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Thoughts on a Month of Moods and Colors

October 01, 1989|JUDITH MORGAN | Morgan, of La Jolla, is a magazine and newspaper writer

October may be my favorite month. Its brisk chill warms my soul.

I go bonkers over sappy songs about falling leaves. I grow giddy over the first log that crackles in a hearth. I like to wear khakis and Shetland sweaters and country walking shoes. I like to scruff through city parks or village lanes, kicking garlands of russet leaves.

Vermont is a field day for such pleasures.

The old territorial courthouse lawn in mile-high Prescott, Ariz., provides another heap of fun.

October brings a mood of relative calm to Southern California. Beaches and coves are abandoned by the throngs of summer and left to those lucky enough to live nearby, those who like to rise on a haze-free morning and stroll on hard-packed sand.

October in the Dolomites of northern Italy is as dazzling as a Roman masquerade; jagged blue mountains near Nova Levante are sequined with leaves of scarlet and gold.

The Rockies are bewitching--even from the windows of a jet--as the green coins of aspen turn to burnished copper.

To drive through historic Park City, Utah, and on to the elegant aerie of Deer Valley is to see flaming foliage at its western best, before the slopes are bundled in white for prime skiing.

European cities change their moods as the weather cools. They get back to the cosmopolitan business of enjoying themselves . . . and their restaurants and parks and universities.

Symphony orchestras tune up, and so do the horns of fox hunts. Theaters are fresh with new performances as the artistic world gets its act together for another season.

In London and Paris, in New York and Montreal, the familiar profiles of cathedrals and monuments begin to loom through barren branches, revealing views that were veiled for months behind the green drapery of chestnut trees and lindens.

In Poland, in Norway, in the Tetons and Cascades, forests of slim white birch are swept posturing and long shadows draw out photographers and painters.

October brings those moments of confrontation when the best of baseball meets the best of football like a high tide crushing into an ebb. It is frothy stuff. Travelers fade from family reunions to get to a Big Game, or to a Big Screen to watch a Big Game.

Alumni follow college teams to towns they would not normally visit, except for a chance of victory. Hotels in South Bend, Ind., Ann Arbor, Mich., and Norman, Okla., score well in this season.

That might all seem mad to me, except that I carried a shortwave radio to the top deck of a ship off the China coast one October to listen for World Series scores.

In another October I held my arm out of the window of a moving vehicle on the South Island of New Zealand to loft that same radio--its antenna wrapped in foil--and bring in U.S. football scores on Armed Forces Radio. New Zealand sportscasters were reporting other matches, including table tennis.

October means stacks of giant pumpkins and the joy of Halloween. It means Oktoberfest in those towns that have not already rolled out their beer barrels during September.

It is an aromatic season of harvest and crush in vineyards from the Napa Valley to Provence. It is a time to celebrate Aloha Week with parades and orchid shows in Hawaii.

October in the Southwest means apples and cider and skies as turquoise as Navajo jewelry. Medjool dates ripen in the Coachella Valley southeast of Palm Springs.

The weather gets cool enough to put cassoulet back on the menus of French cafes, and raclette on the dining lists of Switzerland.

In Japan, the march of autumn colors, moving down the ridges from Hokkaido to Kyushu, is reported with verve on the nightly news.

And all the while, with another brush, October is daubing the Southern Hemisphere with the sweet pastels of spring.

I like October because it has a sense of humor.

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