Armchair Peregrinations

October 22, 1998

I woke up this morning to the sounds of wind gently rattling the window in my bedroom and whistling in the eaves of my apartment. That long-awaited first cold front of autumn bringing actual, cool air has been racing nimbly across the states north of us and has at last reached Charleston. It was 57 degrees at 10 am this morning and will be in the upper 40's tonight. The tall oak tree I see outside my window is vigorously bending in the wind gusts. It's kind of exciting. A new season here at last.

The small oak tree across where I live usually is the only tree around that has any red or colorful leaves, but this year its display is muted. I don't know why. It's lost most of its leaves earlier than usual, too. The outdoors world is half summer-green and half-autumn about now, really in an in-between time of year.

I opened an old homes magazine which I love to look at from time to time and saw an autumn photo essay on a small rural county in upstate New York. The first picture had a big red maple tree in the front yard with a swing affixed to a sturdy branch and a path in the lower right leading to the entrance to the yard and a white picket fence. Other photos included a covered bridge, a country gravel lane with shadows of trees cast across the road, a produce stand with pumpkins, a small waterfall, an old Presbyterian church, and an elaborate shelter over a magnesium spring in a wooded setting. This is one of those photo essays to keep and hold onto. Perfectly captures the season in a specific place. And, it really makes me want to visit upstate New York. I've wanted to for years, particularly the Hudson River valley. I want to visit the environs of my favorite artists from the Hudson River School, see the magnificent overlooks and rugged valleys they painted. I also want to visit sites associated with one of the most admired writers from the 19th century, Washington Irving. I'll never forget the occasion in college while taking an English literature course finding out about the richness of his prose and how prolific he was. It was quintessentially 19th century prose, beautifully crafted and textured, sentence after sentence one paragraph after another. He wrote about many worlds and people beyond the Legend of Sleepy Hollow for which he is most famous. The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon is without doubt his masterpiece. It seems fitting that such great painters and writers would come from such an exquisitely beautiful part of the country. It was wilderness to the early New York settlers, and much of it is still wild and empty today, preserved in the expansive Adirondacks Park.

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