Autumnal Beginnings and Endings

Thank you so much to all of the teachers and librarians who entered The Mockingbirds giveaway, and congratulations to the winner, Beth S.! Please send me your mailing address: steph AT stephanieperkins.com

I've been having some quiet days. Thank goodness. It's rainy here in the mountains, and the weather is finally cooling. Today I spotted my first pumpkins and mums of the season—on my next-door neighbor's porch!—and the air was chilly enough to require a sweater.

Happy sigh. I love autumn.

I'm dreaming of pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup . . . even pumpkin-scented candles. Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow. Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." Hand-knitted scarves and woolen tights. Red leaves, yellow leaves, orange leaves.

Brown leaves crunching underneath my boots.

(My boots!)

I'm also dreaming about falling in love with writing again. Rediscovering the magic, rolling around in the words, the scenes, the atmosphere. I've been switching back and forth between projects for the last month, and even though everything is interesting, nothing is—to borrow a favorite phrase from Lainilighting my mind on fire.

So I'm trying something new this week. Or, rather, something old.

Instead of running out to buy a NEW fix, I pulled something off my preexisting writing shelf, Naomi Epel's The Observation Deck. It's a deck of creative prompts for writers along the lines of Brian Eno's famous-ish Oblique Strategies (designed for musicians, but useful in other artistic endeavors). I'm lazy and don't feel like talking about either, but if you're searching for your own inspiration, both are worth looking into.

But with beginnings, come endings.

Today I learned that my parents' golden retriever Maggie—Doesn't everyone know a golden retriever named Maggie?—passed away. She had a happy, long life, and she was the best dog I've ever known. Intelligent, loving, hilarious. In my last post, I mentioned that high school was difficult for me. I confess, this means I cried often. And every single time, Maggie would come running for me. She wouldn't leave my side until I was calm again.

THAT is a good dog. And a great friend.

The last time I saw her, about a year and a half ago, I had one of those deep, twinge-y feelings that it would probably be the last. I decided to take a picture of us together. It's certainly not an attractive picture! But it makes me smile, because you can tell we are friends.

Please leave a funny dog story in my comments, in her honor. Or tell me what you're looking forward to this autumn. Or both!


  1. I think Autumn is my favourite season. The only drawback is the sense of impending doom of winter. (Japanese houses are not insulated.) I think my fave things about fall are hoodies and sweaters and cuddly clothes :)

    When I was growing up we had a dog named Jiggs. He was a guard dog. Theoretically.

    My mom was a caterer and one day she forgot something and we took a catering truck to pick it up at home. The dog comes running out of his house yapping all over the place. Then he freezes, suddenly realising the size of the truck. He gives a yelp and crawls under his dog house.

    Some guard dog. lol.

    My condolences.

  2. Steph, I'm sorry to hear about Maggie...dogs are truly man's best friend (cats are way too independent).

    My dog story involves my friend's Siberian Husky, Lobo. I met him for the first time when he was just a puppy. I don't see him often but every time I do, he runs up to me, rubs his face all over my body (kinky thing) & "talks" to me like, "Hey, it's you again, where've you been, I'd know that scent (usually baked goods related) anywhere!" It always makes me happy!

    And I'm looking forward to hikes on the Bruce Trail, hot chocolate topped with pink peeps, ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS, bulky sweaters & Thanksgiving.

  3. In fall, I feel like all the lessons I was learning and the ways I was growing since the last fall start to congeal and finally make sense in my body.
    I am living without my first fall ever because I just moved to Hawaii. I just bought some new flip flops, and will not be wearing any boots. Your boots are amazing by the way. Not wearing boots creates a strange mix of emotions that center around nakedness.
    There's just something about fall. It is totally magical.
    On that note, I shall go and drink a pina colada and try and find the lessons that this two-season climate has to teach me.

