I knew that when autumn rolled around, I'd start missing my home states the most. (I know, I know, I've only been up north for two months....shhh). But it's just a fact that fall in the Southeast is gorgeous. Each flaming leaf seems to light a corresponding spark within my soul; I never feel so alive as when I'm beneath those crisp clear skies.
I'm sure I'll adore autumn in New York. (Who wouldn't savor this blessed break between blistering summer and blustery winter?) But until it hits its stride, here's a tribute to fall back home, both with pictures and words.
Fall in Virginia
1. Apple picking, a necessity whether you're a preschooler or a nostalgic college grad. You pluck (and sample) bright fruit from the trees on the hill, overlooking richly carpeted mountains that sweep to the valley floor. Nothing tastes quite like that earthy first bite. Or that tongue-burning hot cider for sale in the creaky barn. I never forget to buy some deliciously greasy apple cider donuts on our way home.
2. Driving down from northern Virginia on Route 20, the most beautiful trip I've ever taken. Colorful leaves flare around winding gravel driveways; white split-rail fences galloping over green hills, which roll right up to the mountains you nearly strain your neck to see the tops of. At one point, two parachuters landed in the field right beside our car, spiraling suddenly out of a cerulean sky.
3. Vineyard visiting, sipping savory wines while overlooking the prettiest countryside this side of the Mason-Dixon line. Nibbling oyster crackers. Laughing with older folks, playing at adulthood. Romping with friendly dogs.
4. Going to the pumpkin patch, that same family-owned farm that gives us strawberries in the spring and peaches in the summer (and homemade frozen yogurt all year long).
5. Driving up into the national mountain parks. Camping in a cabin, hiking to a jutting rock, coveting polished stones and fuzzy flocked deer. Parking at an overlook, eating fried chicken while wrapped in a blanket, looking over the wide blue world.
Fall in North Carolina
1. Getting lost in towering corn mazes while golden sun filters tauntingly around us.
2. Music festivals in tiny rivermill towns. Motoring aimlessly (blissfully) through the countryside (but not at night, that's creepy). Munching on hot kettle corn. Pulled pork barbeque sandwiches.
3. Coffee and crepes outside on hay bales, listening to bluegrass with the family. Our last chance to dine al fresca, to pack picnics for the park. Wandering afternoons through the Botanic Gardens, where flowers surprisingly still bloom, bursting with amber radiance.
4. An experience unlike any other: the North Carolina State Fair. Rides, livestock, crafts, quilts, and sideshows I didn't know still existed. Deep-fried everything: Twinkies, Snickers, Oreos, pie, macaroni and cheese, Coke. Chocolate-covered bacon. Boiled peanuts, funnel cakes, and Krispy Kreme hamburgers.
6. Concerts in Asheville. Sufjan Stevens, Iron and Wine. An old double-decker bus converted into a cafe; warming ourselves with tea and noodles. Twinkling lanterns. The way western North Carolina almost takes Virginia's cake, with its switchback mountain ways and roadside stands full of jammy goodness and delicious fruit nectars.
7. A town that takes Halloween more seriously than any other. Thousands of people cramming together, full of giddiness, curiosity, lust, and joy.