ODE TO AUTUMN
Autumn days are here, blue sky clear and dear.
Let’s harvest a bushel of joy and fall cheer.
Our S.U.N.S. (Smile-Making, Uniting, Neighboring, Spellbinding) group this first week of fall shared joyous memories from many previous autumns and how each of us is adding joy to our life this splendid season.
Among the reflections were: jostling bumper cars and the soaring Ferris wheel at a harvest carnival, bonding with two grandkids born in different autumns, insulating windows for a military veteran and marching band practice for a parade.
Enjoy the cooler temps as you recall previous autumn joys and create new ones. Slip on a sweater, steep a pot of tea and let these 50-plus ideas inspire you.
AUTUMN S.U.N.S. (SMILE-MAKING)
- ROASTING MARSHMALLOWS and MAKING “SAMOA” S’MORES Warm up with a glamping twist on the classic from “Outside Magazine” (September 2016). According to food writer, A.C. Shilton, “This recipe will bring you back to the Girl Scout campouts of your youth. It’s on the menu of the Sanderling Resort in Duck, NC, which has a nightly s’mores setup with unexpected topping options.
Ingredients: 2 marshmallows, 1 graham cracker, 1 ounce caramel-filled chocolate (Ghirardelli or Carmelo make great options), 1 Tablespoon toasted coconut.
Preparation: 1) Toast marshmallow. 2) Assemble remaining ingredients atop graham cracker. 3) Accept your “S’more Master” merit badge.”
- START A “GRATITUDE JOURNAL” with daily updates to reflect on and possibly share near Thanksgiving.
- CREATE YOUR OWN AUTUMN-SEASONED, FALL FILM FESTIVAL Consider “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and “Hocus Pocus.” Treat yourself to some Halloweenie scream-inducing treats like “Friday the 13th” and anything spawned by a Stephen King horror novel. And, if falling in fall love is more your heart’s desire, all of the swoony screen gems wafting from the Jane Austen novels feature walks through dustings of autumn leaves.
- GO FOR A LEAF-SHUFFLING WALK in the woods, a park or an arboretum. “They took all the trees and put ‘em in a tree museum. And they charged the people a dollar and a half just to see ‘em.” Those lyrics from Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” is how I think of “tree sanctuaries” known as arboreta, but when I visit one, it changes my thinking and I always find it SPELLBINDING.
If some far-thinking soul in your neck of the woods hasn’t created an arboretum, I hope you and your NEIGHBORING, tree-hugging friends will noodle how this would add to the natural world. Here are five arboreta to lift your thinking to the treetops: F.R. Newman Arboretum, Cornell University (Ithaca, NY), Crosby Arboretum, Mississippi State University (Starkville, MS), Cowling Arboretum, Carleton College (Northfield, MN), Abbey Arboretum, St. John’s University (Jamaica, NY) and Madison Arboretum, University of Wisconsin (Madison, WI).
- BUY A NEW SCARF or PAIR OF GLOVES Search ebay.com and you may be able to re-purchase the scarf and gloves you left in some café at the end of last winter.
- HALLOWEEN HUMOR HEROES AND HEROINES What a grin-fest it would be to encounter a gaggle of your favorite funny folks trick-or-treating this fall! Imagine the SMILE-MAKING you and your friends could spread as Charlie Chaplin, Lucille Ball, Mark Twain, Cheech and Chong, Madea, Bozo the Clown, PeeWee Herman, Margaret Cho, Red Skelton, Mrs. Doubtfire, Louis Armstrong, Fred Rogers, Moms Mabley and more. Leave the usual heroic suspects for the kiddos, this year, every year needs more smiles and laughter.
