“For how can one know color in perpetual green, and what good is warmth without cold to give it sweetness?” John Steinbeck
In honor of Autumn, October, and Halloween, I’ve been re-reading John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley: In Search of America (1962). I usually do this because there’s something so perfectly fall-like about the first half of Part Two. “The climate changed quickly to cold and the trees burst into color, the reds and yellows you can’t believe. It isn’t only color but a glowing, as though the leaves gobbled the light of the autumn sun and then released it slowly.” And so I wanted to share this, the Millais painting, and the short list of atmospherically perfect things to dip into on a crisp October day, or better, a brisk All Hallows’ Eve.
With a nod to Indiana, James Whitcomb Riley’s “When the Frost is on the Punkin.”
For poison and pathos and the ability to stick in one’s head, “Where ha’ you been, Lord Randal, my son?” Anonymous child ballad, “Lord Randal (Randall).”
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, “The Birthmark.”
Alfred Noyes, “The Highwayman.” For cadence, but mostly for this: “The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees / The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas…”
Happy Halloween. Happy Autumn.
Image: John Everett Millais. Autumn Leaves. Oil on canvas. 1856. Manchester Art Gallery, U.K.