November 3, 2015 — I’ve been thinking about Cole Porter all day. Porter was born in Peru, Indiana, in a wealthy family. His father was a druggist and his mother heir to a fortune from her businessman father. Porter showed an early affinity for music and left Indiana for boarding school in Massachusetts and attended college at Yale. Early in his musical career, he became the toast of Broadway, Rodgers and Hammerstein tied up in one piece. Porter wrote brilliant lyrics with fine tunes that carried the story.
Among his multiple hits are the standards, “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love,” “Miss Otis Regrets,” “Begin the Beguine,” “Anything Goes,” “Night and Day,” and “I Get a Kick out of You.”
After his success on Broadway, he moved to Paris where he was a noted bon vivant, drinking French champagne with the notables of the Salon era. When his family’s inheritance became his own, he started renting palaces in Venice, traveling back and forth from the City of Lights.
Why am I thinking about Cole Porter today?
Since last Friday I’ve been enjoying the fall colors of Orange County, Indiana, with my sweetie. Orange County is almost (or as Hoosiers say ‘pert near’ die-reckt-ly) 180 miles due south of Peru where Porter spent his childhood.
The autumn colors this year have been particularly vibrant. Southern Indiana is home to the Hoosier National Forest. Natural limestone carves rock cliffs, stands of Sycamores rise along lazy creeks, and a muted November sun glitters through nearly bare tree limbs. Death becomes Indiana.
Why didn’t Cole Porter write about this?
I get it. I truly do.
He was wealthy and different and didn’t fit in. He rarely visited home. Yet, here is a man who saw beauty in many things and wrote little about his home state. I googled the question “Why didn’t Cole Porter write about Indiana?” and found a Peru native who suggests that “Don’t Fence Me In” may reveal his Indiana roots but offers another more telling example of Porter’s feelings. Read her blog
Porter wrote magical lyrics that painted a picture. He is the man who gave us the lovely lyrics “I Love Paris.”
Every time I look down on this timeless town
Whether blue or gray be her skies.
Whether loud be her cheers or soft be her tears,
More and more do I realize:
I love Paris in the springtime.
I love Paris in the fall.
I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles,
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles.
I love Paris every moment,
Every moment of the year.
I love Paris, why, oh why do I love Paris?
Because my love is near.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not comparing Orange County, Indiana, to Paris. I’ve loved Paris both in June and October. We’ll always have Paris, and I hope to have Paris again in a coming spring.
But the beauty of an Indiana autumn is also sublime, in a different way.
Come with me on my journey of the senses.
Close your eyes and feel the leaves beneath your feet. Walk. The dying leaves swish and crunch beneath your feet and you remember the feeling of running as-fast-as-you-can into a huge pile which scatters to the moon.
Feel the slight chill in the air. Do I need a jacket? Perhaps. But the cool feels good with the sunbeams coming through the stand of sycamores, trees half-naked in the November afternoon.
Take a deep breath. Take in the pungent smell of dying leaves and plants, so familiar and yet so fleeting. The smell, the pleasing odor, is the sense I missed the most during the years we lived in season-less Florida. My friend Doris LeMert mailed me a manilla envelope full of dead leaves. What a special October surprise.
Listen. The wind makes music in the falling leaves. Listen harder for a slight rustle in the leaves. Is it a mama white- tailed deer with her twin charges? Up in the hills and hollers of Orange County, it could be a rare Indiana bobcat or a silver or red fox.
Sight, perhaps our most precious sense, is overwhelmed by an Indiana autumn day. How many shades of red, orange, and gold can exist in nature’s Indiana palette? How can I explain the gilded rays sunlight produces through the trees?
I think Cole Porter could have done something with all that.