Monday, September 28

When the frost is on the punkin...

by Liz Flaherty

"They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here—
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock." - James Whitcomb Riley

Every season is my favorite when it first gets here, even winter, but there's something special about fall. My list of reasons for that specialness is mostly about the senses: colors, sounds, smells, tastes. Walking the Nickel Plate Trail near my house brings me to sharp attention to all of those. (You can, if you're receptive enough, even taste the crisp air--I swear!)

My fourth grade teacher read the excerpted poem above aloud in its entirety to the class. I was a farm kid who took all those sensory things for granted. I liked jumping in leaves, but I never noticed their crunch or how they smelled. I liked apples, but never heard the snap or gave thought to the cold burst of sweetness when I bit into one. 

It was one of those aha! moments, when life changes irrevocably whether you know it or not. Because after Mrs. Kotterman read the poem, I experienced fall instead of just being there. I still do. Some of the trees are topping out in gold and orange right now. The fields are being harvested and when you step outside, you are met with the sweet, sharp smell of grain.

My husband plays guitar, which I think I've mentioned, and he loves chords. Far from ever
leaving one out of a song, he's more likely to add some. I love to hear him play, not only because he's my husband, but because the music is always full and rich. Far from just playing a song, he feels every note--he experiences it. When I listen and watch his fingers on the keyboard and see how engaged his so-blue eyes are, I get to experience it, too.

Last night, we went to see a local theatre's production of Mary Poppins.
My daughter and I saw it on Broadway several years ago, and I love the play. But it was the movie, Saving Mr. Banks, that let me see it in a whole new way. In the scene where the Sherman brothers and Don DaGradi show P. L. Travers "Let's Go Fly A Kite" Emma Thompson ended up dancing with Bradley Whitford and I ended up sniffling and mopping my eyes on my sleeve. Now, I cry every time I experience the song, and I love it. (I've read that the scene was fictionalized. Maybe it was. I don't care. It was a great story.)

Back I go to writing--we can always connect that; have you noticed? When I write a story, I want to experience it, not just tap the keys and watch the word count at the bottom of the screen. I want to hear it and feel it and know it. When I read one, I want to be involved to the point that it's not a question of whether I'll laugh and cry, it's just a question of when.

Have a great week. I wish you great experiences, and if you'd like to share some, we'd love to hear them.


  1. I always know when I'm really tuned in to characters - either through writing or reading - because the littlest things make me cry. The first time they say 'i love you' (of course) but then, that first time one reaches for the other's hand just makes it so real

    1. I'm always so surprised when my own stories make me cry. And happy!

  2. Great post, Liz! Isn't it funny how we can cry at our own writing? I do cry every single time I read OMFTT--crazy. But I also cry every time I read One More Summer, which I've read probably six or eight times, I've lost count. Tuning in, becoming a part of the story as you're writing is how we make those characters come alive on the page. My characters are very real to me...I feel their pain and their joy intimately.

    Thanks for the shot of JWR today! My mom quoted him all the time and I love his Hoosier poetry. Fall is in the air when folks start quoting Riley. ;-)

    1. It's when I always think of him, too. "Tuning in" is a good way of putting it. You have to really show up.

  3. I love autumn, too, and you're right, something very special about it as a season. I also loved the Saving Mary Poppins movie and it definitely made me see the movie/play, Mary Poppins, in a very different way. We just returned from UK and was sorry to hear that they now scare the pigeons away from the old squares, like Grosvener. All I could think of was the "Feed the Pigeons" song from Mary Poppins. LOl

  4. Great post Liz! I too love autumn it seems to have a richness of colors, fragrance and sounds that we do not experience in summer. I loved watching the super moon, blood moon, lunar eclipse last night which was also the harvest moon. Even though it is still pretty hot here in Indiana you can feel that change of Autumn in the air. I also cry every time I read One More Summer. Nothing like a good cry, especially when you know the ending will be all right. Thanks!

    1. Hi, Carolyn. We were clouded out of the eclipse, but sure enjoying the full moon tonight. I still have trouble reading parts of One More Summer--writing parts of it was some of the most exquisite pain I've ever felt. (Made me realize exactly what "exquisite pain" really was.)

  5. I like the first part of fall ... by the time all the leaves have fallen and I'm wearing ten layers with no relief from the cold, I'm ready for spring. It occurred to me one day that all my stories take place in the spring or summer, so I guess my mind blacks out the rest of the year!