By Sophie May, Phase I Fellow
When I arrived back at the mountain after a five-day hiatus last Tuesday, I returned to a different farm than the one I left. The frost came, whispering onto the land during the weekend while I was gone, and shouting its arrival with the withering of vines, the browning of fruits still growing, the hardening of squash still lying on the cold ground. The trees that had worn their summer colors so well were now exploding in fiery oranges and reds that somehow suited them even better. I don’t know if this is an effect of my far-Northern upbringing, but Fall has always felt like the most honest time of year to me. It is the time when leaves show their true colors and landscapes are stripped bare, when the air smells like the smoke of a hundred little fires and secrets blow about in the wind, revealing themselves in admissions around a woodstove or truths spoken at a cold table, sparks of tension and action that ignite for survival as much as for comfort.
The lazy haze of summer is gone, beauty in the land changing from a painting of abundance to a sharp, clear, hungry morning— everything is either bright or shadowed, dressed in the attire of the dead and the dying. I think perhaps our eyes are sharpest now, as we feel the promise of winter approaching, as it becomes more real to us and settles into our bones for a long stay.
I was recently talking with a fellow Northerner friend about the long winters of our home and inevitably, we both began to wonder out loud why human beings ever decided to settle down in such a clearly inhospitable landscape; a place where one may not see the sun for eight out of the twelve months of the year, and where the grimness of these long months soaks into the fabric of human life and mental health in such depressing, tangible ways. Despite our grumbling, however, I know deeply that my love for my home-place up North and my appreciation of this new, Southeastern home are tied to the many blessings that are brought by the changing of seasons, and especially by the Autumn. I know that I would weather a hundred Syracuse or Western-Virginia-mountain winters to experience the clarity and renewal of their Falls.
It has felt so strange and uncanny to be here, at times; to be blessed with all of this beauty and abundance while so much of the world is burning and beginning to be reborn out of great violence; sometimes it feels like we are sitting on an island untouched by time. But as the frosts come and the island begins to look towards winter, it finally feels like we are traveling back towards the space that we call, “the real world.”
Over the last few weeks, there has been a shift in the focus of our cohort, as well as in the weather; a shift that fills me with excitement and hope as much as it fills me with regret for time lost in the long, sweaty days of summer that could have been spent in this struggle. But things are born when they are born, and if our time of action is a little late in emerging, I am glad at least that it is here.
Photos by Dylan and Sarah.