One of my favorite parts about going to school in upstate New York was getting to leave, every year, for Fall Break. During my tenure as a student, it had become an annual tradition: my friend and I would pack our bags (with far too many belongings for such a short trip), place them in the back of his Volkswagen, and drive down to Long Island where we’d spend the next few days at my [parents’] house. Along the way we’d take our obligatory stop at Clarks Summit and challenge the metabolism of our youth by grabbing some McNuggets and Krispy Kreme donuts.
There’d be hours of driving ahead but it would never seem like an ordeal. The weather was always perfect, as if Mother Nature was bowing to the collective will of all the university’s students, granting them this moment’s reprieve from the school’s burdensome workload. Skies would display the last of their brilliant bluish hue, visibly lacking the depth of summer’s glory but nevertheless captivating as a beautiful swan song. The crispness in the air, with its gentle, breezy embrace, would restore the spring to your step, and you could almost feel the change around you just by breathing in. And, the grandest display of the season’s beauty would be, and always will be, the millions of jewels sprawled across the land, the leaves of Autumn.
Every tree still maintained the bulk of its leaves, eager to wear its colors before stripping itself bare to the cold. Every leaf still retained its vibrant scarlet, auburn, yellow, or orange color. Every step still coupled with the satisfying crunch of leaves otherwise unperturbed by excessive rain or snow.
We made that trip multiple times and, as the years passed, I would become a slightly different, presumably more mature person. Yet on each occasion I retained a childish awe, never ceasing to be impressed, forever recapturing that alluring landscape.