Autumn is one of the things that makes me, unequivocally and unabashedly, a northern boy.
The vast hardwood armies, decked out in full dress uniform, marching through valleys and over ridges, laying siege to mirror lakes and penetrating vulnerable stands of pine and spruce, never cease to take my breath away. The crisp air and the musky scent of forest undergrowth in its first stages of decay tantalize my senses and provoke cravings for things like fresh cider, wood smoke, roaring brooks and long walks with a good dog.
This weekend I had the chance to enjoy early autumn with a group of friends in southern Maine. In addition to hours of table tennis and foosball; serious conversation about the Scriptures; a pleasant paddle through a secluded marsh; too much food and too little sleep I enjoyed a trek up Bald Mountain (elev. 3,400′) late Saturday afternoon. Five of us made the climb, and I was behind a former West Pointer whose modus vivendi appears to be, “Basic Training, Continued” and a mountain man with the reputation of living “very close to the precipice.” When my screaming quads were finally able to drag my heaving lungs to the summit, I was treated to a spectacular vista of the Appalachian Range, Webb Lake, and a few Maine towns that, quite frankly, look better from a distance. Blueberry bushes blazed crimson against a backdrop of granite pocked with lichens and crisscrossed by veins of quartz. Geese honked in ragged formations below us, practicing for the long flight south, and a gusty wind bore the balsam-scented premonition of winter.
The drive home today along the winding roads of Maine, New Hampshire and Quebec was like a roller coaster ride through a kaleidoscope. My narration of the trip consisted of, “Man–just look at that!” on a continuous loop. The pewter sky matched my mood cloud for cloud, and the somber majesty of Rutter’s Gloria seemed a fitting accompaniment.
For reasons that baffle me, the Ottawa Valley is a week behind New England in the foliage department. I guess the militia is still being mustered up here. But that’s fine with me–I”ll get to watch the parade all over again.
It will be twice autumn.