  4. I'm sorry to hear about Maggie. Every time I go home and visit my parents, I pay special attention to Missi, who is technically my dog, but I had to leave her behind when I went to uni.

    We currently have two fox terriers (siblings) who are only just one and totally insane so they make me laugh at least once every hour. When they were younger, Max was digging at the bottom of the couch (which he obviously wasn't allowed to do) and then became stuck. It took me awhile to find him, and when I did, he was relieved to be rescued, but he also looked a little contrite for being caught being naughty.

    I love autumn too, but I'm currently enjoying all the flowers of spring.

  5. I am sorry about Maggie. I lost my baby about a year and a half ago and sometimes I still miss him so much it takes my breath away. That, however, is not a funny dog story, but this is:

    One winter day, I let that particular dog--Sonic was his name--outside to do his business. But Sonic decided he wanted to go wandering, instead. I was in my pajamas so I slid my feet into my husband's big clunky work boots, threw on a coat, and went after him. He had a good lead, but there was lots of snow on the ground so I could follow his footprints. Shivering in my thin pajamas and unlaced boots with no socks, I followed his trail all the way around the block--and found him sitting on the back porch steps, waiting to be let back in.

    There might be some writing advice in that story, too. Not necessarily for you, but maybe. Or me. Or anyone: Sometimes it's easier to let the idea come to you than to chase it all the way around the block? Hehe!

  6. I'm so sorry about Maggie. My husband's family dog was called Maggie and we all adored her. His Granny always moaned though that she had 13 grandchildren and only the dog was named after her. I think she had high hopes for her first great grandchild but I'm not sure our son would have forgiven us Maggie :-)

    Autumn is the best season. If you could send some of it up to DC (where it was 96f on Saturday) that would be lovely. At least Wholefoods has pumpkin bread!

  7. Aww, I'm sorry about Maggie. She does look and sound like a wonderful dog. I'm glad she lived a happy, loved life with you and your family.

    Um, I don't know if it's a *happy* dog story, but my little guy (3 yr old Jack Russell/Border Collie mix named Riley) woke me up at 6:30 AM this morning retching. o_O Not the first time... I gave him some chewable Pepto and we went back to bed, lol.

  8. One of the stories I tell every year is Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (to 5th graders.)

    I can't wait.

    I don't know if I have a funny dog story, but I can tell you that Mikey (our Springer Spaniel) is right now deciding on his Halloween costume....looks like he might be going with Snow White this year. Far cry from Dog Vader from last year....

  9. Ah, fall... I love the pumpkin-y stuff and the baked goods and Halloween, but I am so cold-natured, so the weather I do not like!

    My family had a dog named Georgia when I was a kid. Georgia had parvo as a puppy and her owner couldn't take care of her so they signed her over to the vet for treatment. After she was cured, the vet was looking for a good home for Georgia and through friends of the vet, we ended up with her. She was such a good dog - she played with us and was so gentle, but if she felt one of us was in danger, she was FIERCE.

  10. Stephanie, I am so sorry about Maggie. Your family has always has the coolest dogs. I still tell my kids about "Pepper, The World's Best Behaved Dog." I remember that one could put a treat in front of her and walk away for what seemed like forever to us, but what must have been an agonizing eternity for her, and she wouldn't eat it until we said, "OK!"

  11. My friend in High School had a dog named Muffin they called her muf. She would bark like crazy every time anyone came over. But she would also not go to sleep until my friend got home at night. I thought it was the sweetestt thing. It reminded me of Nana from Peter Pan.

  12. Aw, so sorry about Maggie. She looked like a happy dog.

    We just got our second dog, a 2 year old yellow lab rescue. She's patient, sweet, and lets our other dog, the "puppy" jump all over her. Every morning after breakfast, the pair jump into their "wrestling" routine.

