CIRCLES OF COMMUNITY | By JOANNA TEBBS YOUNG
Riding in the car one day after her return from a summer trip to visit family in Texas, my 11-year-old daughter exhaled loudly. “Ahhhhhhh.” When I glanced over at her quizzically, she said, “that’s what it feels like to come back to Vermont.”
Yes, Vermont does tend to have that effect. Friends visiting from Boston have expressed the same sentiment. It’s as if everything decelerates the moment you pass the green sign welcoming you to Vermont. Granted, slowing down isn’t always a positive when one is searching for a liveable-wage job and the Internet connection is at a crawl, or the bars on your phone are nonexistent.
But living in the shadow of a majestic mountain, beside a rippling stream, moments away from the serenity of a wooded trail, or a quick drive or walk to a friendly downtown is, to me, worth the difficulty of harsh winters, the temporary inconvenience of cyber blackholes, and the constant struggle to make ends meet.
And although they are as ubiquitous at this time of year as pumpkin-flavored everything (which, I am not ashamed to admit, I am a bit partial toward, regardless of the fact there is rarely a speck of actual pumpkin in any of it), photos and comments about the fall colors do not get old. As my Facebook feed lights up with the sunlit reds, oranges and yellows of hillsides and roadways, reflected in glassy lakes, framed against dark skies, under a full moon, or as a backdrop to a quintessential white-steepled scene, I am constantly reminded of the breathtaking beauty of this state and this time of year.
While we may bemoan the loss of creativity and critical thinking and handwriting and real human connection as we hurtle toward an ever-increasingly technologically reliant world, it is a picture of a lone red leaf on a rocky path that keeps hope alive. We are naturally drawn to the vibrant mosaic of a brightly painted mountainside, to the magic of a “burning bush.” Like moths to our brightly lit windows on a summer night or a bee to a brilliant blossom, it is a human need to fill our senses with the color and sensations of nature.
Leaf-peepers who fill our roads and hotels are responding to this primal need, the need to breathe in beauty. They come here to recharge in the quiet magnificence that cannot be replicated on any smartphone. And we take our children to run through orchards hanging heavy with fruit and fields bumpy and orange with pumpkins, where their innate connection with nature flows unhindered, and joy spreads across their apple-sticky faces.
What’s fascinating to me about this time of year, however, is that the fiery beauty is a harbinger of death. A red leaf is a dying leaf. An orange tree is one about to shed its robe in preparation for a long winter’s hiatus. We are awed by Earth’s fall into decay. There’s a great metaphor for life in that.
And while we are not as tuned into the planet’s cycles as our ancestors once were, I do believe Mother Earth’s last explosion of colorful celebration before settling in for her winter’s slumber speaks to us on a deep level, inviting us to also prepare to settle in for a little while. After a summer spent in a frenzy of sun-powered activity, hot cider and warm doughnuts, root vegetable stews and creamy pumpkin pies ask us to slow down and enjoy the tastes and comforts of the harvest, and to rest a while.
So take a cue from my daughter: while you can, feast your senses on the paint palette of our mountains, take a deep breath. And then exhale. Ahhhh…