Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Indian Summer

We are currently basking in Indian Summer!  Our temperatures this week are in the low 60's, after last week's nose numbing 28 degree temps at night. 

Although we haven't had an actual frost yet, we have had snow spitting both during the day and night.  And now, we rebound with this warm spell, like Summer is saying that she doesn't want to leave yet, but we both know that she must.  

So we are treated to this briefest of overlapping of the seasons. Indian Summer. There are several theories as to how this phenomenon got it's name, one being from the haze that would hang in the air when the Prairie Tribes would intentionally burn off the Tall Grass.  Another from this being the time of year when the Eastern Tribes would gather the pumpkins and squash that they had planted. Whatever the reason, the phrase conjures up some luscious visions.

The trees are in full color, and the leaves are beginning to lazily float their way to the earth, where not-so excited seasoned rakers are lamenting the last of their garden chores for the year.

It used to be, in the times ignorant of air pollution, lung diseases and global warming, that these romantic days would find the air filled with hazy smoke, heavy with the earthy, warm fragrances of burning leaves.  As families would make a day long event of cleaning up the yard, and early dusk would fall, one could stand at the end of our street, and see the red embers still winking in the smoldering piles of ash, all along the curb.  It would be with great reluctance that we would head inside, even though we knew that a warm meal was waiting for us.  There was something so magical, so mystical, so intoxicating about those days, soon drawing to a close with the advent of pure Winter.

There was a yearning to capture this moment in time, to steep in it, absorb it, somehow make it your own, to last forever. Heightened senses were tuned in to every nuance, every color, fragrance, and sound, filling you with an abounding energy.

And so it was with this enthusiasm, that almost everyone, especially children, looked forward to the annual newspaper publication, Injun Summer, by John T. McCutcheon.

The Chicago Tribune began running this piece in the Fall of 1907, and continued to run it the week before Halloween, each year, until October, of 1992.  The editors were aware that the language may be offensive to the Native People of this country, so they ceased publication.

But to a woman who had nothing but fond memories of reading it with her parents each year, and who still felt wrapped in a cocoon of security, thinking that Yes!, the Native Spirits were still around her, this decision was a sad one.

Where I grew up, the local Tribes had used the rivers and streams as transporation, and they made their seasonal camps all along the banks, and throughout this whole area.  I often found arrow heads, broken beads, pieces of pottery when I would be out playing along those same streams, in the same ravines.  And when there was an excavation in our neighborhood, with new houses going up, all of us kids would be there, to see the treasures that were to be found. 

I was also fortunate to have a couple of school teachers who were extremely interested in our local tribes, and had access to real artifacts, and speakers who were decendents of those same people who had lived here so many years ago.

So with that background, combined with the headiness of the season, it was easy for me to see the Spirits dancing in the smokey wafts, winding upwards, curling around tree limbs, spiraling on up to the moon!

I can remember dismissing a few lines that seemed "silly" to me, because I knew that what it was describing, wasn't so, but what remained was the connection.  The ties of the People of the past, coming back at this most special time to me. Yes, I could see them in the smoke. I could feel their presence, and hear their whispers. And it was a comfort beyond words.

The artwork probably says it better than the text, but, with attaching my deepest apologies to anyone who may be offended by the out dated language used here, I would like to share the magic, through the eyes of an innocent child,  John T. McCutcheon's Injun Summer.  I am sharing the drawings here.  To read the text, please click on the title.

May all of your memories be close to you heart, and bring you joy,


  1. Your photo is beautiful. Delightful post! It's warm here too. I'm going to jump in a leaf pile tomarrow. :)

  2. The language of the article gives one an idea of how the Native peoples were thought of back then - but I agree that the piece has an innocent beauty about it. I love the idea that the boy 'sees' the Indian Spirits in the smoke and haze - it's rather romantic. I think I'll have to watch for the burning leaf piles around here, and see if I can see any lingering Spirits!


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