    We've had our new dog, Lila, yep, named after Lila from Friday Night Lights, for a few weeks now and my favorite quirk of hers is the Drive By Kisses. You can be sitting on the ouch, watching TV, and suddenly a 70-pound lab will jump up next to you and before you know it, she's licking your face and running off. It's sweet and hilarious and everybody seems to love her (including the cats, which is saying something.)

    Here's to a great Autumn full of pumpkin spice lattes and mini Halloween villages!

  13. FALL! I had no idea how much I loved fall until I moved to the east coast. You can tell the day it's time to break out the fall wardrobe, because THE HUMIDITY LEAVES! Can I tell you how happy it makes me when the humidity leaves (hi, I'm Annie and I'm a Californian).

    Sorry to hear about Maggie. :( For my (insert large number here)th birthday, my husband gave me a yellow lab retriever. For a lab, she's actually pretty mellow. In fact, she was afraid of pretty much everything when we first got her. Gradually, she started warming up to new experiences, but nothing prepared me for watching her do this at the park.

  14. Aw Im sorry about Maggie!! She looked so sweet!

    And Fall...is. my. favorite.

    Apple cider, knit scarves, boots, fuzzy socks, Halloween costumes, pumpkin pie, Thanksgiving, golden leaves! Best season of the year!

  15. What a beautiful post! I, too, love autumn and pumpkins and jumping in crunchy leaves. . .glad I'm a fall baby. :)

    I'm very sorry about Maggie, though.

  16. I just hope California GETS a fall this year. Last year it was like it forgot (my hyacinth bulbs started blooming in November, thinking it was spring. Poor babies were so confused). And since yesterday was like RECORD BREAKING HEAT...I'm not holding my breath.

    So sorry about Maggie. It's hard to lose a dog--my parents have lost 3 in my lifetime. But we're focusing on funny stories, so how's this:

    My old Border Collie--Buddy--was at that not-fully-grown-up-and-especially-dumb adolescent stage, and we took him to an abandoned golf course to get some exercise. He liked to wander, and he found this area of the lake where the water had drained enough that he could walk across without getting wet. So he did, and then immediately forgot how he got over there. So my dad decided to test him, to see if he was smart enough to figure out how to run AROUND the lake, by having us make Buddy think we were leaving.

    We called for him and walked out of sight and I swear you could hear Buddy's panicked cries for MILES. And then...SPLASH. Dumb dog didn't run around the lake. Didn't go back to the dry spot he'd crossed. He jumped straight in--swam across the widest part no less--and came tearing over the hill a soggy, muddy, slimy mess. And they say Border Collies are ranked #1 for intelligence. I guess we got a lemon... ;)

    He was a GREAT dog though. First dog I ever had from a puppy up. They bring so much joy to our lives. Sorry again for your loss.

  17. Autumn is my absolute favourite! I love crisp leaves and fireplaces and apples so tart they make your lips curl. I love sweet tea and books and cool nights under a comfy down. I love boots and long, red scarves and hair that smells of snow to come.

    I love dogs, too. Once I loved a dog who was so prim and cleanly, she always went out of her way to ensure that any smell from her... business... never reached the house. Often, she would go a ways up the steep hill behind the farm. But then, one winter, the snow had thawed, then re-frozen several times, to create a thick but slick crust on the surface. And all her 'business' came skipping and rolling down the hill, with the dog in chagrined and yapping pursuit, until the whole mess hit the wall with a wet sound. She was mortified and would not come inside for hours. Tee hee. See, Maggie? At least you didn't do that. Sleep tight, sweetie.

  18. I'm so sorry to hear about your dog, Steph.

    I'm in Australia, so we are now heading into Spring - hurrah! I do love Autumn though, especially the colours and the thought of snuggling up in a big jumper that can hide the weight gained from eating that large bar of chocolate!

    Spring and Summer are rather unforgiving in that way.

  19. Sweater weather and fall colors. Preferably sweaters in fall colors.
    My best friend's dog freaks out every night right around 9 PM and runs around the house like crazy. We call him SuperDog!

