The misty mornings of October melt into golden afternoons and crystal moonlit nights. Everywhere there is color. The maple trees that surround the house envelope it in a cloak of buttery yellow and carpet the ground, while the cadmium orange sumach crowns the hill above the vineyard, all in contrast to the still green grass and clear blue skies. Corn that has been left in the field to dry for winter feed has been bleached bone white, and it rattles like dancing skeletons in the October breezes.
Inside, the first fires have been kindled in the woodstove to ward off the autumn chill. There is a faint aroma of camphor wafting through the house from the familiar patterens of the patchwork quilts that have been brought out of storage to warm the frosty nights.
The last of the herbs have been gathered, and they hang from the beams. There are the culinary thymes, savory, aromatic sage, the medicinal mints, coltsfoot, southernwood, magical mugwort, wormwood and artemisia bathed in its own moonlight.
This is the time of the apple harvest: winesaps, greenings, macintosh, red and yellow delicious, the antique varieties of sops of wine, sheepnose and smokehouse. There are apples to fill fruitbowls for immediate eating, apples that keep well for winter storage and apples that make the best pie ever. The back porch smells of baskets of apples in the afternoon sun and the house is perfumed with hot applebutter richly laced with cinnamon, cloves and alspice, which is canned by the case.
The sights, sounds and smells of October bring about in all of us subtle changes, and as our bodies begin to change metabolism, preparing us for shorter winter days, our consciousness begins to shift from the more actively mental to the more psychically receptive state appropriate to the dark half of the year. As all of these changes are taking place I am busy preparing for the most magical night of the year, Halloween.
The sounds of small feet shuffling up the path through the dry leaves of October announce the arrival of trick-or-treaters long before their knocks at the door. As the children gaze wide-eyed at the array of Halloween treats placed before them and slowly fill their bags with one of each, their parents are met with cups of warm spiced cider to offset the chill of the night air and to protect them from evil spirits. Eventually the sleepy children, filled with candy and exhausted from hours of trick or treating, are carried home to be put to bed to dream dreams of goblins and popcorn, witches and candy apples.
At last I am alone by the fire to contemplate the magic of this night. As the “Witching Hour” of midnight approaches, I gaze into the flames and imagine other times, in other places, when on this night ,Samhain (or Halloween) Fires glowed on every hilltop. As moonset darkens this haunted night and the spirits gather at the doors and windows, I stare into the fire and the wind howls down the chimney. When the dying fire has been banked and the candles in the jack-o’-lanterns have been extinguished, I leave a plate of cakes and a cup of wine for whatever spirits seek the comfort of my hearth tonight.


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