This landscape is spectacular during October, when whole trees turn red or yellow against a brilliant blue sky. But November brings a different kind of beauty. Early this morning, as I drove to Gorgeous Town to meet a blogging friend, I passed fields of dried cornstalks, golden and rustling in the wind, and whole hillsides of muted late fall colors. I passed red barns and white farmhouses, and silos filled to the bursting. It's a hilly drive, and every turn brought a different view, with bare branches silhouetted against the sky.
We've had a few weeks of dark, rainy weather so it was wonderful to spend a day hiking in the sunshine with a friend. We hiked along a stream and up to the rim of a steep gorge, passing by numerous small waterfalls and a really spectacular big waterfall.
Most of the leaves were on the ground, under our feet, but the young beech trees hang onto their leaves, and they shone bright gold against bare branches or green conifers. With so much of the summer foliage gone, the mosses are suddenly noticeable. Since we were hiking along rocks just running with moisture, we saw mosses everywhere, mosses soaking in the spray from waterfalls or clinging to the cliff wall. When I looked close, I could see all different types – mosses shaped like delicate ferns, or moss that looked thick and spongy. I can't rattle off the lovely sounding Latin names like my students can, but that doesn't stop me from admiring how beautiful they are, brilliant green in a landscape of grey rock and gold-brown leaves.
We hiked for a few hours, with the rush and tumble of water a background to our conversation. We talked about work and politics and parenting – and especially the frustrations of parenting teenagers. His two kids are the same ages as my youngest two, so it was fun to compare notes. We both kept periodically announcing what our kids would be doing if they were with us ("If my son were here now, he would be walking on the very edge of this cliff, just to make me nervous") – or else we would interrupt our conversation to admire another waterfall. If it had been warmer, it would have been impossible to resist jumping into the quiet pools that formed at the base of each waterfall, but in this chilly November air, neither of us were willing even to take off a winter coat. I did put my hands in the water several times, just to feel the energy of the rushing stream, and it was icy cold.
At the end of the hike, we had time to warm our hands over sandwiches, coffee, and juice in a local bakery before it was time for me to drive back home, back through hills of farmland and woods, savoring the afternoon sunlight that rippled across the pastures and cornfields.