by Helen Currie Foster, September 13, 2021
Have you noticed that the roads diverged in a yellow wood?
So Frost was thinking of fall, in “The Road Not Taken” (1916). Leaves turn yellow—and not just in New England. I admit Texas Hill Country fall colors are a little muted. Bluestem bunch grass makes silvery seed-heads.
And our cedar elms turn yellow green, then yellow, and then madly fling golden confetti into the air.
Yellow leaves! When new roads appear and diverge, right? New fall clothes, perhaps (even with climate change) sweaters! New books, new subjects, new teachers, new classmates.
We awake with new ideas, new projects, new dreams. On weekends the parks fill up with soccer players. Football begins.
All our years of fall classes leave many of us with a compelling interior calendar. In September, two roads—at least two roads!—diverge. We feel energetic, restless. Do we seek the old ways again or do new roads beckon? Do we join the Master Naturalists? Take a photography class? Go for a master’s degree? We feel September’s time pressure, expressed as a desire to learn new things, tread new paths, move further into the world, even with the stultifying blanket of the pandemic heavy on our shoulders.
As Yogi Berra famously advised, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
Because—as Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson put it—
“It’s a long, long time from May to December,
But the days grow short when you reach September;
When the autumn weather turns leaves to flame
One hasn’t got time for the waiting game.”
No, when September hits, we haven’t got time for the waiting game. It’s the first day of nursery school…third grade…middle school…senior year. We can’t just stay home and watch the leaves turn to flame.
Now for Book 8. People ask about the “writing process.” It’s like standing at the crossroads in the yellow wood. Which path? But no time for the waiting game!
Book 8 began to take shape with wakeful nights, with a couple of strong images, where Alice must identify a body in the Aberdeen mortuary. Then a new character barged in, demanding time onstage. I’m always amazed at how characters insist on doing what I hadn’t foreseen, taking their lives in their own hands. The plot arc is there but further decisions will be made. I’m sending chapters to the critique group, and the manuscript’s got at least a provisional name. The future murder victim in Coffee Creek hasn’t yet learned her fate (sorry, honey). So it’s still wakeful nights, then pacing around the kitchen island, then sitting and writing, then pacing again, then sitting and writing, then more pacing.
Just a moment ago it was summer. But as Frost also wrote, “Nothing gold can stay” (1923). The fall equinox approaches on September 22. Following Yogi Berra’s advice, faced with all the decisions ahead––who lives? Who dies, and how?––I’m heading down the road, yellow leaves and all.
AUTHOR Helen Currie Foster lives and writes north of Dripping Springs, Texas, supervised by three inquisitive burros. Find her books at BookPeople in Austin, and at IngramSparks and Amazon.
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Please visit the website at https://www.helencurriefoster.com