With dark skies returning, 200 billion stars of the Milky Way are lighting up the sky. (The ancient Irish called it Bealach na Bó Finne, the Way of the White Cow. And I like that, easy to imagine that great cow slowly crossing the heavens.) The sky holds such history and myth for our imaginations to consider. On a dark night your eye can see over two million light years away: A humbling and sobering thought. Like the stars spiralling above in the Milky Way Galaxy, petals of pink and red roses lie starkly in a whorl on the ground in front of the cottage. A somewhat dramatic show of amber sycamore leaves falls on the grass in such perfection you’d think someone had scattered them there by design. Elsewhere, the leaves of blueberry bushes and acers and salix turn a brilliant crimson. Rosehips as large as crab apples wait to be feasted on by winter-hungry robins. It’s time for the great autumn clean-up in Kiltumper, but instead I watch the leaves fall from the quiet of the house and pray for a great wind to tidy them away.
Donald Culross Peattie wrote in An Almanac for Moderns “It is nearly impossible to be sad, even listless, on a blue and gold October day, when the leaves rain down, rain down, not on a harsh wind, but quietly on the tingling air.” Whereas September was a month of contrasts with summer lingering and winter approaching, autumn has turned the corner with certitude in October. One time, long ago, my father was speaking to me from lines of a poem he thought to write. ‘October, teach me how to die’, he said. We were driving on an autumn day in a suburb of New York City along a highway stippled with red, orange and yellow leaves. At the time, it seemed rather curious to me, a teenager, and my father a Wall Street lawyer, but I have never forgotten it. And now that image comes back to me. October is a month of endings with its last day marking the end of autumn in Ireland. Now, in the starry nights of October, the light is above, the Way of the White Cow brightens all our paths.