Finding Fall

Yesterday, Brad and I took a mid-afternoon break to climb one of the hills at Mercy Me.

“Look!” I said, pointing to the steep slope above the shooting range. “There’s Fall! Right over there!” I dashed through the field, brushing pods of milkweed that sent late-season fluff into the air.

“Really?” said Brad. He chased after me.

Really,” I said. “I promise. That’s Fall. I can see it. I don’t know where Winter is and I don’t know about Spring, but I know Fall when I see it.” This is what we do: speaking in hyperbole, asserting ecstatic proclamations ranging from absurd to juvenile, making a big deal over something as ordinary as the hill Brad stared at every day of his childhood.

“How do we get there?” Brad asked. 

“Straight through!” I plunged into a tangle of branches and vines, leaves crunching underfoot. Like explorers, we were off and running.

Still in the Appalachian Mountains, our home here is quite similar to Celo in terms of the ecosystem and the geographic features. Mixed hardwood forest unfurls over smooth-topped hills and mountains, clay-like soil and abundant undergrowth doing their job to keep the compost barrel of Mother Nature churning. The highest mountains in the East aren’t at our back door, but I take heart in the fact that it’s still the same string of mountains–just a little less dramatic.

At the top of the hill, we lay down in the piles of leaves and looked up. Pin oaks and hickory trees rose high into the sky, brilliant yellow leaves a-flame. A gust of wind rolled over the hill, shaking the trees. Rainbows of color rained down.

“First one to catch a leaf wins!” said Brad.

That’s harder than it sounds. It’s also harder than it sounds to be away from a land you love…even if it’s only two hours away by car. What can I say? I have stories in the Black Mountains and I can see my way through them each time I look out my window, walk the dog, or stare at the ridge line of the Blacks cutting across the sky. I used to be really good at forging new stories, exploring new places as soon as my feet hit the ground. Now, all my energy for story goes into the novel, as it should. The idea of learning a new place exhausts me, the task daunting because I’d insist on doing it with my previous degree of research and specificity.

(steeper than they look)

Neither Brad nor I could catch a leaf that afternoon, but in time that didn’t matter. The forest waved its hands around us. The hill slept beneath our backs. And somewhere on the other side of the holler a train rattled along the river while the neighbor’s cattle offered their chorus of moo’s. It all felt right, even with the sad stone in my gut that misses home.

We’ve been putting in long days of supremely focused work. I have somewhere between 80-100 pages on the novel, having started from scratch 7 weeks ago and my business is bringing in more work than I can accept. Brad is officially in the remaining 50% of the degree program that has a 50% failure rate (his program of study is hard!) and continues to receive high marks. Progress for both of us is slow and steady. If we weren’t here to point it out to each other, we’d likely miss it on our own. Winter is coming. More time for hunkering down. It’s good to be in love, to have such company, to delight in our deepening relationship as we build a new life together one season at a time.

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