Ahhhhhh-tober

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

We are a week into the autumnal month that, from the standpoint of the senses, is surely misspelled.

Late until All Hallows Eve all our body’s senses will be reminded of the seasonal pleasures of Ahhhh-tober.

Look about the fields. The drying corn is already bowing its ears burdened with drying grain and the harvest is underway. Soybeans have dropped their leaves showing pods of dry beans telling us that they, too, are nearly ready for picking. My picked over and ignored garden is now flourishing almost in a last minute rush to ripen all fruit before the frost, which is surely to arrive sometime this month.

In the woods the sumac, sweet gum and beech are already shedding their chlorophyll masks revealing their leaves’ many true shades of scarlet. And before the month is out the tulip poplar, hickory and maple will offer their compliments with hues of golds and yellows along with the muted tones of brown from the family of oaks. It is nature’s artist palate from which we must drink deeply because, unlike the nourishing summer-long green season, Jack Frost’s work is all too fleeting—it is there and with a brisk fall breeze, the colors become a carpet.

And too soon there will be the rustle-crunch of leaves as they are raked. In not-so-olden times there would be large piles inviting youngsters to jump right in. And formerly there would be the pleasant acrid smoke as piles of leaves were burned.

But, now for next year’s garden, I grind the leaves into mulch for improved flower and vegetable production.

It is not necessarily a coincidental sidelight that the same mulch pile that makes the plants thrive also produces some of the best growing for earthworms for next spring’s early bluegill fishing.

There is the early Ahhhh-tober morning chill when a flannel shirt or jacket allows me to enjoy a morning walk. But to take in the month’s pleasures, my gait must be slowed to an appropriate and appreciative stroll. By mid-day the temperature has climbed to make the extra layer of clothing uncomfortable, so I remove it and enjoy the golden warmth of a fall day’s sun. But I dare not misplace my jacket for it will surely be needed again tomorrow morning as the daily month-long cycle repeats with the retreating thermometer.

We should embrace these golden Ahhhh-tober days for next month’s rain will come cold and gray and be a harbinger of nature’s seasonal winter sleep to come.

The southern Indiana persimmon this month began dropping its plump fruit and I can look forward to a fresh persimmon pudding. And the paw-paws of the forest understory produced a small crop this year which I hastened to harvest before the raccoon and possums could.

And it is this time of year that I get an annual craving and begin rummaging through my desk drawer for my put away pipe and all its paraphernalia.

Yes, it is a bad, unhealthy habit. Gramp smoked cigars and chewed tobacco and still died prematurely at age 90. We learn by example so I’ll take my autumnal chances.

There is something about the slowing down pace of nature which calls out for us to take time to notice it. And the filling of a pipe, the tamping and cleaning and continual lighting and puffing all seems to fit into that slower sensual season.

A faded and worn flannel shirt, my favorite brown wool hat and a tromp through the chilled woods crunching over fallen leaves, picking up some hickory nuts, breathing deep of the warming tones of nature. Returning home it gives me that good kind of tired feeling that when I lean back in my comfortable chair I am convinced the month surely must be Ahhhh-tober.