I love Fall. It feels like such a short season, but it makes up for brevity with a wild abandon of color, scents, and emotions. It’s like Nature’s last, wild fling before taking a much-needed winter vacation. I have memories of “Fall” from my childhood in the S. Texas Hill Country, but, given how typically hot it is there year around, I sometimes wonder if I just imagined those beautiful, free fall days of my youth. I guess I’ll never know for sure. But one of the most wonderful things about being a displaced Texan living in Virginia has to be that I get to see Fall, in all its glory, every year.
So my family and I set out last weekend to look for “Fall” in the wilds of Virginia. OK, so I guess Virginia doesn’t really count as “wild” since there are so many people living in this little state … but we headed out into the country, anyhow. Final destination: Shenandoah National Park, where we were sure we would find enough fall color to astound our senses and satiate our longing for this briefest of all the seasons.
Along the way, we stopped off in Sperryville. It’s more accurate to say we were lured off the main road by the amazing sight of several beautiful fire trucks all lined up together on the grass in front of the fire house. All those vibrant, shiny reds and whites against the lush green of the grass and the deeply cool blue of the fall sky … It was irresistible!
It turned out that the Fire Department was having its annual Open House. One of the firemen showed my daughter all around the fire house. She got to climb up into the trucks and run the sirens, and she got awesome fireman swag, too. This is a nearly unbelievable amount of awesomeness for a kid. And I think my husband was pretty enamored, too. Big, shiny trucks, sirens, and flashing lights — what’s not to love?
But, we were on the hunt for “fall”. And so, after a brief sojourn, we piled back into the car and continued on our way. And soon, we arrived at our destination: Shenandoah National Park.
Shenandoah National Park has to be one of the most amazing things I’ve seen since moving to Virginia. It is truly a treasure. There’s something astounding and awe-inspiring about standing at the various look-out points along Skyline Drive and seeing the entire valley laid out before you. It feels like you’re looking down at the whole world, contained in a little, green jewel of a bowl gouged out of the mountains by some unseen, benevolent force.
And we even saw a little bit of the fall color we were searching for. Vivid oranges and yellows stood out in stark contrast to the deeper greens of Summer.
It was breathtaking and beautiful. Tame and, yet, also somehow wild and free. And yet … I couldn’t help but feel something was missing. After all, I had envisioned rolling hills full of scarlets and golds and oranges, tumbling wildly around each other, screaming FALL!! right in my face. That’s not what I found. In spite of the beauty of the valley laid out before me, I felt … disappointed.
And then … I looked around and realized …
I had found Fall! It was right there with me, in so many little ways. Like the way the sunlight glinted off of the grass, giving it a soft, golden glow.
Or the bright yellows of the leaves, just before they fall from the trees.
Or the soft browns and mossy greens of a little forest scene — almost like the squirrels arranged this for us to see.
Or in the rich red of a vine, slowly creeping across a backdrop of gray rock.
Or the surprising, rich jewel tones of the little flowers that seem to wait until Fall to “show off” to the rest of the universe — as if they are shouting out, “Hey! Over here!! Look at me!”
And so I left Shenandoah National Park and headed home. I felt humbled by the vastness and beauty of the world around me. And happy that I had managed to find “Fall” — even better in its realness than the imagined seasons of my childhood.