-bellied sapsuckers arrive; ruby-throated hummingbirds depart for warmer climes. Birds come and birds go.
This month, as nature dazzles us with her warm and glorious hues, keep watch for white-throated sparrows, pine siskins and yellow-rumped warblers — winter residents whose songs are as distinctive as their field marks.
Oh, Sweet Canada, Canada, sparrows whistle.
Warblers perform their soft, slow trills.
Pine siskins stun us with their harsh and wheezy zreeeeeeet.
Winter is nigh, the birds seem to say.
In other words: Enjoy the show.
Flower of the Dead
Nothing says autumn like a field of fiery marigolds. Or a tidy garland of them.
Although October’s vibrant birth flower has long been associated with grief and loss, its uses have been — and continue to be — vast. Because their sunny orange and yellow hues are believed to dispel negativity — and to help guide wandering spirits to altars for the dead — marigold garlands are commonly used in religious ceremonies in Asia, Latin America and Mexico.
They’re also a choice natural dye, companion plant and, depending on the variety, edible flower. Bust out a batch of marigold-and-saffron shortbread this season and see if you ever crave pumpkin spice again. PS