The fall has always been my favourite season, and October my favourite month. The heat of summer finally gives way to the cool and crisp but not yet cold autumn air, as we break out our sweaters. The grass grows a little more slowly so the summer weekly lawn-cutting moves to bi-weekly in the fall. Pumpkin spice inexplicably overtakes chocolate as Canadians’ favourite flavour. And Halloween candy fills grocery store shelves. (Actually, that starts sometime in August, but you get the idea.)
That sense of renewal that arrives in September is still hanging on as we head into October. And let’s not forget the colours, that eye-popping red, orange, and yellow symphony on Leaside trees in October. But it’s not all unicorns and rainbows. We’ll pay for October’s vivid visual feast in November when we’ll be raking a never-ending supply of fallen leaves and awkwardly stuffing them into garden waste bags that simply refuse to stay open. But this minor complaint is somewhat offset by the occasional welcome whiff of burning leaves in the wind.
It’s turkey time: I suppose there’s another seasonal downside at this time of year, at least for some school kids. Growing up in Leaside, I well recall that by the time October rolled around, the initial flush of excitement we all felt about returning to school and seeing all our friends again had, shall we say, moderated somewhat (or more accurately, promptly left town) as we settled in for the long grind to the Christmas break. But that seems a trifling concern against all of October’s benefits. Let’s not forget Thanksgiving and the family feast that annually leaves me stretched out on the couch moaning and belatedly rethinking my poor decision to have a fourth helping of turkey, potatoes and gravy. All I can say is, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Hockey’s back! October also heralds the return of hockey season at Leaside Memorial Gardens. To this day, I remember my first house league hockey practice (it was October 12, 1968). There are other reasons this time of year is my favourite. I was married in October. I picked up the first car I ever owned in October, 1985. You can still golf in October. And the Leafs are back, as is my annual refrain: “This could be their year.”
Writers’ festivals are everywhere: The fall is also book season. A flurry of new books is released and there’s a rash of writers’ festivals where authors present their new works and engage with readers from one end of the country to the other. My seventh novel, Albatross, hit bookstores in August, just in time for this annual fall literary love-in. By the time you read this, I will have already travelled to writers’ festivals on BC’s Sunshine Coast, Calgary, Ottawa, Eden Mills near Guelph, and several other hotspots. It’s when I figure out how to talk about my latest novel and learn what readers like and don’t like about the story. I also sign a lot of books and talk to hundreds of readers – which is always enlightening and almost always gratifying. Even readers who question the placement of commas or my occasionally dubious use of the “em dash” (yes, there is such a thing) are warmly welcomed.
These annual festivals are also among the few opportunities when writers can commune with other writers. I can almost hear the raspy English-accented David Attenborough voiceover: “In the fall, the shy and introverted writers venture from their nests and appear in the real world, testing the air, warily circling one another, and eventually putting on displays to compete for willing readers. Yes, it’s literary festival season in the wilds of Canada.” Not every writer enjoys festival season, but I do.
So, let’s not lament the end of summer and the all too imminent return of winter. Let’s celebrate the season in between. Pull on that cardigan, grab that rake, sharpen up that pumpkin carving bowie knife, read a good book by the fire, and embrace the fall. After all, February is just around the corner. Terry’s seventh novel, Albatross, was published by McClelland & Stewart in August and is available in bookstores everywhere.