Today is the birthday of Thomas Wolfe, born in 1900 on this date. And it’s the birthday of a dear friend, who was born many years after Wolfe. October is full of dates that, for me, evoke joy and sorrow. I have long remembered Wolfe’s birth date after reading all of his published work while in college and while teaching some of it in my English courses. So many of his observations spoke to me then, and some still do today. This passage from Of Time and the River, his second novel from 1935 in Telemachus, XXXIX, for example:
October had come again, and that year it was sharp and soon: frost was early, burning the thick green on the mountain sides to massed brilliant hues of blazing colors, painting the air with sharpness, sorrow and delight — and with October. Sometimes, and often, there was warmth by day, an ancient drowsy light, a golden warmth and pollenated haze in afternoon, but over all the earth there was the premonitory breath of frost, an exultancy for all the men who were returning, a haunting sorrow for the buried men and for all those who were gone and would not come again.
One of my grandchildren changed some of the sorrow I felt, some of the betrayal I felt in October, the month my daughter died. My granddaughter’s birth a decade ago made my heart soar again. My father, who died a little more than a decade ago, also celebrated his birthday in October, and I’ve missed him for many years now. And yesterday, another grandchild was born, more joy to fill the blue October skies. Much more joy.
“October painting the air with sharpness, sorrow and delight–and with October,” yes.