I don’t know when I’ve felt the particular October-ness of October as intensely as this year. This tenth month of our Gregorian calendar sometimes behaves like the eighth, which it was in the Roman calendar (octo), sporting all the charm of late summer instead of early winter. And this year too. The geraniums in the barrel planter and the clematis on the garage wall are still blooming merrily, and though the rest of the flower beds are finished, I cut marigolds for a table centerpiece yesterday. Long stretches of days this month have been warm, even hot.
At the same time, there’s the sweet melancholy of fall in it, the trees mostly bare and the colours monochrome, geese overhead, huge bins full of pumpkins at the Superstore, dark encroaching earlier every day.
This October has been especially blessedly poised between summer and winter, so well fulfilling its role as consummate autumn month (for this part of the globe, I mean), a time in which we live with a keen awareness of what has been and what’s to come. As if both memory and wisdom have reached a near state of perfection, though of course nothing’s perfect about it, unless it’s compromise of the seasons.
And in October, or so it seemed to us this year, every organization or institution – be it cultural or church – puts on a conference, fund-raising banquet, or opens its “season.” On the heels of Thanksgiving with its praises and feasting, there’s been the riches of a Mennonite history conference, and lectures on McLuhan, and the first of another “Take and Read” series, and the Manitoba Theatre Centre’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” and then for good measure, “Lenin’s Embalmers” at the Jewish Theatre, and CMU’s annual J.J. Thiessen lectures, this year on the spiritual power of desert and wilderness (or Winnipeg winters, as one participant noted), and so it will go into the last week of the month as well. I hope this recitation doesn’t sound like trying to impress with busyness. The emphasis is “riches.” And there’s plenty we haven’t attended as well. October, apparently, is congenial to planners, and thus it gets stuffed, like the Thanksgiving turkey, which makes it nourishing, and interesting too.
October seems a month with post-menopausal zest (about which I know a little myself), and so we follow the weather, and when it’s warm, we’re outside, walking or whatever, and as far as our energies take us, we’re attending things. And if it all feels intense, sometimes overwhelming, it’s because one knows what end of the calendar year we’re on, the end and not the beginning, trees revealing their bones and everything wrinkling and fading around us.
As if to remind us of the poles, two of our grandchildren have birthdays in October. We sent our packages and as much love as we can convey in the mail to the world’s liveliest and best 4 and 9-year-olds, but closer to home, we’re having to respond to the needs of my mother, 88, frail, barely mobile, and slated for surgery next week.
The month will end with Halloween, and whether you go for the ghoulish or the respectful aspect of remembering the dead, it too is a sign of turning. But, for one more week, it’s still October. Last night the moon was full, almost sun-bright, and we left the bedroom curtains open to the beautiful light.