Straight on the heels of Salem spookiness, Keene these days is literally creepy, covered with reddening Virginia Creeper.

If you’ve ever heard the woodsman’s ditty “Leaves of three, let it be / Leaves of five, let it thrive,” you’re somewhat familiar with the woodsy vine known as Virginia Creeper. Whereas the itch-inducing leaves of Poison Ivy have three leaflets apiece, each of Virginia’s leaves is a palmate cluster of five leaflets. As luck would have it, Poison Ivy tends to limit itself to deep woods and the woodsy edges of suburban yards. Virginia Creeper, on the other hand, grows happily (and quite beautifully) even in the heart of residential Keene, lending a touch of leafy texture and ever-ripening color to the October landscape. Whereas many of the trees here in Keene are only beginning to turn, the Virginia Creeper that adorns many of their trunks is at the height of brilliance, resulting in many a picture of green-leaved trees with flaming scarlet trunks and branches.

Since Virginia Creeper sports inky blue berries at this time of year, right about now the vine is particularly photogenic. If you’ve ever clicked through to my webpage, you’ve seen a late October crop of Virginia Creeper berries clustered against the brick wall that backdrops the site’s navigation bar. I’ve always liked Virginia Creeper: most of the year it is green and inconspicuous as it quietly wends its way up any variety of upright surfaces…then come October, it erupts into color (and burgeons with berries) a step or two before the trees that support (and will eventually overshadow) it.

In a word, Virginia Creeper is the Ugly Duckling of the plant world, quietly creeping its way through most of the year and then turning into a Knockout by mid-October. Mama always said to keep an eye on the Quiet Types, and Virginia Creeper is as quiet as they get: watch out for it.

    Yes, it’s that time of year again: as quietly indicated by the NaNoWriMo Participant icon on my blog sidebar, I’ll once again be slogging away at a Really Bad Novel during November, also known as National Novel Writing Month. After completing a wretched and unreadable so-called novel last year, some fit of insanity is leading me to try it again. Last year, I bolstered my nerve by repeating the motivational mantra, “Novels are like waffles: you can throw away the first one!” This year, although I hope to write something a bit more readable, my expectations are low with a motivational mantra of “Death to the Sophomore Slump!”

    Although I won’t start writing anything until November 1st dawns, the warped wheels of creativity are starting to roll, so watch out, world. If I learned anything from last year’s first-time attempt, the process of writing a Really Wretched Novel in merely a month typically results in a Wild (and Deliciously Bloggable) Ride.