This must be the place
It’s my favorite time of the year. There is nothing like fall. To me, this season isn’t about pumpkin lattes, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin beer, and all along down the line of things pumpkin. It isn’t about an excuse to wear new boots, scarves or leggings. It isn’t even about screaming at the top of your lungs at a football game.
To me, fall is about taking inventory, physically and emotionally, of oneself before battening down the hatches in preparation for winter. It’s about slowing down, even if for a moment, from the chaos that is summer and the unknown shenanigans that emerge amid warm weather. It’s about inhaling deeply the surreal sense of self when the leaves explode in color and all seems beautifully quiet and serene in a sometimes deafening world.
As a kid growing up in the North Country, I was always excited and aware of fall. Surrounded by the Adirondack and Green mountains, my family and I would take off every weekend for some tranquil backwoods hiking trail and quaint New England town straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting.
A huge fan of Dartmouth College football, my father would pack all of us into the old Nissan minivan and take off for Hanover, New Hampshire. I vividly remember being all bundled up, sipping on a hot chocolate, cheering on the “Big Green” as my father would explain to me how football was played. After the game, he’d bring me down to the field, to meet some of the players who stood like a forest of redwoods. When the field cleared, we’d head over to one of the uprights where he’d hold the football for me to try and kick over the crossbar.
Other weekends, we’d head for the hills, up alongside the ancient beauty that is the Adirondack Mountains. Leaves crunching under your feet, mud splattered on your boots, perhaps a late fall sun overhead to perfectly compliment the crisp air kissing your face. That smell, we all know that smell. Sure, it’s the smell of leaves dying and Mother Nature retreating back to the earth beneath our feet, but it’s an aroma that is as intoxicating as it is haunting.
And I also remember those romances that appeared come fall, when other flowers were taking shelter and ours blossomed. The most significant of which was my high school sweetheart. She lived an hour or so from my hometown, in the deep heart of the Adirondacks. I remember those two falls we shared together in Upstate New York. Driving up to her parent’s, I’d take my time, simply cruising along, soaking in the essence of the season, windows down to breathe in the unlimited possibility of youth in love, youth transitioning into adulthood.
She and I would jump into my 1991 Plymouth Acclaim, onward to wander the picturesque communities of Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. We were young and we were free, talking of plans for the future, what college might be like, and how life might just unfold in our favor. And it’s that thing — conversation — that takes on new meaning in the fall. We’d sit in some café, near a crackling fireplace, and focus simply on each other. Distraction tends to take a backseat when the September is ripped from the calendar, only to reveal October. I still look forward to those encounters, within this time of the year, face-to-face with friends and family, new and old.
And those encounters started to become more important when I found myself in college. Connecticut is a stunning landscape come fall. Once morning classes were let loose, I’d jump into my pickup truck and meander the country roads between New Haven and Hartford. Covered bridges, apple cider, perhaps even the occasional serendipitous song coming across the radio waves, where the long lost faces of teenage love, childhood friends and relatives magically appear atop the dashboard.
Nowadays, my childlike wonder during fall is as strong as ever. I’m fascinated by everything. I’ll stroll downtown Waynesville and purposely take forever to get somewhere. I just want to absorb everything and everyone around me. I tend to take the long way home, from work, from wherever the road may lead me.
The key is to be able to identify the importance of these days we are currently awakening into. To know that when the sunlight gets shorter, the weather a tad more aggressive, you must always be acutely aware of life, and of death. That’s the point. We all get so consumed with our own lives, routines and daily priorities, that we tend to forget we aren’t immortal. You keep thinking about what “must be done today” while the clock keeps spinning.
The clock will always keep spinning. The earth will always keep spinning. Spring into summer into fall into winter and back around again.
Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.
1 Acclaimed bluegrass act The Gibson Brothers will perform at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28, at Cataloochee Guest Ranch in Maggie Valley.
2 A celebration of all things Halloween will be held Oct. 30 to Nov. 1 at the Folkmoot Friendship Center in the Hazelwood community of Waynesville.
3 The 19th Annual PumpkinFest will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24, in downtown.
4 A screening of the classic 1922 horror film “Nosferatu” will be held at 8 p.m. Oct. 30 and at 4 and 8 p.m. Oct. 31 at The Strand at 38 Main Waynesville.
5 The Haywood Art Studio Tour will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 23-24.