October’s Bright Blue Weather

Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885)

October’s Bright Blue Weather

O suns and skies and clouds of June,
And flowers of June together,
Ye cannot rival for one hour
October’s bright blue weather;

When loud the bumble-bee makes haste,
Belated, thriftless vagrant,
And Golden-Rod is dying fast,
And lanes with grapes are fragrant;

When Gentians roll their fringes tight
To save them for the morning,
And chestnuts fall from satin burrs
Without a sound of warning;

When on the ground red apples lie
In piles like jewels shining,
And redder still on old stone walls
Are leaves of woodbine twining;

When all the lovely wayside things
Their white-winged seeds are sowing,
And in the fields, still green and fair,
Late aftermaths are growing;

When springs run low, and on the brooks,
In idle golden freighting,
Bright leaves sink noiseless in the hush
Of woods, for winter waiting;

When comrades seek sweet country haunts,
By twos and twos together,
And count like misers, hour by hour,
October’s bright blue weather.

O suns and skies and flowers of June,
Count all your boasts together,
Love loveth best of all the year
October’s bright blue weather.


Each year there is one crisp, blue and yellow day that expands almost til it bursts; the day on which I instantly recall this poem. I first learned about it from a friend, Les Brownlee, who, when in his eighties and nearing the end of his incredibly full life as a pioneering black journalist in Chicago (he coined the phrase “eyewitness news”), robustly recited aloud the first lines of the poem on just such an October day many years ago. I knew instantly that I would make it part of the landscape of my years, a personal tradition to keep for my own. While I would never commit the poem to memory in it’s entirety as Les and those of his generation did so often and so well, I would work to learn the first few lines and to have them on the ready as a surprise autumnal gift to give at just the perfect moment.

Surrounded by the red and white of Les’ beloved alma mater UW Madison (and the occasional fighting badger adorning a wall clock or hand towel) my husband and I would join a generous-sized gathering at his home on many Sundays throughout our life in Evanston, Illinois. He and his wife Priscilla were the family and hearth we were missing in our contemporary, parent-less lives. That era has long since come to a close, but how lucky I am to take with me those memories of friendship and inclusion – as well as a few choice poems and stories.

One or two days a year, when the weather turns just so, I think of you, dear Les, and I send you my gratitude for helping to write a lovely stanza in my own life’s poem.

6 thoughts on “October’s Bright Blue Weather

  1. What a lovely way to remember your friend. I don’t know you, but loved this post. Helen has always been a favorite and I not only speak about her I will when the occassion rises become her. She left a legacy much like your friens Les. They are the gifts we recieve and you are to be commended for carrying on the great legacy.

  2. Lovely poem. And post. I love this time of year two. The lower tracking of the Sun changes everything, especially light-wise. Around here the Summers are pretty blazing. We just had a little sprinkle last night and it was the first rain we’ve had for about 2-1/2 months. It’s nice when the Summer white out of bright light gives way to the subtler tones of Fall. Our leaves are just now starting to maybe change a little. But all we need is a little frost and a little wind and…

  3. Autumn is a beautiful time of what they call the “cool” color of a pure blue sky against the “warm” tones that this cool season brings. The leaves which were delightfully green for half a year are now yellow, orange, red, brown and rust colored against that blue sky which makes these colors pop out in strong relief. There are conflicting ways to look at fall: either a sad pondering of the death of summer or an appreciation of the glorious transition into the cold times which are actually a relief from the fever of those summer months. The eventual freezing of the ground cleanses the land from molds and other such things which can aggravate allergies, and in general, the coldness of winter helps to cleanse the land for a clean spring.

    Thank you for that poem, which helps to describe this special time of year. Naturally, most of us want it to be nice and warm and green all the time, but autumn is a transition to help us into the neccessary winter. Please excuse me for going on in poetic terms like this, but your journal entry, which is framed by a picturesque poem, rather sets the tone for this sort of reply. In general, fall is cool, in more ways than one. Autumn rocks, and it’s a good time to enjoy and reflect all that is good around us. Lord knows that there are plenty of things for us all to complain about in life, so we should all pause to stop and smell the dry leaves around us, before having to rake them up. Even raking leaves is an excersise which nature gives to us, whether we like it or not. Considering that we have no choice anyway, I choose to like it. I gladly breathe in the cold morning air and take in the earthy aroma of the land before getting into my car. I open the windows and feel the cold wind (although I turn on the heater to keep my feet warm as I drive). All the seasons are good, in their own ways.

    May all the autumn and winter seasons of your life soon give way to a glorious spring. It’s good to have you in this world, and I wish you all the best.

    1. Hello! So nice to see you again after so many years! Thanks for your own contributions here, and for your kindness, too. Indeed, I count myself lucky to live in a place with seasons – and I know you agree. xo

      1. Well, it’s really good to know that you are alive and well, too. I’ve read most of your posts, and you’re really doing something good here. The only other entry of yours that I posted a reply to was your December 2 one about “Change”, which, according to the website, is “awaiting moderation”. I can just imagine a very stern-looking Graham Chapman in a police or military uniform, saying, “Your reply is under evaluation, in order to be certain that you have not written anything silly! If there’s one thing we won’t stand for around here, it is silliness! We must maintain some dignified standards around here!” Anyway, what you wrote about being separated from your son in the crowd brought back a scary 10 minutes or so when my wife and I couldn’t find our little girl in a large store in Chicago, back in the ’90s, so I posted a brief rememberance.

        I’m sorry that I never took Les Brownlee’s journalism class at Columbia College. He was quite an interesting man, and I’ll have to read his autobiography sometime. One journalist I did see at Columbia was Mike Royko, who gave an interesting talk about writing. He’s been gone for 15 years now, and I still miss reading his column each morning. Speaking of departed journalists, another resident of Maple Ave., Bill Jauss, just passed away a few days ago. By all accounts, he was a good guy (my parents were friends of his), and when my dad died in 1995, he wrote a nice article in the paper, which I appreciated.

        I’ll be looking forward to reading all your future posts. You write well, and it looks like you have a book in the making here.

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