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O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
- Robert Frost
Yesterday the heat
clicked on for the first time since March and I began rummaging
upstairs closets for corduroys. The air has a new clarity and the
Indians, were they still around, might call this the
‘time-of-shielding-eyes-against-sun-at-stop-lights’. Indian Summer
was for them as it is for us a good time for getting out and going
places – clear, dry, and cool enough for the searchlight sun to feel
The artist must not
waste an hour now. Unnoticed fields weave themselves into elegant
tapestries of sienna, russet, gold and red, garlanded with swoops of
goldenrod. The hackberries, first to turn, flaunt their lemon leaves
against a pure cerulean sky. Then they shower them down to blend
unnoticed into our lawns. Maples leaves are tougher, matting and
smothering our grass with their glory until we rake them – our toll
for their summer shade and fall foliage.
The View from Poverty Hill
Plein air sketch made Sept 29 across the valley of Lick Creek and
Castalian Springs – Bill Puryear
As the other trees
hibernate for winter, the sycamores come into their glory. With
their worthless wood, tatty leaves, spiky fruits and tendency to
drop limbs, they might not be counted our friends were it not for
their splendid bodies. As they strip this month they reveal trunks
shielded from summer sunburn, whiter than any swimsuit line.
Standing tall they mark the creeks, or like seductive white sirens
they call to the artist from distant hillsides where they flaunt
themselves all winter before mauve woods.
This is high season
for football. While games under lights may be exciting and late
season championship games must start at noon to accommodate the
television cameras, there is really nothing quite like a
mid-afternoon game in October. These are perfect for tailgate
parties and Vanderbilt is in first place in the SEC. I had an old
friend and fellow alum who would have savored this rare moment.
Charles Parks died
last week of a heart attack while bicycling in Italy on a tour he
and his wife, Yancey, had planned for months. He was in good shape,
lean, fit and well trained for the event. Now he is gone and his
wife, his best friend, is alone in a strange land trying to make
arrangements to return home.
Poppa Kee’s – courtesy Mr. and Mrs. Tom McKee – artist, Bill Puryear
I can’t remember when
I didn’t know him. We grew up playing in the same yards and I
learned tennis, poker, and the boogie-woogie at his house. We
attended the same schools, and churches. His uncle married my aunt,
making us kin-to-kin. We fished and swam the same creek, and hunted
the possum and the coon on dark nights with a friend’s grandfather,
who had time for twelve-year-old boys. These dark rural nights
represented grand adventures for four small boys, with a pack of
dogs, snuffling and scuffling and barking treed from distant field
and stream. They were made even more of an adventure by Poppa, as we
called him, who would not think of wasting precious batteries with
flashlights and used instead a smoking kerosene lantern with a dim
glow which turned every stump and hay bale into a looming threat.
I still remember the
clear night in the dead of winter when we four boys awoke after
midnight and decided to go out in the night on our own. When we
passed the old Turner cemetery and reached the hill above the
junction of the Big and Little Creeks, we cut our lights to save
batteries and stopped for a while to listen for the dogs. It was the
first time I had really seen the starry firmament. The black void
was studded with the diamond points of millions of lights and the
Milky Way was a brilliant road of sparkling dust swathed across
Poppa’s house is a
ruin now and the meadow where it sits is filled with manufactured
homes whose ambient light has stolen the night sky from our view.
Some think of October
as a time of loss; others see it as the first month of spring.
Gardeners dig and divide bulbs of their glorious summer lilies and
plant trees and shrubs whose roots will be nourished by December’s
rains to furnish a strong foundation for May’s blooming. For the
artist it is a time of recollection. For the Mexicans it is a time
of visting with their dear dead in their cemeteries. Refusing to
recognize anything so absurd as death, they bring food and sing and
dance to celebrate life.
We join with our
grandchildren in celebrating Halloween, parodying El Dia Del Muertos
or All Hallows Eve. Like children we play, mocking death, carrying
our flickering lanterns through dark fields, surrounded by imaginary
threats, huddled together, our ambient light blinding us, both to
the splendor of eternity and the light of the stars which fill the
blackest hole as well as to the Artist who created them.
Charles was a superb
athlete and allowed me to play golf with him. I last saw him when we
finished a round in August. We both played tolerably well, and
parted with the usual benediction.
Enjoyed it. See