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Today is December 6, 2022

Outdoors

Marvels and majesty of the 10th month

Marvels and majesty of the 10th month

Black gums are quick to embrace the dress code of autumn. Photo: Tony Kinton

    October is a strange one! Retaining its Latin root octo, it is certainly no longer the eighth month. It was, at least in the Roman calendar. But when the Julian and Gregorian calendars were combined and January and February inserted, October became the 10th month. The name stuck, thus the somewhat curious cause of that basically erroneous designation.
    But that is of no real consequence. The overriding factor is that for those with a propensity to absorb the marvels and majesty found outdoors, your time has come.
    If there is a perfect month to be outside in Mississippi and surrounding areas, it is this one. Save the occasional rain and thunderstorm, the weather is generally pleasant. Not too cold and not too hot. There will be some of each but usually not in the extreme. Everything in the temperature spectrum is practically just right. Maybe a sweater at night and a sleeve during the day.
And the skies of October are spectacular. There are haunting and distant sunrises that give the attentive admirer a feeling of being drawn upward toward that far-off source of life and light. Sunsets are breathtaking. Depending upon weather conditions, these can be orange or yellow or some shade of red that would be near impossible to replicate in any medium outside nature.
    A look upward from mid-morning to early afternoon generates a deep sense of awe. The heavens spread out in a display unseen at other seasons. Vastness is accentuated by the grandest of all azures, and to see and reflect upon this is to recognize how truly miniscule we are in the midst of such greatness.
    There is a new fashion show on stage in October. At first it may seem a dichotomy, this flare for color instigating a prescribed end, but in reality it is not. It is simply a form of rebirth. And in this perfectly blended recipe, beauty is more than abundant.
    Look for the yellows, the dim greens, the reds, the oranges, the mottled browns. They will be available in every direction, a wonderland of sentiment, an equal balance of melancholy and joyous abandon. Black gums will have early on embraced this morphing of dress code. By now sweet gums and hickories and poplars and river birches have followed the example. Sumacs may yet hold tightly to their maroon and mottled leaves, offering an avalanche of color, spangling understory edges of an aged and quiet wood.
    Oaks contribute to the spectacle as well. Some are more hesitant than others when it comes to the emerging schemes of decoration, but varying shades of red and brown and yellow will be present. Not uncommon it is to encounter a particular collection of red oaks that let go their finger-sized leaves at the smallest hint of a breeze. These rustle downward in a most agreeable chatter and dust the passerby with a gentle and wispy touch. It is the palpation of freedom. Even that browned and curled foliage not yet loosed from ancient giants is a study in the extraordinary, a respite from the mundane, an exercise in aesthetics.
    Sounds are ubiquitous. Over there are those piercing, rhythmic notes of a pileated woodpecker. Out a way, down by the creek, a wood duck squeals.  
    Along the fence in that lonesome corn patch, withered stalks bump and rattle in the wind. These are accompanied by a constant crescendo and decrescendo of crickets and grasshoppers and katydids. A finer symphony was never scored. It is music that brushes hard against the very soul, not unlike that of Beethoven.
    As day becomes old, sounds change. A wood thrush chirps at the threat recently advanced against daylight. An owl hoots from its perch. Night wins the prize of dominance, and those nights are mesmerizing. Overhead is alive with more stars than can be imagined, these most likely viewed as a crisp chill nibbles at ears and noses. But sunrise will come again—tomorrow. It will be another glorious and robust October day that should not be neglected.

    Tony Kinton has been an active outdoors writer for 30 years. “Uncertain Horizons,” book two in Kinton’s “Wagon Road Trilogy,” is now available. Order from your local bookstore or online at tonykinton.com or amazon.com.

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