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Drifting back down to earth at the peak of beauty

With brightly colored leaves falling from nearby trees in my front yard, the mountains appearing in the morning fog, and the whirlwind that is summer in the rearview mirror, I began to slow down and slide into the serenity only found in this magical time of the year. 

Fall will always be my favorite season. There something so comforting about crisp air swirling around you, warm sunshine radiating from high above. Football on the TV. Dusting off the crockpot for another year of delicious experiments. Windows open on a lazy Sunday, maybe even a slight rainstorm echoing the sounds of Mother Nature into your humble abode. Hiking joyously into the depths of these mountains that cradle not only us, but also our hopes and dreams, too. 

As a kid, I was lucky to be raised in one of the foliage capitals of the world — the Champlain Valley and the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York. My parents would rake up all the leaves around our old farmhouse, hug piles of red, orange and yellow, while my little sister, myself and our dogs would folic around in them. 

When I was in elementary school, my father would take me to football games on Saturdays in the fall at Dartmouth College. After a hearty breakfast at a now-defunct diner in my hometown (Rouses Point), he and I would motor over to the Ivy League school in Hanover, New Hampshire, some two-and-a-half hours away. Passing through all of those Vermont towns like something printed on a postcard, backroads and shortcuts until we hit the state line and rolled into Hanover. The roar of the crowd, the chaos of the game, all cozy in a sweatshirt and jeans, always getting a hot chocolate under the grandstands. 

My mother took great joy planning out weekend excursions for our family. One weekend it would be some mountainside bed-and-breakfast in the Berkshire Mountains of Western Massachusetts, the next it would be some rustic camping deep in the heart of the Adirondacks. I look back on those trips fondly, being so far from home and my family these days. 

In middle/high school, fall meant cross-country season. I did well as a runner back then, winning races and invitationals, captain of the team for a spell. Those cold afternoons in short-shorts and a singlet, trudging through often muddy courses, jockeying for position, some hot cider and doughnuts at the finish line. 

My love for the fall was a big reason I ended up going to college in Connecticut, seeing as I could never stray too far away from my deep love and appreciation for the natural beauty and charm that resides in the New England states. Following class, I would jump into my pickup truck, toss some Grateful Dead onto the stereo (“Eyes of the World” 10/14/1983 being my go-to, which, serendipitously, took place during the fall in Hartford just down the road) and just simply, purposely get lost on the backroads around “The Constitution State.” 

But, I think why so many folks — myself included — adore fall is that it’s seemingly the first moment of personal reflection we’ve come across since winter turned to spring turned to summer. The wild, impulsive urge of summer, of soaking in every minute of freedom, sunshine and curious adventure, now fades away into several months of nesting and pondering leading up to the impending winter, only to have the whole circle of life renew itself once again.

This time around, I find my own age, 33, starting to parallel the fall season. The summer years of my 20s and early 30s are now transitioning to the next, inevitable, chapter of my existence. This year, thus far, has honestly been a rollercoaster of unthinkable highs and lows. I find myself licking my wounds as this cool weather drifts into Haywood County and greater Western North Carolina. The woman I love(d) is long gone, where now my small, modest apartment feels so much bigger and empty without her beloved presence. 

And yet, as I’m finding myself out of that emotional fog, I’m also putting together projects to occupy my time and thoughts in the depths of winter. Always push ahead with head held high, I say. As with matters of the heart and soul, all things come and go, some things scatter into the cosmos, some things circle back, and there you remain, standing at another crossroads, the clock ticking away one second at a time, awaiting your next move. 

You stand there and find comfort reminiscing about all those great fall memories, and also the not so great ones, too. It’s all one thing, these images and people, places and situations you find yourself in. Even when life sucks, it’s still pretty incredible, to say the least. I find the older I get the more gratitude I have for sadness, and being able to experience it, the culmination of which being a new sense of self, a new layer of skin to put on and ready oneself for the next cycle to begin in the coming months. 

Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all. 

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