From a walk on Oct. 22nd, 2017
I hurried out the door at 5:30 pm for a quick walk in the fading moments of twilight. Here in Maine, it’s that time of year where the insidious darkness of the encroaching winter becomes vivid. The sun had already set as I stepped onto the gravel drive. Utter silence dominated the air. There were no more boats cruising the lake, no more “summer people” walking their dogs, nor were there any cars. Not even a single squirrel could be heard prancing about the woods.
A still Great Pond. (Photo courtesy of Lisa Wilson).
The foliage is at its peak. Or, in many places, maybe even on that dirt camp road, it’s on the decline. It’s starting to become noticeably colder after an unseasonably warm and welcoming fall. My hands were shoved into the pouch of my Bauer sweatshirt, my breath visible as I walked. An increasing number of leaves were falling from the treetops, covering the gravel of the narrow road beneath a colorful carpet. The carpet was stitched with various shades of red, orange, and yellow leaves that had been knocked free by a powerful wind that blew the night before.
Hathaway Lane in Rome covered in a blanket of leaves. (Photo courtesy of Lisa Wilson).
Towards the end of the road, the woods open up on the left to a field of wilting grass in which horses once grazed. Across this field there’s an ancient white farmhouse in which a cranky old man lives. There’s a large red barn with a sign hung above its wide doorway that reads “Lakeview Farm”. At the very end of the road, the field opens on all sides to reveal a spectacular view of Great Pond. That night the lake was calm, mirroring the image of the burning sky at dusk perfectly.
While approaching the end of the road, I noticed the sky becoming increasingly visible through the thinning canopies of the white birch trees. The sky looked as it did in the springtime, though the remaining leaves that still clung to the branches were now crisp and brown – in spring, they were moist and green.
Adolescent leaves budding in spring. (Photo courtesy of Lisa Wilson)
Arriving at the end of the road, I stopped to look out over the still lake: there weren’t many lights left on along its shore. After a few minutes, I turned and headed back towards home. The crimson, maroon, fire orange, and bright yellow canopies of treetops across the field caught my attention; I thought of how beautiful fall is. But then I began to contemplate why it is that fall is considered so beautiful.
Colorful tree line across the field on Jamaica Point. (Photo courtesy of Lisa Wilson)
Of course, the reason is largely due to its aesthetically pleasing foliage, as people from around the world who travel to New England this time of year will vouch for.
Tree at peak foliage in the Belgrade Lakes. (Photo courtesy of Lisa Wilson)
But more importantly, fall is beautiful because is is the END. It is the end to something long anticipated and lusted about year after year; it is the end to summer. We often make the fondest and most cherished memories during those long days and warm nights.
A campfire along the Dead River this past summer. (Photo courtesy of Chris DeLisle)
But when we are living through them, people will often argue that summer is never as sweet as we imagine it; I couldn’t disagree more with this argument.
On my walk earlier that spring, around the same time of day and looking at the same trees I see tonight, only then full of youth, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the excitement that comes with spring. The days would get longer and warmer, everything would get better. I dreamt about all the times to come laughing and living with friends and family. For me, the reality of summer always seems to outshine the fantasy of the dream.
Sure, the present is often unsatisfactory. But it is also where lasting and cherished memories are made. By focusing on each aspect of the present, knowing that soon it will become a memory, each day becomes more valuable. With every leaf that shakes free and dances towards the ground, I can’t help but see a new memory of mine lying within.
A lone leaf that fell from the trees during early fall. (Photo courtesy of Chris DeLisle)
I see journeying through the Blue Ridge Mountains, looking out over the spectacular expanse laid before my eyes and feeling the warm breeze against my back (read previous blog: “A Walk Along the Ridge”, if you want to know more about that experience).
Horizon line from atop the Blue Ridge Mountains. (Photo courtesy of Chris DeLisle)
I feel the sweat streaming down my spine on a sweltering June day in Portland. The uneven cobblestone streets of the Old Port make me unbalanced as I hobble around in a walking boot. The annual Old Port Fest is underway and I’m with a group of laughing and smiling acquaintances.
Old Port Fest 2017. (Photo courtesy of Michael Leonard)
I see four friends lugging an absurd amount of camping gear down a secluded dirt road running along the Dead River. A light mist is falling and they are slightly intoxicated due to a successful “play run” (a non-commercial rafting trip) on the Kennebec River earlier. One of the girls is complaining and asking, “How much further?”. To this, I see myself, still wearing a walking boot, replying: “Just around the next corner,” for the entire two-mile trip.
–Adventures consist of both highs and lows–
A group of three friends and myself wading in the Dead River. (Photo courtesy of Chris DeLisle)
I feel the weight of a hiking bag full of equipment pulling heavily against my shoulders as I ascend a mountain with a pond on top to campout. That night, a violent thunder storm rolled in and I can hear the endless pattering of rain against the tent’s roof throughout the starless night. I feel the stickiness of waking up the next morning, two friends having slept in a pool of spilled boxed wine (just the bag, no box, too bulky for hiking mountains).
Alexandra McCown and Myself atop Tumbledown Mtn. (Photo courtesy of Alexandra McCown)
I see a group of bearded AT (Appalachian Trail) thru-hikers from around the world walking along Route 201 in The Forks with their dirty thumbs out trying to hitch a ride. I see slowing down to pick them up, hearing their fantastic stories around a campfire that night, and bringing them rafting for free the next day on a play run (“Trail Magic” is what they called it). Man did they stink after almost 2,000 miles of walking through the woods!
Group of raft guides and AT thru-hikers enjoying a sunny day on the Kennebec River. (Photo courtesy of Matt Morelli)
I see myself conquering the tallest mountain in Maine with another group of four friends. I can feel my shirt being whipped about like a flag in the cold wind as I drink a similar bag of wine while standing triumphantly atop the Mount Katahdin sign.
Drinking a bag of wine atop Mt. Katahdin with Alexandra McCown. (Photo courtesy of Chris DeLisle)
Fall is most beautiful because it is the end; it’s the end to one chapter and the beginning of another. Overtime, the leaves become part of the ground they fall upon, reshaping the face of the Earth. Like the leaves, our memories become part of us. The people and places that helped make them may fade, but they (the memories) never leave us. They add to us. They teach us. They help us grow and become stronger. They reshape us. And best of all, they never stop coming.
Orange and Red foliage on Jamaica Point Road. (Photo courtesy of Lisa Wilson)
Soon, all the leaves will be gone and there will be a seemingly endless darkness. But as we all know, nothing, not even the Earth and sky, lasts forever. A few months from now the atmosphere will once again start to bloom full with life. Each fertile leaf that’s buds from the treetops will hold the promise of new memories to come.
New leaflets blooming in the spring. (Photo courtesy of Lisa Wilson)
Pay attention to the little details of the present and choose your company wisely, for those are what make a memory eternal.
- What do you all think about this latest blog post?
- Do you agree with my idea of why fall is beautiful? If not, what is your reason?
- What are some of your most cherished memories made during the summer of 2017?
Shoot me an email or a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts!