I woke up this morning to a crisp thirty degrees in Boise, Idaho, the windows covered with a fine sheen of moisture, and I wanted pancakes. These are all definitive signs that the Autumn months have finally arrived.
I want to go for long slow walks, stare at trees, listen as leaves crunch beneath my feet. I love this season. Growing up in Southern California there wasn’t really a fall. We had one tree in our neighborhood that did change color and lose its leaves; the only sign it was Autumn. I used to dream of New England fall days then. Of driving down winding leaf strewn roads with Mozart on the radio and a latte in the cup holder, all the while I would be wearing some very beige New England-y sweater.
During these same day dream years, the TV show Northern Exposure aired. I watched the show of quirky characters, enchanted, intrigued. I wanted to live there someday; in that sort of Alaskan Wilderness with seasons and rituals; surrounded by strange characters.
I never did make it to Alaska, but in a strange turn of events, my gypsy lifestyle took me to a little mountain town in Colorado for four years. I had been there for two years before I realized one morning as I sat in the local coffee shop that I had actually accomplished one of my dreams. I had found myself in a place with definitive seasons, gorgeous scenery, and one hell of a quirky cast of characters.
I wrote a lot back then, had about four books and a multitude of short stories started about the place. Inspiration was around every corner. I will revisit those stories one of these days, rewrite them, edit them, get them ready for the world. In the meantime, here is a little quip of a meandering memory from that time. It’s a clip from a short story called ‘The Four Seasons’. Yes, the story was a little something of a picture of my life in four seasons in that small mountain town. And what better way to start off the week than with memories of an Autumn past:
Fall is in the air; the Autumn months upon us in the small tourist town of Silverton, Colorado. The Aspen covered hills are now a giant cross-stitch of glorious colors. Reds, oranges, yellows; shades of the Autumn kaleidoscope are present. There is no rhyme nor reason to their colorings, yet they make a perfect picture. Again, I find that my favorite time of day is the early morning, when people have just awaken, shuffled out of their beds on a lazy Sunday and sit by their coffee makers, cheering along the process, impatiently awaiting that first hot sip of coffee that slowly slips down the throat and seems to comfort and make the world manageable.
The thing is, that isn’t what’s needed here, managing that is. It’s glorious here, the skies always so bright and blue in the morning, slow clouds slipping past us as our day wears on, and a sunset that is magical, almost commercial in its perfection.
I walk through the rocky dirt covered streets early enough that only the dogs and I are aware of theses hours. I take a deep breath and the smells of freshly lit fires fill my nose. I love that smell, a welcoming smell that reminds me of home, of summers spent by lakes, of family, of Christmastime sitting around a Christmas Eve fire at grandma’s house, singing carols and unwrapping that first present.
I’m going to breakfast before I go to work. On a Sunday I don’t think anyone should have to make their own breakfast; it’s become somewhat of a tradition with me these past two months. As I walk, the only sound is my feet crunching rocks down in the dirt.
I’m going to the Kendall Mountain Café, named for the mountain its front door faces. There are only a few visitors this morning as the bell to the screen door rings when I enter. Tourists who smile broadly as if they have stepped upon a secret and want to tell someone about it. But we know, all of us who live here, we have the same secret in our hearts, only our time here has mellowed our goofy smiles and we can contain ourselves. I give a half smile to the tourists that grin up at me as I walk across the room to my table, the table I’ve begun sitting at every Sunday now.
The air is smoky, filled with the smells of bacon, pancakes, fire and coffee. Someone started a fire in the old wood burning stove that sits in the corner of the café. The tables are few, about ten spread out in the tiny remolded house. All the tables have plastic tablecloths, patterns that don’t match. All the chairs leftovers from sets that were once four but are now lonely singles. I settle myself at my table and listen to the murmurs of the people eating.
The owner of the café looks over at me and calls out ‘you know where the coffee is.’ That means she likes me. I get my own cup of Maxwell House, a brand I gave up after I graduated college, and grab a newspaper. The menu is simple and hangs on the wall, the choice of drinks is limited and the food is good. The owner comes over and asks me if I want French toast, I always have French toast. It’s the thing to have on a cold autumn morning. I nod my head and she laughs and asks me where I’m working today.
All the tourists in the restaurant have turned to watch this woman who is almost yelling at me. Locals are louder; their voices carry more. While tourists whisper, locals yell. She tells me that I will have eggs to go with my French toast because you can’t start a day without eggs. I don’t argue, I know it’s fruitless.
I glimpse the articles in the paper but it bores me. I don’t want to be reading on a morning like this. I watch the aspen trees out the front window of the café, the yellow orange leaves blowing in the wind. The early morning sunshine blasts through the front windows. Streams of light illuminate the smoke from the fire and the dust in the air.
In the background, someone has put on music; it sounds like the sound track to the Buena Vista Social Club. Light soulful Cuban jazz pulsates through the café. I sip my coffee and stare into the distance, not thinking any thoughts, just being lost in the moment.
The owner is giving one of the other locals there for breakfast a hard time, asking if he’s going to stay in Silverton for the winter. “I have to, I’ve become allergic to the real world.” He replies with a smile.
Then it hits me, I only have one more week, one more Sunday to enjoy this life. I’m leaving Paradise soon.
I pay my bill and walk out of the restaurant just as two-yuppie tourists look around at the subdued surroundings and turn their noses up. I hear the woman comment, ‘I’m not eating in this filthy place.’ And I feel sorry for her, that she can’t look beneath it all, scratch the surface just a little to see what wonderment lies beneath.
I walk slowly to work, there’s no need to rush here, there’s never a need to rush. I look up at the colorful mountains that have put me at ease these past few months and notice that great patches of trees are bare. The trees are starting to shed their skin, readying themselves for the long winter months ahead. When did that happen? I think it was overnight. Nevertheless, I can gracefully take my cue; it’s almost time for me to leave, to go find my home.
Yet, I find myself wondering if I may have developed the same disease that the young man at the café talked about, I wonder if I’m allergic to the smog and go go go of the world at the bottom of these 9,000 foot Colorado mountains.
So I say to you my friends, on this reflective morning, Happy Fall!