It’s fall, but the leaves only burst into color, into fire, into flame in the mountains. I’d forgotten that was true.
The trees outside my apartment started turning and a small, hill-bound piece of my heart recoiled and said — there’s something wrong with them, right? The leaves all turned the same color of rusty yellow-brown, and crumpled, and fell.
Sometimes I have a perverse desire to take people by the shoulders and yell. You don’t understand, I’ll tell them, the day that fantasies become real. I lived in the most beautiful place in the world. Do you understand?
I don’t know how to describe it, but Halloween is a good time to try, because it helps to draw on some October imagery. The southern Appalachians have a magic hold on me, a witch’s-cauldron hold, a sorcerer’s.
I got to have them for six years, to chase after them and find, over and over again, in a thousand little aches, that they couldn’t be grasped. There is none of that in Atlanta, no leaves glowing gold, no mountain laurel making the air smell like earth and laundry.
But. In the mountains, I never got to crane my neck and strain my eyes and feel, pressing down on me, the power of a human race that manages to stack buildings toward the sky. The mountains don’t glitter with the lights from workaholics’ windows as dusk falls down.
Here, I walk through markets, streets, parks, paths, cataloging everyone around me, making up names and stories for all the faces I see. There’s no exhausting the supply of things to explore, no need for new to give way to familiar.
I walk until my calves ache; I run my hands along brick walls, knowing I should be hand-sanitizing like crazy but not caring at all. I burst through days feeling, quietly, the surge of energy that comes from drawing a paycheck, and doing what I love, in the same place.
My heart is split in half, between places, between people. It’s an embarrassment of riches, an outpouring of grace, this getting to love so much that I’m always missing somewhere and somebody.
And I didn’t deserve any of it.
And I don’t believe in accidents.