Sunday, August 26, 2007

Ruminations While On The Road

Driving home today from meeting up with some of the other great women who write this blog, I noticed some of the swamp maples were already changing colours. Not many, but there were blazes and flashes of reds and yellows in the stunted little trees that grow alongside the Mass Pike. Fall is around the corner and I couldn't be happier. I live for sweaters and trousers, I pore over the L.L. Bean catalog, circling items I can't afford, reveling in the sheer preppiness of it all. Oh, oxford shirts, I love you so. Ankle-length corduroy skirt, you will be mine one day. I love fall. I do.

I once, foolishly, while married to husband #1, agreed to move to Atlanta with him. It was warm there and we'd just come off one of the worst winters since the blizzard of '78 (yes, I am old enough to remember that one - three weeks off school! Heaven.) and I'd had enough of snow and shoveling and power outages to last me a while.

So we packed my five year-old son, three cats and several suitcases into a Subaru XT Coupe and drove to Atlanta. I know. Believe me, I know. Do you have any idea how much fun it is to drive thru the Blue Ridge mountains at 3 a.m.? In the pouring rain? With three cats squalling in your ears and a semi barreling down on your ass? I'll just let you ruminate on that one for a moment.

All set?

OK. So we found an apartment just outside of Atlanta and it was nice. Warm, but nice. We moved in September, so the weather wasn't unbearable. A started school and enjoyed it. I was lonely, but tried to make friends (with a spectacular lack of success, I might add). Suddenly it was Thanksgiving. And it was still 80 outside. I grilled a turkey for the family. Grilled on the grill. I grew wistful. Where was the foliage? Where were the cornstalks and pumpkins and gourds? Where was the bittersweet, always the last glow among the greying bushes and trees? It wasn't there. What passed for foliage in Georgia was pathetic. It went from green, to greenish-yellow, to brown. That was it. Whoopie.

Winter rolled around. They canceled school because it was too cold. The temperature? 12. Above zero. Oh, how I laughed. We had half an inch of snow and the entire state lost their collective minds. Everything shut down. Grocery stores, gas stations, everything. I stood outside the Publix with my mouth agape as I watched the manager rushing people out of the store so they could make it home before the worst of the snow.

Then came spring. Spring lasts about five minutes in Atlanta. It's a gorgeous five minutes, full of blossoms and smells and a fresh breeze. It's like a child playing dress-up; it puts on all of its finery at once and just as quickly abandons it. Then you're in to the long, hard slog that is summer in the south.

It gets humid up here in New England and I hate it - I'm the first to admit that I become a big, whiny cry-baby when it's humid. (Like it was yesterday. Oh, how I griped.) Atlanta humidity makes New England's look positively wussy. The bugs. *shudder* The bugs still give me nightmares.
That's a cicada. They have them by the thousands down there. They swarm. They crunch when you drive, or, god forbid, step on them. *gag*

This little beauty is a Palmetto bug. They are huge. They can crawl under just about anything, including the slider that was on our back deck. One day, when I was about 8 months pregnant with O, I found one in the shower. With me. Imagine, if you will, one wet, hugely pregnant woman, leaping about the bathroom, shrieking her head off, shampoo flying in all directions as she desperately tried to find something, anything, with which to kill the bug. It's a wonder my neighbours didn't call the cops for fear I was being murdered.

I didn't really like Atlanta. Because a.) I don't like bugs and b.) I don't like heat and those are two things that are in abundance down there. But what really got me was the lack of seasons.

There's a comfort in the predictability of the seasons up here. You know you have to get thru a possibly brutal winter in order to get to the long, slow, unfolding kiss of spring. Spring slowly turns to summer, teasing you at first with a warm day here and there, before it finally lets loose with a few precious weeks of glorious sun, brilliantly blue skies and warm days, days when you can smell the fields being hayed, when an ice cream melts at the perfect rate and you live to hear the crack of the bat, maybe worship at the Church Of Fenway. You know some of July and most of August will have long, humid days, when all you can do is sprawl under a tree or lie in front of a fan and dream of snow.

And then it's fall. Fall in all its glory of reds and yellows, creating a patchwork of colour that rolls over the hills and valleys, so gorgeous it catches at my throat. I realize just how much I love it here. I complain (it's the local pastime) about the weather and the roads and the drivers, but I feel at home here like I've never felt anywhere before. These hills are like an eiderdown, comfortable and safe, and I know around the next curve there will be a white, wooden, steepled church or a common with beautiful old homes or an old mill now housing a bookshop and an antique store. These roads and hills are as familiar as an old coat, as welcoming as an old friend. When people ask where I'm from, I'm always proud to say I'm from New England.
photo: VT Dept. of Tourism


Miguelina. said...

