Jim McGuire: Taking an invigorating October walk

By Jim McGuire - Contributing columnist

If ever a season calls for a daily walk, surely it’s early-October when autumn reigns supreme and the landscape changes almost daily.

Practically any path or trail will do and any setting. Deep woods, old meadow, a prairie patch, or urban park. Even a neighborhood stroll along the sidewalks or a backyard amble around the house is worthwhile if that’s all you can manage.

The important thing is to get out beyond the barrier of walls and glass. Refresh your lungs. Breathe deeply of air scented with an unmistakable fragrance. Renew in your heart the joy inherent in the affluent culmination of the growing season.

Now is that time, those weeks of natural magic, when wind and land and sky conspire to fill the soul to overflowing.

October walks are invigorating. They seem to replenish something that late-summer’s hot sun has slowly simmered away.

Horizons begin to widen. The sky runs the gamut from turquoise to cobalt, azure to indigo. Often this vast blue bowl becomes stippled with clouds so white they seem to glow with an inner radiance—cottony puffs, sailing across an overhead sea in ghostly galleons.

Changing leaves transform the landscape with spectacular colors—a kaleidoscopic patchwork of red and orange, yellow and gold, russet, and amethyst.

Prairie bluestem darkens to a rich burgundy, rippling and swaying, waves revealed by the least hint of a passing breeze.

Old meadows flame with brilliant goldenrod. Froths of gaudy asters punctuate this burnished lea like surreal purple constellations in a yellow midnight. Colors of such startling contrast they might have come from Van Gogh’s own paintbrush.

The pulse of the season is obvious, a rhythm you can sense deep inside as you stretch your legs and feast your eyes. A cadence as old as the hills—the pulse both deliberate and dramatic. A beat imbued with mystery and certainty.

Perhaps what we feel is the empirical knowledge of a moving earth—of the eternal planetary tilt and spin which carries us around the circular years and, as an offshoot of that journey, bestows our changing seasons.

Certainly the October walker finds a connection with passing time, senses an awareness of those natural permutations, which endlessly advance with the sovereign declaration of the ages.

Questions are raised, mysteries encountered. Imponderables such as the ruckus between scolding jays flittering high among the branches of the coppery beech.

What are they fussing about?

Then there are those absolutes—the breathtaking clump of sumac sporting crimson leaves, which flame like the feathers on a Lakota war bonnet. Or the treasure trove of gleaming goldfinches working a stand of tall sunflowers.

October is a time for replenishing that faith, which will carry us through winter and into a distant spring. A spiritual refurbishment before the cold trial of ice and snow.

There’s a necessity about October. A truth we must tap into, a certitude we need to find and grasp.

Woodbine twines in swirling flame. Bittersweet brightens a ragged border near the tangled bog. Geese stitch in noisy gabbling splendor across a cerulean sky.

The gray squirrels, which only last week seemed content to gambol among the backyard maples, increasingly spend their days gathering acorns and hickory nuts to be secreted in scattered caches.

That energetic chipmunk who spent his summer tantalizing the cat now zips about with frantic purpose. He’s collecting cheeks-full of countless seeds for storage in his snug underground grainary located somewhere beneath the rockpile at the corner of the garden—back where those two volunteer pumpkins, fat and orange, squat beneath their tangle of vines.

There’s a restlessness to the land. A notion of transition, of passage. Summer ends, and suddenly the season seems to hurry.

Black walnut are dropping from trees along the driveway. I have to watch my step when getting the mail. Upstream from the cottage, ripening persimmons, on the only persimmon tree I know hereabouts, hang like tiny pink-orange globes. Adjacent to the house, clumps of fox grapes fill the air with heady allure.

It’s still unseasonably warm, but sooner or later that will change. The nights are already carrying a hint of chill. Time and season will always be beyond mankind’s reach, immune to our endless tinkering and obsession for control.

October is April’s promise. A time to look back, look ahead, and look around.

So take a walk…please! Treat your eyes to the bounty and wonder of this richest month.


By Jim McGuire

Contributing columnist

Jim McGuire, a nature columnist, resides in Englewood, and can be reached at naturalwanders@gmail.com.

Jim McGuire, a nature columnist, resides in Englewood, and can be reached at naturalwanders@gmail.com.