Remembering October.

When I think of October 2012, I will always remember Hurricane Sandy and reading one of Willa Cather’s short stories by flashlight.I had to because my English teacher isn’t the kind of teacher who accepts that tired, old excuse, “I couldn’t do my homework because there was a hurricane and I lost power.”

But, I will also remember Robert Frost. Up until last week, I didn’t share America’s love affair with Mr. Frost. Born in San Francisco, Frost seemed like nothing more than a poser pretending to be of pure New England Yankee stock. Besides, I don’t churn butter, mend farm fences, climb ladders to pick apples, or trudge through knee deep snow so what does his collection of poetry add to my understanding of modern New England life? Do we really need some old dead poet, whose best friend was named Ezra, to tell us about October in New England? As it turns out, we do. Perhaps I was the only one who didn’t know that.

I did a little research on Frost and a few things stuck out to me. Robert Frost drifted through life working as a cobbler and itinerant teacher. He met a girl, married, and moved onto a farm in rural New Hampshire. There couldn’t have been too many poet farmers back then, and, in the end, Frost lost the farm and moved on. Probably spent too much time writing verse to eek out a living in the rugged New England landscape.

But Frost did manage to win four Pulitzers for poems like “On a Tree Fallen Across the Road.” Even a cursory look into some of his poems reveals truly beautiful lines that stir the soul. In a poem for his daughter’s wedding entitled, “The Master Speed,” Frost wrote the words, “life is only forevermore together wing to wing and oar to oar,” to capture the moment.  His own gravestone bears the last line of his poem, “The Lesson for Today.” It simply says, “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.” And many say Frost had a wicked sense of humor. At President Kennedy’s inauguration, when Kennedy approached Frost to thank him for the poem he had written for the occasion, Frost is believed to have said, “and who might I ask are you?” I was starting to really like the guy.

Driving to school in the early morning last week before Sandy-mania set in at my house, my tired eyes looked up at the October sky, and I felt the quiet of a mild October morning. The leaves had ripened to the fall just as Frost promised, and I knew that if the day’s wind started slowly, the leaves would fall singularly. I did not think about the fact that one windy day, or a hurricane for that matter, would lay waste to them all.

For days now, I had allowed myself to be fooled into believing that the days were not shortening and cooling as quickly as they were. I looked out at the calm, Windex blue sky from classroom windows and relished the feeling of the mild air on my skin in the early afternoons at practice. October.

For the past 10 years I have lived in New England, but nothing could have prepared me for that early morning October sky last week. Through the morning mist and slowly rising sun, the sky took on an intoxicating shade of violet, or as Frost says in his poem entitled "October," “Retard the sun with gentle mist; Enchant the land with amethyst.”

So the color I saw wasn’t violet at all, it was amethyst. There was no arguing with Frost on that point. How can one argue with a national bard, a true national treasure like Robert Frost? I just looked up and enjoyed the beauty of October in Frost’s beloved New England as only he could describe it.  

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Kate DeChaud November 01, 2012 at 11:52 AM
This is beautiful, Andrew. Bravo! I am a huge Robert Frost fan too.
English first November 01, 2012 at 12:35 PM
Thank you for educating us on that poem. I had not read it. What a well written essay.
John Walsh November 01, 2012 at 01:09 PM
Glad that you found Frost, Andrew. I was a latecomer to him – not in exposure to his work, but in appreciation of it. He rewards repeated readings. One of my favorites is "Wild Grapes" – http://bit.ly/YrvGfR – a lesser-known companion to "Birches". Thanks for another great post – looking forward to the next one!


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