Every fall there is a moment, a single moment, when New England presents me with something so splendid and magnificent that it takes my breath away. I would give myself over to the experience anyway, but this moment that I’m talking about is magnificent in its power, and I never have the option of refusing to join it with a whole heart and whole mind and whole soul. Unfortunately, it always seems to happen when I am driving, so there’s an element of terror that coexists with the splendour of the moment. I think, seriously, that “awestruck” is the word to describe it…I am literally “stricken” – out of my senses – with “awe” – wonder at the grand spectacle before me.
These moments stay with me seemingly forever. In 2003, it was one of the rare moments that occurred when I wasn’t behind the wheel: instead, we were on a scenery train from Bellows Falls, and we passed through a wood and out the other side and the land simply fell away from us in a carpet of colors. In 2005 it happened on October 27, two days before my wedding, as I was driving out to the Farm Stand to pick up decorations for the house: I emerged from a canopy of trees to the perfectly pastoral scene of red farmhouses, a patchwork of land, a bonfire sending a thin trail of smoke curling into the bottomless blue sky, a herd of cattle being driven to towards the barn, and behind it all, rising in an explosion of yellows, the hills. In 2006, it happened as I was driving down River Road on a day of scattered clouds, and suddenly the sun burst through and set the canopy of leaves over the road to blazing burning fire, the yellow leaves overhead glowing so brightly they seared the vision. Last year it was debating the meaning of art in the cornfield, with the breeze rattling the dried stalks, a gaggle of geese honking their way south, and the smell of roasting corn, punctuated by the rhythmical thunking of the potato cannon.
This year, it happened at 11:45am on October 27. I was too busy yesterday dealing with thuggish and delinquent behavior of my horse who spent two days bullying the other horses and picking fights on the playground to remember it clearly until this moment. The forecast for yesterday was dismal – the forecast for today even worse. The rain held off, though, and I set off for work under lowering skies. The freeway – the fastest way to work – has been under construction for months, and the delays can be both unpredictable and extensive, and so I have developed a set of Secret Ninja Routes to avoid it. The one I have been using lately – although not my favorite one (which is also under construction at this time, and is the most inefficient, time-consuming way possible to go…but also the most sensationally beautiful) – carries me right under and around the base of Mount Tom. A smallish mountain, which yesterday was capped by grey clouds that occasionally sent out a scudding wisp to cross the face of the hill. It was at one such moment, with wispy clouds streaming by, that a brief hole opened to let the sunlight through, and the rays fell squarely on the face of the hill, igniting a raving lunacy of colors. The wispy clouds, the burning trees, the grey road winding its lonely way around the base, and the promise of rough weather to come hit me like a silk velvet covered crowbar right between the eyes. I was utterly lost in the experience…at 45 mph, so it’s just as well that the grey road was lonely.
By the time I passed that way this morning, the clouds had lowered even further, the road was lonelier than ever, and the colors were washing away in the rain. These ephemeral moments are all the more beautiful because of their transitory nature. They serve to highlight the important lesson of life: stay awake! do not miss a single moment!