Wednesday, October 24, 2007


I’m safely back at home – again. This time I was in Hiawatha, Iowa. That’s a suburb of Cedar Rapids. I went down Friday, gave a talk at their library Saturday and came home the same day. They have a nice library, and we had a good turnout, especially for a magnificent Saturday early afternoon. It was sunny and in the low seventies, which is as good as it gets in later October. If it had been me, I would have been out walking in such weather, raking leaves, or watching children play in the park. But about two dozen showed up to listen to me blather on about what fun it is to write about murder. A representative from Barnes & Noble was there selling books, and I noticed as I signed a copy of the first one in the Betsy Devonshire series, Crewel World, that it was in its fifteenth printing. Delighted, that’s what I am!

I love autumn. It’s my favorite season. I once thought that was uncommon, because so many people greet spring with such enthusiasm. The end of harsh winter, the tender green of new growth, every living plant in flower – there is much to recommend spring. And autumn, with its promise of harsh winter back again, the sun fading south, the leaves skittering down the street sounding the death rattle of the year, can seem downright sad. But there’s the crisp air, the tart apples, the heaps of produce – spring’s promise is kept in autumn – the cozy drawing in, the hearty soups, the brilliance of the dying leaves. Don’t you sometimes wish humans could put on such a beautiful display at the end of their lives? Wouldn’t it be fun to suddenly drop the gray and find under it a rich purple or brilliant blue or bright green? Of course that would mean the end is near, so maybe not so much.

I thought we’d have a bad autumn for color this year. In the city, some of our trees are
already naked, a few are glowing orange, and others are still green. Usually our interim seasons (spring and fall) move fast. One weekend the pools are open, the next weekend the leaves are spectacular, the third weekend we can park only on the odd-numbered side of the streets so snow removal can commence. The last few years we’ve had drawn-out autumns, when you don’t have to keep careful track of leaf colors’ progress down the state in order not to miss the one Saturday you can take an autumn drive up the St. Croix to see the colors and buy apples from a roadside stand.

I thought we weren’t going to see autumn out in that blaze of color. But on my drive down Interstate 35 into Iowa the color was lovely, especially on the low shrubs that line the freeway. I think they are the variety called “burning bush” and that’s a great name for shrubs that turn such bright reds, oranges and yellows in the fall. But oh, the hills too! They looked like giant bouquets, the evergreens standing among the maples, aspens, and oaks serving as the greenery tucked among the flowers. This year even the elms and oaks are bright.

I’m going to Galena, Illinois, this weekend. It is small, full of quaint , antique buildings, very touristy – and one of America’s most haunted cities. Virtually every old building has a story of ghostly children’s laughter, a silent figure in a doorway or window, or a mischievous sprite who keeps turning on the lights. So, naturally enough, the town loves Halloween. They have a parade the Saturday in October closest to October 31, which is this coming one. I want to have the climax of the book I will write next set there on that weekend, so I simply must go there for another look. And so long as I am there, I’ll do a signing at Mike and Kathy’s Timeless Needle shop. I’m taking my friend and needlework pattern designer Denise along. A really fun trip, and tax deductible, too.

How I suffer for my art!


presenttiptrick said...

I like rain.The rain is my favourite season. In my country, The weather is rain

in my blog. I will present my freetime and can see it at

Sheila Connolly said...

I've always loved fall. Maybe that's because school always started then, so it feels like a beginning, not an end.

I live in New England, and right now all the trees are turning--and I have to make a point of savoring them (does wonders for my driving).

That last burst of glory always makes me think of Dylan Thomas's line: rage, rage before the dying of the light.

Monica Ferris said...

Sheila, you make a point so obvious I feel stupid for not noticing it: fall means school, which means a beginning. That is true.

Enjoy the color!

Camille Minichino said...

Autumn leaves and school, yes. but what impresses me, Monica, is 15 printings!

there should be an award for that!

Deb Baker said...

15th printing! Yippee. That's incredible.

I love, love fall, and Sheila's right, it's a new start. There were 24 turkeys in my backyard yesterday and 2 deer wandered through. Birds are eating seed faster than I can fill the feeder, and a plump racoon came through this morning. Hope he keeps going.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Oh, Monica, you really made me feel nostalgic! Fall always used to be my favorite season, too, when I grew up in Pennsylvania. But I've lived in the L.A. area for many years now, and although a few kinds of trees change color and lose their leaves, it's not usually at the same time and is certainly not as spectacular as in other parts of the country. I'm glad you got to see some of those magnificent colors!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Yesterday, I took Luci Zahray, The Poison Lady, to St. Charles. We were stopped in our walk by the magnificent colors of a sweet gum tree. Gosh! I brought one of the leaves home. Maybe I'll share it on Monday.

Fall is fabulous.