Anyone who knows me would be able to tell you that New England is home to me, despite the fact that I am a transplant to the region.
I grew up in southern United States, and I never felt like it was home. I always felt out of place in the culture, around the people, I always yearned for colder seasons and a faster-paced yet simpler way of life.
Everything in my life seemed to be pulling me to New England. My first long-term relationship as a teenager was long-distance with someone in northeasten New Hampshire. I had met him by pure happenstance, but the pictures I would get of the white mountains throughout the seasons allowed me to live vicariously through him and pulled me through really difficult times emotionally.
In retrospect, the love I felt for him at the time wasn’t necessarily for him, but for the life I could have.
Years – and one messy break-up later – I met someone else, again by pure happenstance. He came from Rhode Island, and we were friends for a few years, where we would share pictures of the landscape back and forth. The colors of fall were what struck me as the most beautiful.
I remember one photo of striking fall colors against a foggy morning lake. From the muggy mid-60s weather of the south, I could practically taste the crisp and refreshing low-30s chill in the air.
For anyone following the love story, this Rhode Islander was, at the time, one of the last people I thought I would fall in love with, but we fit perfectly together in many ways – and those we weren’t, we countered each other in ways that made us both grow.
We had a small backyard ceremony on October 31st, 2020. A quiet foggy morning turned quickly into one of the largest blackbird migrations I had ever seen. Standing in the cold freezing air with a warm mug of tea, it took my breath away. You could barely hear loud conversation next to you, thousands of birds were calling overheard as they flew by. Everyone was hushed anyway in the beautiful moment.
That day, not only did we get a beautiful fall ceremony in the corner of the yard, but elsewhere, the morning had gifted us with plenty of quiet winter snow. Enough of both seasons we adored to make the day as magical as possible.
After a short stint living in the south in 2019, we moved back to New England around the time of the ceremony. It feels right.
Now, as we approach our one-year anniversary, we’ve officially been in our Massachusetts residence for a little over half a year. There was an in-between house which helped us settle in faster, but it feels like the first half of the year went by in the blink of an eye.
Now the colors are changing again.
‘Leaf peeping’ is a thing here, where New Englanders and tourists alike will come to peep the beautiful fall foliage, of leaves changing pigments as they transition through stages of nutritive release before the abscission layer removes it from the branches in preparation for snowy winter.
The days are getting shorter, the nights colder, but a seasonal chore for trees turns into a magical experience for us humans.
New England is the only place I have seen the color of true vermilion in nature.
Some trees are pure in their color, with brilliant yellows, reds, purples, and oranges. Others gradient from the inside of the trunk to the outer leaves, changing from green to lime green, yellow, orange, then red.
For anyone who hasn’t experienced this, this crisp chill air with bright colors and falling leaves everywhere leaves comes with an unexpected sense: smell. You quickly learn to identify autumn by the smell of these leaves.
Whether it is the release of gasses to activate the color change and abscission, or the leaves on the ground beginning to decay into rich earth, I am not sure. All I know is that a good, crisp autumn evening leaves you yearning for a warm mug of mulled cider around a quiet campfire with friends.
During this time, you do a lot of reflection about change in the quiet moments of day-to-day life. You know what’s coming. The still vastness of hunger and cold that is winter, while beautiful, is a challenge.
Yet, the vibrant colors, active wildlife, and rustling winds always make you think of how to learn from the leaves, gracefully and vibrantly entering the new season, where new life germinates and animals rest.
Today, as it rains, I can see vibrant yellow deciduous leaves against the foreground of evergreen pines, and both showcase their readiness for the changing season. I ask myself, “who do I want to be in the coming season?”
I don’t have an answer yet. But like the animals preparing to begin hibernation, I know it will involve a lot of rest, self-care, and preparation for a productive spring.