Oct 30, 2020 | LIFE | By Kristen Richards | Photo by Barbara Bilic
There is a steady and reliable feeling of fall in New England. The changing of the seasons happens slowly, with leaves shimmering from green to gold to orange to red throughout October, withering and shrinking to brown come November. Colorado’s August snowfall made me wonder whether fall in the West would exist at all, or if summer would melt into winter, the season moving on without any pause for autumn.
To me, fall in New England means the smells of cinnamon and nutmeg, the warmth of a fresh apple pie resting on the stovetop, and the crunching of leaves in the forest. Colorado seems to claim fall as a transitional state of inconsistencies — snow one day, sun the next.
I was told that the aspen leaves would turn gold and fiery, and when I ran into a burning blond aspen tree along Barr Trail in late September, I was taken aback by its beauty. Every day, it seemed, the forest became flecked with another handful of golden trees.
It was not New England; it was not the place of changing leaves and Cortland apple orchards that I knew growing up, but it was beautiful nevertheless.
My family’s traditions for fall — moaning over a stomachache from eating too many apples in the orchard, the apple cider donuts, greasy in their wax paper wrappings, the layering of sweaters, slowly then all at once — have not quite fit into my life in Colorado.
These moments of recognition exist in the shiny grocery store Red Delicious apples and the cinnamon smell of pumpkin pancakes cooking on the stovetop in the South Hall common room. These familiarities begin to disassemble the feeling that I am creating something where emptiness should be.
I may be only brimming with contradictions, though. If I were home in Massachusetts, in the cozy brown house at the top of the hill, would I be too focused on school to go apple picking? Would I miss the moment when the apple pie comes out of the oven and fills the kitchen with smells of cinnamon and nutmeg? Would I even go for walks in the state forest? Though these moments are my past, maybe they best serve as memories.
In making Colorado a home, I had to let go of the first crisp fall day, the summer heat fading, the smoky burning of an old indoor furnace, the reddening of my cheeks, the raking of leaves, the roasting of pumpkin seeds. Maybe Colorado autumn means embracing the August snow, the 70-degree days in late October, the golden aspen trees, and the unassuming bitter cold that meets me at the front door on cloudy mornings.
Colorado fall, though illusionary when compared to New England, is a beautiful beast of a season. There is something extraordinary about unpredictability. There is something beautiful about a snowfall in a month we consider summer. I hope that in letting go of my New England fall expectations, I can learn to appreciate and love everything about autumn in the West.