October, it seems to me, is the perfect autumn month. Possibly the most perfect month of the entire year, at least in my pocket of the world. It’s a time here of rare sustained equilibrium between the yin of the receding summer and the yang of the approaching winter. Shadows and light, moods and atmospheric conditions are perpetually shifting, maintaining a dynamic balance of fascinating variety. The nights are dark and clear, bringing into vivid view the swirling of the constellations and the dancing of the northern lights. Wild geese speckle the empty, hollow sky like tea leaves in a fortune teller’s cup. Mellow fall sunlight spills over a freshly cut field. Swiftly moving clouds swim across the countryside like leviathans, burning lightning in their great dark bellies. Hailstones rattle the roof shingles, the east wind sings her lament, and already it is possible for thick, soft snow to fall like a radiant molecular miracle from the black sky. Books pile up, candles burn down, wine bottles become empty.
It’s a time when a body yearns to stock up on certain necessary items that will ease the long tumultuous voyage through the imminent darkness of the winter months. As with sea voyages and arctic expeditions, preparation is key. Of course, what’s considered ‘necessary’ will vary from individual to individual. For some, it’s chai lattes, spiced vodkas, and a Scandi noir murder mystery. All good stuff. For me, the list must include a fresh batch of thrift shop sweaters, some good bourbon, a thick Russian novel or two.
I think it’s vital at this time of year to not overburden yourself with senseless chores and quotidian demands. A mental health day or two, if possible, is highly advisable. There are infinite ways to spend pleasurable fall days. You might, for instance, spend a perfect afternoon drinking coffee laced with Grand Marnier, preparing duck breast , acorn squash, and roasted vegetables for dinner, whilst listening to moody recordings of Janacek and Sibelius. Renting a long, atmospheric foreign film is an equally plausible option. I would recommend Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander, if you’re wondering.
Summer, whilst wonderful in its own way, is all humidity drenched torpor, all margarita salt and jet lag. Winter here in Manitoba is all survival mode punctuated by manic, jangling seasonal joy.
Autumn is a time of relative psychological and spiritual calm. The post-summer tension and angst has burnt itself out. The pre-Christmas tension and angst has yet to build up much of a charge. Overall, I feel energized in a comfortable, sluggish way, if that makes any sense at all. I find myself writing, reading, listening, enjoying each day in a more intense, and yet relaxed way, than I do at any other time during the year. On most days, I feel as though I am able to better regulate the rhythm and flow of my days, and that I am capable of following Walt Whitman’s admonition to “Let your soul stand cool and composed before a million universes.”