It’s already been an exceedingly bad couple of weeks for our country, but in the trump era, every week seems to be exceedingly bad. How do we survive between moments of despair, murderous rage, and calls to our elected officials? We write about what’s good, especially what’s good in the little city and the big Valley.
It’s October! Last year, the election leached all the joy out of October. This year, the state of the country is worse, but no worse this month than any other. Everything about October is good. The smell of the air. The purple, reds, and pinks of the leaves. The splash of color from the Japanese maple in the cemetery across the street from our house. Drinking wine and happily shivering in a sukkah. Sweaters and boots (theoretically—it’s been in the 70s most of the month so far). Everyone in my little family was born in July, further evidence that October is the best, and most fertile, month.
We first visited Northampton exactly 20 years ago this week: Columbus Day weekend, 1997. We were traveling to our friends’ wedding in upstate New York, but decided to fly into Bradley Airport and drive from there, so we could visit Northampton on the way. Fantasizing about moving east, we wanted to see if we’d like Northampton as much as were thought we would. Is it any wonder we had moved here within the year? Once I had experienced flying into the airport, seeing the colors from above, seeing the range of hues up the sides of hills around Northampton, spending a cool sunny day wandering downtown. There was no way we were going to spend another October anywhere else.
The summer people are gone! No offense to the many people who visit Northampton throughout the summer, but it’s nice to walk downtown and actually recognize most of the people we see. There are fewer people trying to cross the King/Main street intersection against the light (Parent Weekends notwithstanding). The lines at Herrell’s are shorter.
Apples. Fresh, crisp, perfect local apples. Stopping by the Tuesday Market for my weekly fix from Apex Orchards. Driving to orchards far afield as an excuse to glory in the landscape. Honey crisps that are on the verge of too tart for my tender constitution. Galas that actually taste like they’ve been dipped in honey. Red and yellow delicious that make you realize those things in the grocery stores called red and yellow delicious apples are flavorless travesties. Hauling out the slow cooker to make chunky applesauce (keep the peel on the apples, thank you)
My son texting me from college to gleefully tell me that they’ve started to learn definite articles in his Arabic class.
Tooling around town listening to Sarah Vowell audiobooks; enjoying her kindred history nerd spirit. Feeling like less of a weirdo for celebrating my 50th birthday by visiting the Culloden Battlefield in Scotland or knowing most of 1776 by heart. Looking forward to whatever book she writes about the trump administration, if we survive long enough to see it.
The Book Mill. The Book Mill will end up on any list I make of things that are good, and it’s especially good in October. You’d think I’d manage to get there more often.
In every exam room at our pediatrician’s office, there is a large sign with information and their policies, and each has prominent gay and trans pride symbols.
Swimming—with my miraculous waterproof iPod. An hour of exercise and peace that I love from start to finish (as long as I can keep the state of the world out of my head). If I time it just right, I don’t have to share my lane with irritating splashy people.
Crunchy leaves. Going out of my way to stomp on them.
The Ashfield Fall Festival—my favorite of the Valley’s small town fairs. Pumpkin doughnuts. The hardware store. Morris Dancers. Bizarre tag sale finds. Running into a variety of favorite people.
The Halloween art of Fred Zinn. Each year, my husband turns our long porch into a life-sized Halloween diorama. Each tableau is constructed entirely of paint on cardboard. The planet of carnivorous plants, with a strangled Statue of Liberty, because: 2016. Confused classic movie monsters holding a costume party in the middle of an unfortunate cityscape. A carousel with an array of cryptids instead of horses. Kraken’s Tomb: an aquarium of spooky fish with the requisite evil clown fish. This year, it’s Frankenstein’s lab with a cast of mice. Each one is stunning in its humor, sweetness, and artistic skill.
Soon (Good Lord, please let it be soon) we’ll have an October where the fear is caused by ghosts and ghouls, not by morons and maniacs. Until then, keep breathing the fall air, gazing at the leaves, and add a little more rum to your hot cider.