I’m so grateful for all my guest contributors. I love that everyone has her own take on the themes I suggested. Where Lindsay learned about changing seasons through her move, and Heather is learning to welcome the Real fall when it comes, Harmony Harkema offers us a taste of what losing a certain kind of October is like. Anyone who has felt lost in a different climate from the one you grew up in will understand this struggle and the gift that might actually come from it.
Harmony is another treasure I’ve found through Jen Hatmaker’s launch team. We have met in person, which isn’t a requirement for our tribe, but definitely a bonus. She lives and breathes the writing world, and the fact that she is sharing her words here gives me almost as much joy as the words themselves.
Oh, you’ll probably get hungry after reading this, so she shares a recipe too! Enjoy!
Losing (that) October
By Harmony Harkema
I grew up in the heart of the Midwest, where October is the showiest month. To this day, when I close my eyes and think of October, I see an empty highway stretching before me and beyond it, a sweep of harvested fields backed by a flaming red, orange, and gold tree line, the colors so vibrant that they rival the best of sunsets.
When I think of October, I can almost feel the crisp afternoon air contrasting with the warmth of the sun under a brilliant blue sky.
When I think of October, I can just about smell the morning-damp scent of fallen leaves, reminiscent of school bus stops and the first days I see my breath leave my lips like a puff of smoke.
When I think of October, I think of Friday night football games under the lights spent bundled up in a hooded sweatshirt with a Styrofoam cup of hot cocoa cupped between my palms.
I cling to these images, this almost-perceptible sense of October. Where I live now, those Octobers seem far away. Yesterday it was ninety-three degrees, and I broke a sweat on my way out to the mailbox.
October in the Mid-South is still hot and rather dismal, at least some of the time. It’s a month that likes to tease, giving me a short string of cooler, blue-skied days and then submitting again to the insistent heat. Leaves begin to turn, but the trees are far less bold—it’s rare to see one wearing a cap of red leaves. Softer oranges and golds line the streets instead, as if autumn is welcomed oh-so-reluctantly. My daughters wear shorts and t-shirts under their Halloween costumes.
Every morning at sunrise in October, I open the front door and step out, cup of coffee in hand, to see what the air feels like. As my hand reaches out to grasp the doorknob, I pray silently for cold, for chill, for that damp smell to fill my nostrils. Most days I’m disappointed.
On hot days we stay indoors, and I ignore the fact that the air conditioning still kicks on every twenty minutes or so. I buy apple cider from Ohio and apples from Michigan at the grocery store, which I turn into apple betty* on a seventy-five-degree day. (*Recipe here and also below)
I’ve learned that if I wait until it’s cool to do these things, I may miss out on them completely. At the same time, I have learned not to let my children carve pumpkins more than a few days before Halloween, or they will be nothing more than lumps of mold on our front porch by the time we go trick-or-treating.
When I read something seasonal—a book of activities to do with your kids year ‘round, for example—it’s always clear to me that the writer thinks of October the way I do, as deep autumn and not the stubborn tail of too-long summers. Sometimes I sigh and nod in understanding, but other times this approach makes me want to scream.
People who live north of the Mason-Dixon Line seem to assume that we all experience the same October. Losing that October has been one of the hardest parts of my transient life.
I’ve wrestled with God over the transplanting of my body and soul to a place where people hibernate in summer to escape the incessant heat and where Christmas is never white. “Send me to Narnia,” I think. “I’d love to see some snow.” But the truth is that these southern Octobers have stretched me into newness, into deeper understanding of the apostle Paul’s exhortation to be contented no matter the circumstances.
What do I really need to feel rooted? Can I turn my mind away from longing for different weather and see instead the richness of what I do have—a cozy home strewn with the mess and laughter of children, a husband who is my best friend, an adventure we are all on together?
I can. Even in this October.
Apple Betty Recipe
Harmony Harkema has loved the written word for as long as she can remember. A former journalist and English teacher turned editor, she has spent the past seven years in the publishing industry. A novelist and blogger in the fringe hours of her working-mom life, Harmony also has a heart for leading and coaching aspiring writers, and The Glorious Table is the culmination of those passions. She has more books than her shelves can hold, drinks more coffee than is probably good for her, and likes to unwind her brain at the end of the day by stirring something on the stove or baking whatever sounds good in the moment. A Michigan native who dreams ceaselessly about the Great Lakes shoreline, Harmony currently lives in Memphis, Tennessee with her husband and two small daughters.