Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Everything changes in October. (in Wisconsin)

The trees explode with color... red, orange, yellow, dark red... then the leaves fall or are blown off the trees and bushes by the increasing wind.

October begins in summer. The first two weeks are glorious. Temperatures in the 70's even 80's occasionally. Blue skies. Light winds. Then the bottom drops out.

Around the middle of the month, summer comes to a screeching halt. The sun disappears. The clouds pour- in from the North and West. The breezes stop flowing from the warm Southwest and turn to the frigid North. Our friends in Canada begin sending us the cold weather they have kept hidden from us for 3 or 4 months. Those folks in the Southwest keep their warm temps to themselves, again. They were just teasing us for a few months, anyway.

Oh yes, there will be sunshine again before November, but it won't last long and it won't do much to raise the temperatures above 50. Suddenly, you have to dig into the closet for that coat, hat, gloves and scarf. The boots come out of hiding and the thoughts of snow and slush begin to form in your brain. Winter is coming.

They say Wisconsin only has two seasons: winter and construction.

That's not far from the truth. Spring lasts about a day-and-a-half sometime in late May or early June, then summer runs in with temps up to the high 90's and humidity to match. Autumn sneaks in around the end of September. Then early trees change color, but you can still go out and work- up a serious sweat cutting the grass.

Then it's October.

October smells different from the rest of the year. People burn leaves and that smell reminds me of walking home from grade school and high school and hoping my mother would make Swiss steak for dinner.

I dwell on the weather so much because it is that sudden change from summer- to- autumn- to winter that twirls my emotions around.

For me, October is the most emotionally- packed month of all 12.

I once got married in October. I think I also got divorced in October.

I sat for the entire month of October knowing that I was leaving a job I loved in November and everyday I went to work I got more and more "homesick". Like the leaves that stay green in the middle but turn gold at the edges... the excitement of starting a new career was tinged with the sadness of leaving something I had done for more than 30 years.

Years ago, the impossibly beautiful, sun- kissed days of October were also filled with caring for my mother who was dying of cancer. I would sit in my family's kitchen and look out the window at the blue skies and wonder what I could do to make the situation change. But, my mother, being one of the smartest, kindest women you would ever want to know... made me feel like she was helping me handle the situation. She died in December.

My first son was born in November, so the month of October was a heavy- bellied prelude to his arrival. I carried my cat around in my arms to try to get the feel of carrying a 6 pound baby. It's not the same.

I always feel that I should go back to college in October. There's homecoming and plenty of football games, and other things that college students do in the fall which I won't mention here. They make my memories of college very powerful and very red/orange/yellow. Walking to class through leaves. Wishing I did not have to go to class. Skipping class to walk through the leaves.

Does anybody really remember all the things you were taught in all those college classes? But, I remember October.

October is like that last flash of a really great fireworks display. You know, you see the sparkling colors of all the explosions. Then at the end, there is that last big blast of lots of fireworks going off at once. Lots of color, lots of noise... then it stops... and there is a brief pause while everybody realizes that the show is over. Then applause and everybody goes home. The colors are gone. The warm feelings of sharing a tradition with others are gone and you look back to the sky and see only the smoke blowing away from the launch site and a distant smell of gunpowder if you got a really good seat.

October is that last color-filled flash of the year. That fleeting reminder that another year is ending.

I take lots of walks in October to see the leaves and fight off the suicidal thoughts that crash into my brain when the weather is glorious and I have no one to share it with.

Audrey Hepburn said it best when she said something like ... when things are going badly, go outside and see nature.

It's still October... I think I'll take a walk.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The 1960's

I've been thinking a lot about the 1960's and 1963 specifically, lately.

It began back around April when we started planning for a 50th anniversary special on the March on Washington for "Black Nouveau". That rolled right into my newest television obsession "Mad Men" and now, with the approach of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy looming in 39 days, I am falling deeper and deeper into my teenage past and thinking about events and things I have not resurrected in almost 50 years.

First: It is almost unthinkable that I am now at an age where I can look back 50 years and have a crystal clear memory of the day things happened... right down to the dopey glasses that I wore.

Second: I am not looking back at all these events with nostalgia. The Cuban Missile Crisis in October of 1962 scared me so badly that I wanted to move into a bomb shelter.

Third: It was the time of only 3 major television networks and as these events unfolded on live TV, we had no choice but to watch. In black and white, of course.  That is important because everything seems so much more urgent when it's not in color.

1960 to 1970 are my middle school, high school and college years.

My family lived in 3 different houses in the 1960's. I can remember 3 family dogs, several cats and a baby alligator in our homes. Not all at the same time!

I will go back into the 1960's now... and let you know how they turn out.