October 2, 2009

Max’s Musings

maxBy Max Molleston

How much does October mean to you?

September used to be when fall started, but now it is August. This requires a whole new attitude about the fall of the year. August – late summer – gets us in gear, probably before we want to be. It surely does that for the vacationing younger children. Unless, of course, you have a kindergartener. You have prompted the kids to be ready and have already bought them the requisite clothing and supplies and whatever else doting parents and grandmas can think of to resolve how much they cherish the young starter.

Now in October, things are moving along. All kinds of sports participation in all grades through college and beyond are producing won-and-loss records, with the smallest of the numbers, at first.

Our grandson. a kindergartner this fall, asks his grandma if she would come to his soccer games. Of course, this inquiry was before his first practice, and he didn’t have shoes or shin guards yet.

Speaking of things getting started, I am working around the genius of Garrison Keillor in our visit this month. Back in the 1980s, when his “Prairie Home Companion” was fresh on the air on the NPR stations, I was enthralled with his style. And some people said I looked like him. (They had been to St. Paul to watch his two-hour show as a “live” audience.)

Then after a while I “fell off his haywagon.” I got tired of the woebegone stories and his inventions of people that I should have known or recognized by their conduct, as invisible humans on the radio. Maybe he became tired of the woebegone characters after hundreds of on-air episodes and thousands of successful ventures with these stories in book form. I began hearing his short programs on the various NPR stations titled “The Writer’s almanac.” Although I am not a regular listener they are light years shorter than the two-hour renditions of his continuing “Prairie Home Companion.”

My friend, who I revealed a month ago as my poetry library benefactor, came through recently with a garage-sale book, “Good Poems,” selected and introduced by Keillor on this short (new to me) radio show. That gave the volume more panache – Viking publication date, September 20, 2002. These are poems he introduces, or that is what the special character of the book seems to be.

One of these specially selected poems was the work of John Updike, the late author lauded in many languages for his thirty-plus volumes that made his reputation and made him piles of cash. Here is:


I sometimes fear the younger
will be deprived of the pleasures of
There is no knowing how many souls
have been
formed by this simple excerise.
The dry earth like a great scab break
revealing moist dark loam — the pea
roots home,
a fertile would be perpetually
How neatly the green weeds go under!
The blade chops the earth anew.
Ignorant the wise boy who has never
this simple, stupid and useful wonder.

This is number two of the Updike poems I have introduced here in these columns. the last one was November of last year, titled “Iowa” and worked from the land, newly white from a frost – something we will experience this month, if seasons on end with the same results come as expected. That the corn would dry down to a moisture level tolerated in town at the elevator, in a sale, and soybeans could do the same.

Back to Garrison Keillor, a rural Minnesota product, whose abilities and successes make it hard for a fellow radio guy like me and others of my ilk to live up to. Most of us worked until those in management saw it was time to call things to a close.

We need to call this month to a close as well. October is full of excitement as the earth things we know change colors for a while and then, all except the conifers, drop leaves to the ground. It excites us to the point that some of us get on a bus with others, traveling to points ten and even hundreds of miles away from home to see other leaves about to fall and marvel at what happens. Join us in a month here and see if we can marvel at another poet. Another poet, another excitement that turns up at the year’s turn.