- SQUARE PUMPKINS Be a not-so-well-rounded grower and a shower. Five easy steps: 1) Get pumpkin seeds that have promise. Tom Fox, Racer, Charisma, Rock Star, Expert and Champion are good choices for this SMILE-MAKING fun, 2) Plant seeds in compost like a bag of store-bought Black Kow, 3) Transfer “growing teenager” pumpkin to a translucent box mold (easily available online), 4) Monitor our pumpkin-in-a-box (especially don’t let rain get in the box and cause “jack rot”), 5) Pluck your square pumpkin from the stem and enjoy the bragging rights and envy.
- GO TO A FUN, FALL FESTIVAL Search for state fairs near and far. Here are five favorites for the fall: 1) THE GREAT JACK-O-LANTERN BLAZE (Croton-on-Hudson, NY) which has more than 7,000 pumpkins in jaw-dropping jack-o-lantern designs on the historic grounds of Van Cortlandt Manor, 2) SANTA FE (NM) WINE and CHILI FEST, 3) NATCHEZ HOT AIR BALLOON FESTIVAL (MS) jazz and joy rides on the high bluffs above the Mississippi River, 4) COCONUT GROVE PUMPKIN PATCH FESIVAL (Miami, FL) amazed south Florida could grow a Midwest-worthy corn maze, 5) WEST COAST GIANT PUMPKIN FLOATING REGATTA (Tualatin, OR) may win the SMILE-MAKING fall festival prize with costumed racers canoeing in hollowed out giant pumpkins as they compete in wacky water games.
- BOUNTIFUL BREAKFAST OATMEAL with LOCAL NUTS In most parts of the U.S. you won’t have to look far to find some nuts to warm up your breakfast pleasure.
- GET A NEW or PRE-OWNED FALL FUR THROW or LAP RUG Every year when my house gets cooler, I look at the beautifully staged photos of real fur throws like Tibetan lamb or American rabbit, then I weasel out of buying in part because they are pricey but also fearing my more righteous animal-rights friends might show up on my porch like villagers with torches and pitchforks—so maybe I’ll get that faux fox blankie on eBay. Another seasonal fave: Hudson Bay “Point” blankets with the signature stripes date back to Canadian autumns in the late 1700s.
- MICROWAVE CARAMEL CARNIVAL APPLES Get your carny on with a bag of caramels and an easy recipe at food.com.
- BUILD A RESPONSIBLE BONFIRE My dad, a college professor/caveman, never aged out on the SMILE-MAKING of building a roaring campfire. He harkened back to our Native American ancestors to construct a tepee shape that would ultimately bun responsibly and fall into itself. Dad would be impressed with the fire-making tips found at instructables.com/How-to-Build-a-Bonfire.
AUTUMN S.U.N.S. (UNITING)
- FALL IS DOGGONE GREAT FOR DOGWASHING Before it gets too cold to lather up Lassie outdoors, watch your calendar for a warm day to make your mutt a nicer, cold weather companion indoors.
- SENIORS MAKE BETTER STORYTELLERS Some of my most pleasurable memories of Fall are sitting around a crackling fire listening to the vast troves of treasured tales from seasoned storytellers. At the risk of having an age bias on this, and there are some gifted, young-ish story-weavers, we elders simply have more stories, and especially more rehearsed ones, stored up for sharing around the tribal fires.
- AIR OUT and CLEAN YOUR SHELTER TOGETHER Every individual who chooses to cohabitate has a responsibility to cooperate in regular and seasonal upkeep of the place. Before cold air forbids it, fall is a prime time to air everything out, purge the undesirable and ready to share the warmth of the home fires.
- COZY UP WITH SOMEONE ON THE COUCH
- THE GREAT PANDEMIC FRIENDSHIP PURGE Most cartoons connect with us because they communicatee a bit of shared truth. During the worldwide coronavirus lockdown, a cartoon in “The New Yorker” showed a cohabitating couple sorting through an address book and one stating how the contagion-caused isolation caused them to “know which friends we can live without.” Yes, biting wit, but reminds us to value even more those we hold dear. Fall is a good time to be thankful for those who matter to us and plan to send winter holiday cards and gifts.
