OPINION: October’s song stirs reflections –* and plans for the season’s first fire

FISHTRAP HOLLOW, Miss. – The full moon lit up the dirt road like a honky-tonk juke box. The dogs and I walked in the light, slim silhouettes against gums and sycamores.
The only thing wrong with October is that it’s never long enough.
Friends and I built a small bonfire near the branch and sat solving the world’s problems. Took about three hours.
I’m approaching the football season a little differently this year. I’ve let Auburn play without any attention or guidance from me, and so far my team is undefeated. Maybe my coaching has been holding them back.
The past three mornings have been cool enough to build a fire in the kitchen stove, but I haven’t. The first fire of the season is important, a signal event. I want to plan around it, not be pushed into it hurriedly by the thermometer. Maybe next week. I’ll match the moment with music and refreshment, and sit in the kitchen and eat tamales.
Speaking of music, I’ve been listening to a new Kris Kristofferson album with a song that I take to be about aging. “Coming from the heartbeat/Nothing but the truth now/Everything is sweeter/Closer to the bone…”
I think Kris has found his poetry again. Maybe he’ll spend the autumn of his life writing songs and let someone else emcee that tribute show.
We all miss people this time of year. Fall warns us that life is short. I thought about my grandmother yesterday, the way she’d pick up pecans for her Christmas money. She always wore a little kerchief on windy days to keep from getting earaches. Do they still make kerchiefs, or as she called them, “head scarves”?
When my grandparents were around, there was some sense to holidays. You knew exactly where you were going for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and you knew what to expect. Now holidays involve far too many decisions and destinations.
My friend Annie Bates sent me the lyrics to “Autumn Leaves.” The French lyrics were by Jacques Prevert, the English ones by Johnny Mercer. The French ones are so beautiful they’ll break your heart.
I learned “Autumn Leaves” on the accordion when I was 12. I’d pretend to be strolling the Paris streets, playing for francs. Sometimes in my mind, I had a monkey. I always preferred that romantic and slow song to any of the others I was taught, like “Twelfth Street Rag” and “Beer Barrel Polka.” Accordions should play songs of longing and heartbreak, not polka tunes.
Maybe the accordion should have stayed in Europe.
The falling leaves drift by my window. I can see them through the torn sheers by my computer desk. Some people would be out there raking them away. I can’t bear to. Nothing is prettier than a quilt of leaves on the yard and the walkways.
I stuffed a bill bearing Andrew Jackson’s image into a farmer’s honor-system box the other day and came home with five pumpkins. Nothing is better than a pumpkin, unless it’s a lamp burning on a front porch when you’ve been away from home or a small farmer who thinks there is honor left in this world.
October is the best month, but that’s hardly breaking news. The cold North winds will blow, as Johnny Cash once sang, but probably not until the calendar page with all the pumpkins is torn off and November brings first frost and holiday excess.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson is a syndicated columnist. She lives in the Iuka vicinity. Contact her at Iuka, MS 38852.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson

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