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The inside of darkness is like a thief continuing to encroach upon our sun-time, October’s riotous display, only the faintest of memories.

Leaves from scarlet maples, burgundy pear trees, buttery tulip trees have already gorged December’s appetite, their remnants lining curbs, imprinting sidewalks with outlines, and lodging corners of gutters. Winds swipe footpaths strewn with twisted branches, split stems, graying fragments, crushed acorns, even gumballs. Overhead, hag-like pin oaks frame the darkening world with specter arms.

An eerie stillness companions this loss of color. An unseen power plummets us within this darkening, replete with life-lessons, if we’ve the will to befriend it.

We seek footholds: its port-wine richness intrigues us; its lavender essence intoxicates us; its velvety embrace soothes us; its subtle shades challenge us; and its haunting music transports us to other realms.

We listen, deeply. Solemnity stirs deep thoughts like chanting monks in hushed monasteries.

We wait for direction beneath tonight’s gibbous waxing moon.

Do treat yourself to a solitary walk as shadows soften their waning effulgence into featheriness, before darkness envelopes the woods. Be still and listen for November whispers among the trees and shrubs. Be surprised.

Heed the umbra of raggedy yellows and browns and washed-out reds, strewn along wooded trails and massed along downed tree trunks. Be startled by the solitary burning bush, its buggy leaves teased by humid breezes.

Note thinning tangles of Missouri honeysuckle outlining the serpentine curve of the limestone creek bottom, its waters pooling in crevices. Look upward at naked branches snaking downwards like hag’s hair alive with witchery. Watch a gray squirrel dodge its tail scuttling up a maple tree.

Touch a hand-sized-leaf of the London plane tree, blushed with yellow and gripping a solitary branch like a forlorn orphan.

Feel winds clicking the mottled husks of a dogwood tree, stripped of its wine-crimson foliage and berries.

Such moments evoke deep smiles—We are not alone.

Such was my experience walking outdoors in November.

Yet another historical novel has emerged from the rubble of World War II: this time, The Paris Orphan (2019) by the Australian Natasha Lester. Featured therein is the plight of the first women photojournalists covering front line battles in Italy and France, to the pique of their male counterparts.

Like the protagonist Jessica May’s sensitivity to word and photo, the author weaves a compelling story. Of note is the balance struck between Jessica and Lieutenant Colonel Dan Hallworth, set against the atrocities of war; neither story overpowers the other. The inclusion of unexpected humor, from poignant to tender to gallows, together with the plot’s switchbacks makes this work. Even more compelling is her use of the dual timeline that fleshes out relationships, both authentic and sinister.

Names of real people, of memorable battle scenes, of old-world chateaux, of clothing, of Lucky Strikes, of language, attest to Lester’s research. She drew her Jessica after Lee Miller, a Vogue model-turned-war-correspondent, of considerable talent, during World War II. Martha Gelhorn, one of Hemingway’s wives, also palled with Jessica, making light of the filth that clung to them for days, sorrowing over the dead and maimed bodies in field hospitals and upon battlefields.

Critical to these women was reporting their impressions of this shocking world to their readers, never mind how male censors would alter their work before wiring them to newspapers. In no way could their male co-workers produce such photos and stories, and they knew it. It was their compassion. Thus the rub—


Available on Amazon

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