- MAKE A “WARM FRIENDS” BASKET Why wait until Christmas? Cooler fall days could be a good time to give your loved ones a thank-you gift like a couple of mugs and a tin of tea. If your friends have smart-sized their things as so many of us have, you might consider recyclable cups and tea bags. It truly is the warm thought that counts.
- CREATE A MASTER GARDENER-WORTHY, “WELCOMING FALL” RED CONTAINER GARDEN In an orange-y red terracotta pot, plant Euonymus alatus “Compactus,” which, with its intensely red leaves, is one of the first shrubs each year to express the coming of autumn. Let the understory be golden-yellow Ceratostigma willmottianum Sapphire Ring (aka “Lissbrill”) and the burnt orange of Dryopteris erythrosora. Together, these will radiant your S.U.N.S. message even from a shady corner. (Inspired by a DIY article in the elegant, British periodical, “Gardens Illustrated” September 2020)
- GIVE A ROUSING SALUTE AT A VETERAN’S DAY PARADE to all the men and women who have served in the U.S. military. Americans celebrate on Nov. 11 and have each year since the end of WWI with the proclamation by President Woodrow Wilson.
- CELEBRATE YOUR HOMECOMING at a football game boasting a giant chrysanthemum blossom on your lapel and cheering on the marching bands at the parade.
- FLING SOME FLANNEL at a FALL PICNIC The summertime Thermos of frozen margaritas gives way to warming Kahlua and cream. “Country Living Magazine,” (September 2021) has a delish recipe for Grilled Mushroom Panzanella with Tomato Vinaigrette. A mushroom shopping tip per the article: “Look for fun varieties like oyster, Hen of the Woods, and chanterelles, which have varying textures and flavors (peppery and earthy for chanterelles and spicy and nutty for Hen of the Woods.)”
- GO HIKING WITH YOUR BEST FRIEND or if you don’t have a dog, maybe a human friend. If all else fails, invite your spouse to take a hike.
- HELP A “FRIENDSGIVING” HAPPEN Some of the most fun don’t have an entire cornucopia of “should and oughts.” Set a date/time that is near/on Thanksgiving Day. Pick a place, pick some friends and get comfortable with the randomness of a “potluck palooza.” However, if you and your friends prefer formality and are Food Network fans, enjoy sweating the details. The essential elements are FRIENDS + GIVING. Go get your SMILE-MAKING gobble going.
- TAKE YOUR HONEY or YOURSELF ON A HAYRIDE Also, YouTube “The Louisiana Hayride,” a radio and later television country music show that broadcast out of Shreveport from 1948-1960. Hank Williams joined the “Louisiana Hayride” after being rejected by “The Grand Ole Opry,” and Elvis Presley’s very first television appearance was on the “Hayride.”
AUTUMN S.U.N.S. (NEIGHBORING)
- PLAYING UNDER A QUILT FRAME ONE FALL as my mom and a group of ladies from the new community we had just moved to (Grandview, AL) stitched my family some quilts is my earliest memory. I was 16. I’m joking; I was 3, which would be almost 70 autumns ago. Fall is a wonderful season for creating heritage crafts and warm, NEIGHBORING memories. “Crafting with Flannel: A Beginner’s Guide to Making Gifts, Accessories and Home Décor” by Sarah Ramberg would make a terrific “how-to” addition to any cool weather crafter’s library.
- ENGINEER A MUSHROOM VALLEY I’ve been volunteering with fellow Master Gardeners to revitalize a woodlands glade in one of our public parks. There is a drainage ditch in this enchanted forest that could be fairly easily and inexpensively transformed to what the French call a “Vallee de Champignons.” Next fall we could host an “outdoor test kitchen” and sample the deliciousness of morels, shitake, wood blewit and other ‘shrooms. Many public parks could offer such tasty lessons of culinary NEIGHBORING.
