Wednesday, October 12, 2005

October's Bright Blue Weather

NOTE: I wish I'd taken this pic but I didn't; it's a stock pic that I downloaded from Google Images.

Here in Dallas the weather's finally turned, and we've had a brief taste of crisper days to come. Although we'll have quite a few warm days yet, fall's in the air, and it feels good. I’ve been grilling my dinner this past week. Soon it’ll be cool enough to be able to sit outside in the evenings with a glass of wine, enjoying the sweet scent of pinyon wafting from fireplaces and chiminayas throughout the neighborhood while watching the night sky go dark as the first stars appear. But cooler temperatures won't produce the glorious colors that covered the bluffs along the Mississippi for as far as the eye could see each October when I was a kid in Minnesota.

Trees here have to be hardy to withstand the heat of summer. There’s a preponderance of live oaks, sweet gums, and Australian pines in my neighborhood. All of these are beautiful trees, especially the live oaks, some of which have grown big enough that their branches are beginning to meet and form a canopy over the street in front of my house. Nevertheless, they never reward us with a show of color when temperatures start to drop, and I find myself missing the yellows and reds and oranges of the north. There’s a state park called Lost Maples, down in the Hill Country, where one can reportedly see some fall color in the trees, and if I get a chance, I'd like to drive down there this year and check it out.

Although the trees may lack color, the skies of October are amazing: an infinite, clear blue. When I tilt my head back to look up at October skies, and feel the sun on my face and see that bright blue color, I always think of my father. He was an extremely difficult parent, very hard to live with for all of us, and especially for my mother, but he loved the outdoors, and he taught me to love it too. Almost all the happy memories I have of him are of times when the two of us were outside together. We could have sun or wind or rain in our faces, it didn’t matter; he’d be teaching me what to look for as we walked along: "This is the bark of an elm tree, see how it’s different from the bark of the maple, and look at the shape of the leaves: totally different!" He had very little formal education; my mom used to say he’d completed 8th grade, but in fact he probably left school by 3rd or 4th grade. Nevertheless, he was the first person to teach me the concept of fractals, although he didn’t use that term; he just pointed out that with certain trees, their overall outline seemed to simply be a bigger replica of the shape of their leaves.

When he was very old, near the end of his long life, he turned to me with rheumy eyes on a brilliant blue October day, and said, "You know, when I was in school, my teacher read us a poem about October...I don’t remember it anymore...except for one line: October’s bright blue weather...that’s such a good description, isn’t it? I wish I could remember the rest of it."

I looked it up in Bartlett’s. It had to have been close to 80 years since his teacher had read that poem aloud to his class, but he was right about the line; the poem is called October’s Bright Blue Weather, and it was written in 1885 by Helen Hunt Jackson. I tried to picture him at age 8 or 9: a slight, shy, tow-headed, blue-eyed boy, just learning English, sitting in a one room schoolhouse with an assortment of classmates, listening to his teacher read that poem, and the one line making such a strong impression on him that he'd remember it for the rest of his life.

I wrote it out for him, so that he might have the pleasure again at the end of his life that he'd had at the beginning, on hearing the words of the poem that had made such an impression on him when he was just a boy. Here's the poem:

October's Bright Blue Weather

O SUNS and skies and clouds of June,
And flowers of June together,
Ye cannot rival for one hour
October's bright blue weather;

When loud the bumble-bee makes haste,
Belated, thriftless vagrant,
And Golden-Rod is dying fast,
And lanes with grapes are fragrant;

When Gentians roll their fringes tight
To save them for the morning,
And chestnuts fall from satin burrs
Without a sound of warning;

When on the ground red apples lie
In piles like jewels shining,
And redder still on old stone walls
Are leaves of woodbine twining;

When all the lovely wayside things
Their white-winged seeds are sowing,
And in the fields, still green and fair,
Late aftermaths are growing;

When springs run low, and on the brooks,
In idle golden freighting,
Bright leaves sink noiseless in the hush
Of woods, for winter waiting;

When comrades seek sweet country haunts,
By twos and twos together,
And count like misers, hour by hour,
October's bright blue weather.

O suns and skies and flowers of June,
Count all your boaststogether,
Love loveth best of all the year
October's bright blue weather.


Marc said...

October! The changing of the season...stirs our perceptiveness...forces us to be a witness to the glory of nature!....Your photo is amazing! It has catured the poetic in Nature! Enjoy your October morning!

Marc :)

Dawnie said...

Wow, you really took me there with you. Such a lovely tribute to your father. I think all people have their difficult-ness, but we are who we are and those that love us learn to adapt to what makes us tick. Sounds like you have full heart for your father, and you gave me a full heart, too. Have a good one.


Celeste said...

Lovely. ;) C.

Lisa said...

The poem is lovely. And thank you for the glimpse of your father.

Lisa :-]

Lily said...

Beautiful... I loved the poem and the entry. I know what you mean about fall... However brief it may be here, it does have more color than Texas. Just wish it'd last longer lol... October's bright blue weather is certainly a relief.


De said...

What a beautiful poem and such love behind it...great memories of your father.


judithheartsong said...



Paul said...

Gorgeous writing here, Judi. Up here where we have the maples, birches, and pin oaks, it's been raining for a week, wih no end in sight. Uffda!

Theresa said...

It's funny, I don't usually associate blue with October. I came from coastal NC originally, moved to NW Ohio. Both states have their share of rainy, cloudy weather in October. Then there are the inevitable bright colors as the leaves turn. But blue? But, you know, it's true. There ARE bright blue skies in October sometimes. Crisp blue. A lovely thought.

Theresa said...

Oh! And these lines are exquisite:

Bright leaves sink noiseless in the hush
Of woods, for winter waiting;


freckles said...

I really liked the poem. This is the season!!! I am always amuzed how some people don't see this season as magical and ex........he hates this season. Why? Because he knows that winter is coming. Hmmmmmmm......what do you think.......his theory ........half full or half empty? I won't tell!

Maria said...

Wow! what a neat story and wonderful poem....It is amazing how poetry can have such an impact...the use of words and the power they a sword without a tether....look up high in that endless sky for....October's Bright Blue Weather ..;)