Each month possesses a personality, a feeling that sets it apart from the other eleven. October evokes autumn and all that entails. It's a month of cooler weather and bonfires, bright blue skies and gray rainclouds, pumpkin and apple spiced with cinnamon, simmering chili and savory soups, sweaters and hoodies, and quiet nights. It's a season for spooky with Halloween falling at the end of the month.
My title is taken from one of Thomas Wolfe's lesser known books, "Of Time And Hunger: The Legend of Man's Hunger In His Youth". The entire passages reads: "All things on earth point home in old October; sailors to sea, travelers to walls and fences, hunters to field and hollow and the long voice of the hounds, the lover to the love he has forsaken."
In those lines, Wolfe captures the essence of October. It's a time for return, a shift back to quieter nights and opportunity for reflection. Wolfe's best known work is the largely autobiographical novel "Look Homeward, Angel." "Of Time And Hunger" is the continuation of that story.
Reading the familiar words, I am reminded of two trips home, returns to St. Joseph, Missouri.
I was born and raised for the first decade of my life in that old river town, a place where history surrounds you at every step, a place where many branches of my family tree took root.
Once Neosho became my home, trips to St. Joe often happened during the summer and for holidays. As the years passed, those visits became fewer with the added adult responsibility of work and family.
Although October has long been one of my favorite seasons, it had been a long time since I visited my hometown in the fall.
In 2006, my maternal grandmother passed away at the age of 94 in October and so I returned home.
A few years later, in 2010, my Aunt Janet also departed in October and once more my direction pointed back to St. Joe. Those visits were bittersweet, a time of mourning succored by family. In memory, it seems that the weather turned chill and rain brought to mind the old saying that blessed are the dead the rain fall on.
When Grandma died, it marked the first time that my parents, my husband and my children were together in my hometown. We had the opportunity to dine together in some local restaurants, to drive through the old neighborhood and familiar haunts with three generations.
My brother and I were both born in October. All of Aunt Janet's children but one were also born in that month. Several other cousins and ancestors were also born in October so that the month is filled with birthdays to remember, from the first day to the last.
For me, it is a month of beginnings and endings, reminder that, as Wolfe wrote, all things on earth point home in October, in thought, in memory and in my heart.
-Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy is the community editor of The Neosho Daily News and The Aurora Advertiser. She is also a published novelist, writing about everyday people in often extraordinary circumstances.