Fall has always been my favorite season. It's such a relief from the heat and haze of summer. The crisp, cleansing air. The blazing patchworks of leaves, vivid against the unblemished turquoise sky. The smell of wood burning. Wrapping up in scarves and mittens. I even got married in late September so that my bridesmaids could wear brown crepe and carry baskets full of yellow, red and orange blooms.
Lately that seems to be changing. Over the past few weeks I’ve felt a growing sense of anticipation and elation that's unfamiliar. As the world took on that misty green blur that says nature is preparing to let loose, my mood turned noticeably lighter. My senses awakened. I've gone searching for crocuses and daffodils. I've watched my cat stretch, long and (temporarily) lean, on the sun-warmed tiles of the kitchen floor, and noticed that I feel like she does: eager to expose every inch of my body to the pale gold light.
When the weekend comes and Jim asks what I want to do, I say, "Be outside." And we've been making up reasons to walk outside, sit outside, eat outside. Sunday we finally went all-out and took our first "official" hike of the season. We tried a new trail up in Bear Mountain, a place where we'd stopped hiking a few years ago after my friend Maryanne gave me a bunch of maps for my birthday and we discovered new (and less crowded) parks to explore. But we were looking for something less challenging than our usual destinations (Jim's been nursing an Achilles injury all winter), and decided to try this loop hike around Doodletown.
We've been to Doodletown a number of times, so my fascination with how this hamlet became a ghost town has dimmed. But maybe because we were taking a different route (or because of my recent sensory shift), I found myself paying more attention to our surroundings. I'm usually so wrapped up in "hiking", in challenging myself to keep the pace up and my heart pumping, that I miss what's going on outside my line of vision. But there I was, stopping to snap pictures of crumbling walls and rusty buckets. Pausing to listen to the whooshing of a waterfall. Tilting my head to the sun. Chewing my apple slowly and enjoying its drippy sweetness.
As we neared the end of the walk I caught sight of a single violet poking up from a pile of dead leaves. An iconic image of spring! It instantly triggered girlhood memories of picking bouquets in the woods and presenting them to my mother, wilting from being held too tight in my grubby little fist.
Violets were my favorite flower then, just as they are now. When I got married, my bouquet was slightly different than those of my bridesmaid sisters. White roses studded with violets. The florist had to use silk violets because they were out of season. But I insisted on carrying them with me down the aisle. A breath of spring, a symbol of eternal life. My marriage came to an end—just like everything does in the fall. But those silk violets have lasted over 30 years. Who knows? Maybe I've always had a thing for spring.