Beckoning, bewitching October

By Jim McGuire - Contributing columnist

Poets have long recognized October’s alluring magic.

“There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir!” proclaimed Bliss Carman.

In his charming regional vernacular, James Whitcomb Riley, the homespun Hoosier bard, echoed a similar observation. “They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere…” he lyrically reckoned.

Both men obviously knew October’s captivating character firsthand — and both understood its rousing invitation. “We must rise and follow her,” Carman goes on to say in his poem.

Absolutely! October’s call is both hearty panacea and stirring siren song — beguiling, refreshing, irresistible! Gaudy of dress, mild of temperament, a month wherein each successive day seems bent on outdoing the one before.

This is especially true during October’s latter half — and it begins with the very light itself.

What makes the light of late-October so spectacular? After all, it’s produced by the same sun which lights the other months and seasons. Yet there’s a noticeable difference — a distinctive and singular quality.

Late-October drenches our days in crisp, pellucid light which fills the eye, lifts the heart and illuminates the soul. Extraordinary light imbued with a holy magic which, since ancient times, the most gifted architects have sought to invoke within the stone confines of their magnificent cathedrals.

October’s bright skies range from cobalt to azure to turquoise — an overhead canopy of various oceanic blues. The laden air is rich with the tang of sun-warmed leaves and tawny grass, plus the spicy fragrance of apple cider and fox grapes…and sometimes with the elusive hint of distant woodsmoke, so faint it might only be a nostalgic memory.

All the leaves on all the trees have reached their color peak — a glorious autumnal patchwork of red and yellow, orange and maroon, amethyst and chestnut.

Beauty with elegance. Each day seems to carry itself with a grace that sums and defines the season while coalescing all that has gone before — something of April’s promise fulfilled, and July’s efforts acknowledged.

Ordinary events regularly become unforgettable because they take place in October’s context. Even when recalled down a long corridor of years, their details remain lucid, with textures as sharp-edged and defined as newly cut stone.

Yes, indeed! October beckons and we must heed her call.

For those of us hopelessly addicted to the pursuit of stream smallmouth, October’s summons demands we go fishing. Last week I listened and obeyed. It was on a morning when I could have been sawing and splitting firewood, or working at any of several other necessary tasks around the house.

But a man has to keep his priorities straight. A fly rod and the necessary angling accouterments were quickly loaded into the pickup. Awhile later I parked in a pull-off beside a certain country road. The river lay a hundred yards distant — downhill and through a flamboyant October-clad woods.

I can’t describe the rush of excitement I felt at my first close glimpse of the jade water. For as long as I can remember the Stillwater River has been flowing through my life. Boy and man, I’ve spent uncountable hours wading and exploring its banks and pools and riffles. And most recent autumns I’ve tried to make at least least one late-October visit to this particular section.

Ahhh-h, October! If there’s a finer time to go wading a Buckeye bass creek, I’ve yet to figure it out.

There’d been a touch of frost along the path leading from the road downhill to the stream and a heavy dew still dripped and sparkled. For many minutes after arriving, I sat on a handy log at the river’s edge, marveling at the slow-moving water, listening to its muted purling as it slipped over gravel and around larger stones. The rising sun streamed through multicolored leaves like light pouring through a Tiffany window.

Somewhere down and around the bend a gaggle of crows bickered. A perky downey woodpecker hammered away atop a nearby snag. While just across the riffle a pair of nuthatches yammered in nasal commentary as they worked headfirst down the trunk of a venerable box elder.

I don’t see how anyone who loves nature, the seasons, or the wild world outdoors could ignore the call and spectacle of this unforgettable month.

Ranks of ivory-barked sycamores leaned in wise accord on either side of the long glide which eventually curved out of sight a hundred yards upstream. The big trees seemed inscrutable and a bit mysterious, like a gathering of robed Druids listening to some whispered incantation from below the river’s mirrored surface. Any least breeze would stir and loosen an offertory of their huge leaves—a golden scatter which drifted like oversized confetti on the leisurely current.

Autumn streams are places of poignant beauty. In due time I would get to my fishing. And there was no doubt whatsoever I’d catch a few — it was that sort of day. Maybe more than a few.

But for the moment I was unhurried, perfectly content to sit patiently on the log and take it all in — feeling the sun’s warmth, breathing the heady air, just getting reacquainted with this lovely stretch of water.

Late-October is Autumn’s gorgeous gift — gaudy of dress, mild of temperament, a month wherein each successive day seems bent on outdoing the one before. A wondrous seasonal feast of natural beauty and outdoor pleasures—hearty, stirring, waiting to fill your senses.

By Jim McGuire

Contributing columnist

Jim McGuire, a nature columnist, resides in Englewood, and can be reached at

Jim McGuire, a nature columnist, resides in Englewood, and can be reached at