Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Not your usual sight

I sit in the home office, in a cozy hooded sweatshirt and comfy slippers. Late fall is trying to hang onto a few more crisp days before yielding to the biting cold of winter. But the old man is eager to arrive, hoping to make an appearance before November, pushing a cold front across New Jersey. Some of the Garden State's upper reaches, its northernmost counties and hilly hamlets, have already seen snow in the past day or two. But now it's here, in flurry form, in the denser suburbs. The light, drifting flakes blow diagonally outside the window and aren't here for long -- just long enough for me to notice them, and to wonder if I've ever seen this kind of weather in October in New Jersey.

Several years ago, I spent about 24 hours with a friend's (now long-ex-) boyfriend up in the Berkshires, visiting a high school buddy of mine. It was Columbus Day weekend, mid-October, the peak of the fall season in Greenfield and Shelburne Falls and the surrounding towns. We took pictures, ate apples, shot arrows (some of them at apples, none of which were perched on our heads) and made the most of a day in the country. That night, Dave and I climbed, fully clothed, into our sleeping bags in a not-so-well-heated room of the house Walker was renting or caretaking and shivered ourselves to sleep. Winter seemed to move in overnight, a frost encrusting the lawn of the meadow I hiked across at dawn in a fruitless attempt to photograph the sunrise.

When we left later that morning, we headed west along the Mohawk Trail -- otherwise known as Massachusetts Route 2 -- because of its dotted scenic route designation on the map. We had no reason to rush home, so we took the long way. Crossing the crown of the Berkshires, we looked down snow-dusted slopes to the valleys below. I had never seen trees holding a coating of snow while still maintaining a grasp onto their red and golden leaves. Autumn and winter came together in a mash-up of the seasons. The air grew warmer as the morning went on and we descended the western side of the mountains and crossed the river into Albany. Like a shooting star, the melding of the seasons didn't last long, but it left an impression.

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