"You know you have to get thru a possibly brutal winter in order to get to the long, slow, unfolding kiss of spring."

That's a beautiful sentence right there. I'm going to post that in my bathroom mirror come February.

Major Bedhead said...


That's a good idea. I should probably do that, too.

Nicole P said...


A gorgeous post. I take comfort in the seasons too. And fall and spring in New England are like little pieces of my heart - I unfold them in the winter and spring when I'm getting miserable.

Today I saw some yellow and orange on a few trees down my south-way... It's right around the corner - for sure.


margalit said...

What a beautiful, and oh, so accurate portrait of living in this precious corner of the world. As a non-native New Englander who grew up in LA, people constantly ask me WHY I live here when I could be in California. Well, you nailed it. The beauty is only part of it for me, though. The people are so interesting, so intelligent, so real. You don't meet a bunch of women for lunch in LA and end up talking about serious matters. You talk about plastic surgery and hair salons and spas.

I can't see ever living anywhere else, and I've tried in the past. I've done the south, I've gone back to CA, and I always end up right back here. Life is good here. The It's not great, but it's not THAT bad.

And crocs now have a new fur lined model! Perfect for us!

Tricia said...

It's all true! I'll take the humid summer and the frigid winter so I can take the fall and spring. It makes it all the more sweet!

Whirlwind said...

What a great post! I LOVE autumn. There is just so much to do with the kids, we never have time for everything we want to do!

I laughed this summer when the kids told me it was too hot (if only they knew how much warmer it was elsewhere). I know this winter they'll complain it's too cold. It's an endless cycle and you tend to forget that just a few months ago you were complaining the opposite.

Yesterday we threw a end of summer BBQ for a few friends of Einey's. It was a back to school sort of thing, because after all there is still one month left of summer. One of the mothers said she was thinking of throwing an Autumn party - bon fire and turtlenecks in the cool air - perfect!

I can't wait!

Fairly Odd Mother said...

I personally feel betrayed when friends move to warmer climates---Florida? California? Are you kidding? Why???? I love New England so much that I can only imagine leaving Massachusetts if it were to live in Vermont.

Beautiful post.

Ruth Dynamite said...

There's no place like New England, and you nailed it so well. Beautiful!

Trish K said...

You make me longggg for Autumn to start here....
cool nights
eating winter squash
apple picking!!!!

pinks & blues girls said...

Every time I think about leaving New England for a warmer climate - usually in the months of January and February, when I can't stand being cooped up any longer, searching for another blanket to layer myself with - I remember the rewards we receive for sticking it out... the beautiful spring and summer months, the crisp fall days, the cold holiday months... and that gorgeous photo you posted of the leaves changing. Beautiful post!

Jane, Pinks & Blues Girls

Pinks & Blues Girls said...

What a magnificent reminder of why I live and love in New England. My Mom is a Boston native who married a handsome passing sailor all the way from Michigan, and they, with 3 quick kids in tow (who would have known that tiny, conservative little Boston Irish lass was so sassy?) traversed this great country several times. But eventually settling in Rhode Island to be near enough to home for Mom. Thank God for their choice of regions. I love all the seasons and never, ever complain (just ask my Audrey and Jane!) about any of them. But I do have my favorites... and that is when each Spring and each Fall tiptoes into view.
Sharon - Pinks & Blues Girls

Rock the Cradle said...

Atlanta sounds a hell of a lot like Philly. Only there we had rats and roaches instead of cicadas and palmettos. At least they didn't fly.

But the stink of summer in Philly...never again. Hot, sweaty, humid swampland with hot, humid stinky fumes curling up from the sidewalks.

Never again.

My first summer back in NE was absolute bliss. The hottest days had cool breezes, the most humid day smelled of trees and grass instead of urine and dogshit. I think I almost cried at one point.

And nothing can compare to that first glimpse of a sugar maple in it's fall glory. It's one of my favorite moments of the year.

Whirlwind said...

Oh and cicada's - we have them here. My yard is literally littered with their cases every year. I posted back in July I think about the cicada we found on it's way out of it's chrysalis. Very neat to be able to see!

sandy shoes said...

I'm so with you. Hate hot and humid, hate bugs. Moving to Atlanta, to me, would feel like a kind of death.

This was a lovely post -- thank you.

Gift of Green said...

Lovely post.

{I was seven for the Blizzard of '78 - when I think about how they close schools here in Virginia at the drop of a hat (or flake, as the case may be), I have to laugh thinking about how we all walked to school in the days following the blizzard with the snow still up to our eyeballs.}

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