  20. So sorry to hear about Maggie.

    I have a 2yo mini poodle and a 4 month old mini poodle. The little guy weighs a little over 3lb.

    He's gnawed the bejeezus out of a frisbee that says I <3 Petsmart. Husband says that Tucker must H8 Petsmart considering what he did to the frisbee.

    Last night Tucker tried to drag a tennis racket by the handle from the patio into the house and he did a pretty good job of it till we took it away. Feisty little fluffernutter.

  21. I want some pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting.

    There are so many dogs with the name Maggie that I wonder what possessed me to know my daughter that. Ah well. The name fits her.

    One of our dogs hates it when the kids argue. She comes over, nudges me and kind of paces around. Like she's saying, "Make them stop." Some dogs are really sensitive.

  22. Oh Maggie... any dog who knows when a girl needs a shoulder, or muzzle perhaps, to cry on is a damn good dog.

    My dog Stormy is an affection little pooch. We let her on the furniture, because she's not very big and I DO like to cuddle with my pets. She will come sit beside me, while I'm watching TV, reading a book or typing on the laptop. And often, she will paw at my hand until I stop and pet her.


  23. My next door neighbors used to have a bulldog that would ALWAYS follow my mom whenever he saw her. My mom is particularly scared of dogs, so she was always yelping if he came near. :P We used to say that dog had a crush on her, LOL.

    I love autumn because of all the colors. <3 It's truly wondrous how beautiful nature can be.



  24. I'm going to email you my dog story, because it's long and I don't share it with everyone.



  25. Oh Steph, I'm so sorry :-( She was such a sweetie. It's so hard, seeing our dogs get old, and knowing . . . well. I'm sorry.

    I don't have a particular dog story, but I'm thinking of the way Leroy would fix his bed into a "taco" -- kicking it around and lifting up the edge with his snout until he had it folded in half, and then lay on the floor with his head on it. And sometimes he burrowed under it entirely and just hung out.



  26. I have The Observation Deck sitting on my desk. I've never even opened the box--it was a gift from a non-writer, and I've always assumed it was one of those cheesey, gifty things sold in coffee shops and other places wanna-be writers frequent.

    So, I'm inspired to take a look!

    And, I love Maggie! We had a golden retriever Binx who died last summer. We have since been adopted by an overly friend black lab named Jake (he was a stray who found us). We love Jake, but as my daughter Julia said just last week ... "You know, I like Jake, but he is NOT Binx."


  27. i cant be funny - my dog is getting old and prob wont live much longer. Im sorry for your loss. :( I know how much a dog can mean in those horrible times - my dog was that to me.

  28. Ah, my best friend's dog growing up was named Maggie. R.I.P. both Maggies.

  29. First of all, sorry about the passing of Maggie. That is a tough tough thing. I've been there...
    Funny dog story... Ok, my late puppy dog, Teddy, had this amazing talent to play soccer with his food. Well, it was more like a mix between soccer and basketball. He would take one piece of food out of the bowl, set it on the floor, and then nudge it with his nose. At that point it would bounce up off the floor and then he would pounce on it with his front paws and that would make it bounce again. Over and over this would occur and then he would eat it. Talk about playing with your food.
    Funny thing is that years after the said doggie soccer/basketball traditional eating habit of Teddy and his death, we would still be finding food bits around the house. He had no boundaries for his food playing fun! I miss that boy!

  30. LOVE Autumn, the smells, the colors....pumpkin baked goods of many varieties.....and boots. I recently purchased a pair of boots....and wonder of wonders, they look a LOT like yours!!! How cool do I feel now? Very cool! Ok, but seriously....fall is BUSY this year!!! Even more so than usual....hopefully great also!

    So sorry about Maggie.....I can't think of a funny dog story off the top of my head just now, but I know I will later and go "Oh Yeah!" I did have a goat that thought she was a dog once......she LOVED our Collie....