- A CHARCUTERIE BOARD CO-OP with friends cooperating to create a splendid array could be a good way to take your fall tailgating to a new level. Charcuterie boards have been around since the 15th century in France but are even better with today’s imaginative sourcing of global components like olive tapenade, prosciutto, grapes, baguette slices, bleu cheese, pomegranate arils, cheese curds, fresh figs, cornichons and Marcona almonds.
- PRESSING APPLE CIDER I saw my friends Donna and Tim Richter demonstrating this to an enthusiastic crowd at Peinhardt Farm Days Heritage Festival one autumn and have been eager to try my hand (and elbow grease) at it since.
- THROW WILDFLOWER SEED BALLS (search online for easy instructions) into public meadows this autumn to create more spring blooms for bees and other pollinators.
- DONATE FUNDS FOR BINOCULARS to your local birding group or the Audubon Society.
- HELP SOME NEARBY HOMESTEADERS CHOP WOOD
- JOIN LOCAL FRIENDS FOR A FALL FOLIAGE BUS/TRAIN TOUR Can’t find this sort of tour locally? Start one.
- GOBBLE ONE, GIVE ONE turkey this Thanksgiving holiday.
- RE-CREATE “THE FIRST, LOCAL THANKSGIVING MEAL” in your area. My county was originally founded as a “German colony in Alabama.” I’m imagining an 1870s, autumn feast of Native American pecans and wild turkey, African American fried yams and German American sausages. Danke, y’all.
- WRITE A “THANKSGIVING THANK YOU NOTE” to every person in a nursing home near you.
- GO OVER THE RIVER and THROUGH THE WOODS to a FAMOUS GRANDPARENT’S HOUSE I live about an hour from the former home of the poet Samuel Ullman and once communicated with his grandson to arrange a visit. Mr. Ullman wrote the poem “Youth,” which opens with these encouraging words: “Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.” Who is a “famous grandparent” you might go over the river and through the woods to salute this fall?
- GET SPOOKED FOR A REASON “Haunted” houses and graveyards and such theatrical fright shows support charities across the country. If you’re going to get scared this fall, let it be for a good cause.
- SHARE A PHOTO OF THE MOST GORGOUS LOCAL FALL TREES with a local Facebook group page. Last fall, my favorite snapshot was of a sugar maple next to the Catholic cemetery. It seemed to make a poetic statement about the passage of time.
- MAKE FLEECE BLANKIES FOR NEWBORNS to give to your local maternity ward. (Note: In Alabama, if a hospital wants to offer a fleece blanket to the parents of a new baby, it is wise to first ask if their baby is a “Roll Tide” or “War Eagle” fan.)
AUTUMN S.U.N.S. (SPELLBINDING)
- HARVEST SOMETHING Ask a local farmer if you can come gather. This week, I drove past acres of cotton bolls near a busy interstate highway. If I lived nearer, I’d love to do some nostalgic cotton pickin’. Practice the NEIGHBORING act of “gleaning.”
- DE-LEAF TOMATO PLANTS The sun is waning, so tomatoes need to be exposed to it as much as possible. Also, watering will go to the fruit not to the leaves.
- CARVE A JACK-O-LANTERN for some SMILE-MAKING and SPELLBINDING.
- COLLECT PINECONES Enjoy the intricate geometry of their natural construction with a basket near your hearth and plan on creating peanut butter-slathered feeders for winter birds.
- CREATE A SCARECROW Consider the “33 Cool Scarecrows” at sowanddipity.com.
- LEARN TO IDENTIFY BIRDS as you increase your aviary knowledge for the Christmas Bird Count.
- CHOP! CHOP! MAKE SOUP Fall is a good time to chop fruits and vegetables for freezing. I’m dreaming of the winter pies my friends will bake and share after I share some autumn bounty.
