The foliage colors have popped out very pretty around here in New England (USA)over the past couple of weeks. As I have observed previously, I've not had much freehiking opportunities of late. I found myself driving a U-haul truck from Boston to New York City two weeks ago on a Tuesday afternoon, helping one of our sons and his wife move their life to down there for a go at the Big Apple. The foliage color had just changed seemingly overnight. That Tuesday, the brilliance greeted us for the first time this season as soon as we got onto the Mass Pike, and stayed with us on down through Connecticut. Of course, being able to make the entire drive in the nude may have brightened my outlook as well. The drive was definitely easy and delightful for me, even with the usual delays to be found as one approaches the city on I-95 and heads on over the Triborough bridge into Queens.
The following Friday, I awoke to overcast skies and resolved to start my day with a run through the local woods over to my favorite skinny dipping hole, since there was no immediate improvement in the forecast for the weekend. My running kilt did its usual splendid job of keeping me comfortable and legal through the run over and back. Good thing, as this morning happened to be the day chosen by several of the classes from the local school to abandon their classrooms in favor of a good foliage hike through my favorite trails. Our congressmen not doing their job….many of our public school teachers most certainly doing theirs…..some of our local ones, going that extra yard that day…things come up that changes one's plans.
The Katydids and crickets were chirping up a frantic finale to what has been for me, a great freehiking season, though I hope that they may continue there effort here for yet another few weeks. Despite the overcast, the foliage color in the canopy above my head and all around blazed in rich reds, brilliant yellows, and various shades of green, the more somber rusts and browns yet to come. Telling the tale of the passage of spells of warm and cold these past several nights, the dense understory of deep green ferns from only a week or two previously had given way to a tired looking pale green, broken here and there by patches of this ancient species browned out and worn looking. Warm and cold spots scattered across the forest floor at night, just as one encounters by day while swimming in a remote pond. Not yet in evidence, at least in my immediate surroundings, any black ferns: that would be clear evidence of a hard freeze. Probably only a matter of days for that…..we have not had true Indian summer thus far. Indian summer is a second short warm season that we in New England typically encounter after the first blast of below freezing nights where the day time temps can soar into the August like realm. I'll take the weather as it is today thank you, even while lacking the sun.
None of the school groups ventured on their hikes in as far as the camp and pond as things turned out, so I was able to enjoy my swim as usual, with my cover laying un-needed upon the bench at the shore. As I first stood naked, ankle deep in the water contemplating my full plunge into unknown cold, the stillness of the scene before me caught me eye. The same splash of subdued but deep color that I had just experienced while running in the woods, now spread before me under a close sky to the far side of the pond normally a mile and a quarter away, but today appearing much closer. My world at this moment had seemingly shrunk, as if in the embrace of a warm colored cocoon. Every tree bordering the shore all the way around on both sides was reflected as an exquisite tapestry upon the undisturbed surface of the pond. Not a breath of wind was blowing. The unknown cold of the water turned out to be not so cold, quite pleasant actually, so I swam out to a spot well off shore, and was able to enjoy my nudity for the better part of some twenty minutes or so, a proper swim for this time of the year, and delightful as only an unencumbered swim can be. As I once again approached the shore thus completing my skinnydip for this day, it started to rain, first a few tentative drops, then a full-on deluge proceeded to pound holes into the surface of the water around my head. With a grin on my face, I found the bottom of the pond, stood up, and walked the rest of the way up to the shore. In the far distance, I could hear the squealing delight in those kids voices….I was once one of them. Then as now, I would find my moments. Playing naked in the rain is something I still can seldom get enough of. Obviously there was to be no hiking naked in the rain for me that day, so I hoisted myself up onto the dock and sat crosslegged, facing out across the pond, I stared out and drank in this sudden turn of events, not yet wishing to bother with my kilt. Just me, the rain, the pond, the sky, the color. A gentle surge of emotions from me to my world and back. A quiet exchange of energies.
Autumn, a season in New England that changes startlingly from day to day, sometimes from minute to minute. How fortunate I felt on this particular day to be blessed as one who is prone to forgetting unimportant things like where I put my clothes thus clearing the way to re-discover things that are truly important in ones life. Now, where did I put that kilt and my shoes?