We snaked through the Hudson Valley last weekend, over what I call hills, though they are more mountain than anything else I've seen out here. The land rolls up and down, unlike a horizon suddenly interrupted by a majestic rocky formation, and more like the unfurling of a patchwork quilt frozen before it's laid all the way flat. All of the deciduous trees are so old and established, from up above it looks as though they've grown together, and the only distinguishing factors are the changing colors of the leaves. Gold grows into orange which turns to the most fiery red I've ever seen on a tree. Of course, I knew red leaves existed. I was shocked to discover there are also purple and pink leaves? I saw a tree that was legitimately pink. It couldn't be called any other color. And dotted through these warm tones were the trees not yet willing to let go of summer, boasting greens from hunter to bright lime, like they supposed they alone could stand against time and nature.
The car fell silent as the babes were rocked into early naps, and I sipped my cliche spiced latte that seemed an appropriate treat for the first fall outing. Honestly, it was the kind of day that very few of us love, the rain unending and the fog settling around peaks like crowns for those that reached the highest. It seemed the whole world was bathed in magical silvery light, adding to the surreal feeling of actually emerging from the city. Even though I've seen what America looks like far past New York, when you're here, it really can feel like the whole world. That was two hours behind us nearly, and we found nature's versions of avenues and skyscrapers, putting on their best to greet October just as the city is prime this time of year.
Our exit led us down small highways and then windy roads that are exactly what you picture when you think of an east coast back country drive in autumn. I couldn't believe that what I'd attributed only to my mind's eye or a movie scene did, in fact, exist in real life. After a time, the trees gave way, and we found ourselves at Hurd Family Farm, the rain still falling quite steadily though not deterring anyone from making a day of apple picking. It seems that New Yorkers are not only hardcore about their city living, rather apply their go-get-it nature in all ventures.
We splashed through the muddy puddles, the girls fascinated by their new wellies and dry feet. We wound through rows of apple trees, laughing with friends about the absurdity of such an activity in the pouring down rain, but relishing it all the same. We drenched our arms reaching high into the branches for the best apples and filled our pecks to the brim. When the rains fell harder, we dashed up the path and into the sturdy red barn. There we could eat apple fritter donuts and warm our hands around cider, resting on hay bales as the kids rummaged through farm-themed toys. There was a ridiculous diner lunch before we head back for the city, back through the clouds and colorful canopies. While we crossed the George Washington bridge, I looked over my shoulder to see these incredible rocky cliffs, speckled with white houses and the same orange and red we'd just been driving underneath.
Then there she was: The city. Man's version of the sudden majestic rocky formation. I rode in the car, as quietly as possible (the drive back was much more lively than the restful trip up), and as we opened the sunroof to let in the light, I thought about how strange it was to love such two extremes so much. When we broke free from New York's concrete and into the wilderness, I felt a peacefulness come over me. But after a few hours, as we dove back in, it was like I came alive. Maybe a person needs both. Maybe I thought I was on a journey to find which one spoke to me more loudly, but really it's more about balancing the two--about feeding the soul in different ways.
These are the kinds of things you can decide in autumn. In autumn, all parts of the world offer you her best in this still, outreaching way. It's a blip on the spectrum of a calendar year, just a few weeks really; and yet every year it is the period of epiphany for me. It's a few moments of crisp clarity. It's a chance to see the world in technicolor and realize how all forms of creation mirror each other--city and nature. And since we are creations and creators, to remember that that exists in us too.