Whether or not the weather will cooperate with a seasonal feel, autumn arrived at 2:50 a.m. yesterday, ushering in my favorite season of the year. The title of this column comes from 'To Autumn', a poem written by Keats, the English romantic poet who died at age 25 in 1821.
John Keats' poetry continues to be read and remembered almost two centuries after he died of tuberculosis in Italy. Critics attacked his early works in two of England's best known literary magazines of the period but he continued to write. His best known works, often considered his greatest, were all written in 1819. All but one were written between March and June of that year. 'To Autumn' was penned in September.
In three stanzas of eleven lines each, Keats describes autumn, capturing everything from the ripe apples and harvest to the color of the sky and winds that tease.
Long before I read Keats, autumn was my favorite season. I anticipate the shift from summer's heat to fall temperatures, the cooler days, the crisper nights. I enjoy watching the trees flame into bright colors, yellow, orange, gold and brilliant red. For me, the sky is always a deeper blue in autumn. I love the tastes of the season, the fruits including apples and pumpkins. I savor the comfort foods like chicken and dumplings and chili and stew. I find both the sunny days and rainy ones to be beautiful. On mornings when mist hovers above the fields, when frost kisses the grass and hay bales with silver frost, and when the first tang of fragrant wood smoke wafts on the wind, I am content.
Keats was born on All Hallows Eve in 1795 in England. My birthday falls five days before Halloween so perhaps those with autumn birthdays favor the season. It could also be coincidence.
Other autumn themed poems are favorites too, including 'When The Frost Is On The Punkin'" by James Whitcomb Riley and Robert Frost's 'In Apple Picking Time'.
Fall is a beautiful season, marked with rich colors and change. In earlier times, people prepared for the coming winter by gathering food, putting up hay, butchering to have meat through the cold months, by stocking up on firewood and hunting. I have done all of the above but now, my idea of stocking up is to fill my pantry shelves with food and the freezer with meat.
Autumn can also be a poignant time. This year, it is my first fall as a widow, an adjustment I am still making, one day, one step at a time. As the months pass. I am moving closer to finding my solo place in the world. I did not seek this but fate dealt me this card so I must play it as best I can.
I hope for vibrant fall colors, for a bountiful harvest, for a slow season to enjoy, a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.
-Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy is a staff writer for The Neosho Daily News and Community Editor for The Aurora Advertiser. She is also a published author.