- TELL or READ REAL GHOST STORIES This past week, a friend, Hollybird, and I talked about the famous ghost in a dormitory of the University of Montevallo (AL). So, I shared with her my favorite real ghost story collection by Kathryn Tucker Windham.
- COUNT THE PLANKS IN A COVERED BRIDGE and imagine the long-ago autumn sounds of carriage wheels carrying folks over the river and through the woods.
- BUY SOME RUBBER WELLIES so you have one less excuse for not hiking through wet leaves.
51) GATHER NUTS I bet there are some around you this fall. There were plenty last year when Auburn played Alabama.
AUTUMN ODES FROM OTHERS
“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”—Albert Camus
“It was a beautiful bright autumn day, with air like cider and a sky so blue you could drown in it.”—Diana Gabaldon
“No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in an autumnal face.”—John Donne
“Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons.”—Jim Bishop
JOY-GIVERS CELEBRATING A BIRTHDAY THIS WEEK
Oct. 1—Tina Strandlund (a SMILE-MAKING friend)
Oct. 2—Groucho Marx
Oct. 3—Chubby Checker
Oct. 4—Buster Keaton
Oct. 5—Neil deGrasse Tyson
Oct. 6—Carole Lombard
Oct. 7—Yo-Yo Ma
AUTUMN ROASTED CHICKEN WITH ROOT VEGETABLES—OHIO CHICKEN
Each week, “The JOYrontologist,” shares a recipe saluting a healthy food produced in America. This delicious and nutritious collection is called “The S.U.N.S. Longevity Cookbook” and highlights vitamin B-3 (niacin) which many gerontologists believe holds the promise of a long, healthy, joyful life.
- 1 (4-6 lb.) whole chicken
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
- 1 pinch saffron
- 1 pinch saffron
- 1 medium lemon, sliced
- 1 clove garlic, halved
- 4 large carrots cut in 2-inch pieces
- 1 large fennel bulb, cut in thin wedges
- 1 large red onion, cut into 1/2-inch slices
- Wash the chicken and pat dry. Poke it with a toothpick all over about 40 times. Season with salt and put in the refrigerator to chill for 8 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 425F.
- Combine melted butter and saffron in a small bowl. Pour over chicken to cover, and season with salt and pepper. Stuff chicken with lemon slices and garlic. Tie the chicken legs with kitchen string and tuck legs underneath.
- Lay carrots, fennel and onion at the bottom of a roasting pan and rest the chicken on top.
- Roast in the pre-heated oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Spoon the juices from the chicken over the vegetables. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Continue to roast until no longer pink at the bon and the juices run clear, 10 to 15 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, near the bone, should read 165F.
- Remove from the oven and cover with aluminum foil; let sit for 15 to 30 minutes before serving to allow chicken to absorb all the juices.
“The JOYrontologist RECOMMENDS pairing a California Chardonnay or a New Zealand Pinot Gris with root vegetables. Remembering I’m headed to Oktoberfest this week, another good choice would be a golden-hued, aromatic Viognier from Germany’s northern Rhone region. This could assure SMILE-MAKING for your “oompah band” and get everyone in your biergarten thumping along.
1,070 JOY-GIVING THINGS FROM MY FIRST 70 YEARS (continued)
865. “Autumn Leaves” sung by Johnny Mercer
866. The annual visit by our colorful chimney sweep
867. “Dracula” by Bram Stoker
868. Mama’s early Fall, scarlet zinnias
869. Tossing ten dollars in coins to win a two dollar teddy bear at the county fair
870. John Deere green
871. A stripper at the Morgan County fair
872. A warm bowl of potage with a thimble of sherry
873. Fall apple Bundt cake
874. Breath-taking Fall foliage reflected in Lake Ohatchee
875. The first evening each Fall when I slip on my long-gone dad’s cardigan
HAPPY SUNNY AUTUMN DAYS and COOL EVENINGS!
Read all the installments in this series at www.cullmantribune.com/tag/odes-to-joy-2022.