“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower” – Albert Camus
I’ve been seeing a lot of strange things recently that are hard to explain. After 17 years of basking in the benign climate of southern California the warm weather and sunshine has turned noticeably cooler. So chilly that I’ve begun questioning whether flipflops are the proper attire for the frosty mornings. But the strangest thing by far are the hallucinations I’ve been seeing here in the wilds of Maine.
Maine? Ayuh, you read that right – Maine. I haven’t posted in a while (transcontinental moves are not easy!) so those of you that are accustomed to my past California-centric rantings might notice a change in the landscapes from here on in. Although I do have SD cards full of photos from some wandering out west the past few months (more on those some other time when the snow gets deep and the cabin fever of winter sets in), different sorts of environs exist up here in the Pine Tree state.
So like the inevitable descent into madness of a character in a Stephen King novel, the times they are a changing here at Doughboy Chronicles World Headquarters. Only time will tell how long it will be before I start dropping my R’s in conversation (I think I’ll have lobstah for dinnah), using the word “wicked” to adjectivize every situation (wicked pissah, they’re out of those wicked good whoopie pies!) and genuflecting toward Tom Brady’s deflated balls 5 times daily. Change is good… well it is unless you end up with that awful accent and unwavering allegiance to the New England Patriots perhaps.
Change can be gradual. It can creep up on you and may not be noticed much from day to day: one day you’re climbing a hill like nobody’s business with a dust trail streaming behind you like a cartoon roadrunner streaking across the desert. The next week you go back and do the same climb feeling like Floyd Landis after a refreshing shot of Jack Daniels and testosterone. This goes on for years until one day you suddenly you feel like you’ve been a lifelong devotee of the Joe Camel-train of malignancy when you try and push it. California had snuck up on me like that over the course of 17 years.
When the hallucinations started about a month or so ago it was gradual. At first the occasional rogue leaf of a young maple went all old school skate punk and dyed its leaves. All it wanted was a Pepsi.
Trees, being conformists, watched all the other trees in the nearby forest and soon started doing the same thing as if to answer the age-old rhetorical question: If all your friends jumped off a cliff would you too? Personally I think that since trees stand around in the same spot their entire lives they can get bored. When given the chance they jump off that cliff if only for a change of scenery. The shedding of leaves is like freedom for a tree it’s how they move around, well parts of them at least. And as I’ve found out with my move to the East Coast, sometimes a change of environment is all you need.
After 17 years California had left me feeling I was standing around with my hands in my pockets, a tall oak in a world where everyone had chainsaws for arms and really, really wanted to hug me. I loved the state yet absolutely despised it. In some ways it was killing me yet I really miss it at times. I’m glad to be gone and can’t wait to go visit. California is a strong drug and I thought maybe the bizarre colors I had begun seeing in the forests around here stemmed from some sort of Golden State withdrawal. But instead of fading over time, soon the colors became much more vivid and intense like these during the Northwoods Gravel Grind a few weeks ago.
Clearly this was not withdrawal but a new beginning. The air was clean and crisp and suddenly I was standing around in flipflops on a 25 degree morning taking pictures of the frost. Old habits like grabbing flimsy footwear may die hard but the strange new world of Fall is now in full swing and I have been entranced by the changes going on around me.
Maybe it was due to the 17 years of summer I had “endured”, but as more leaves have begun to turn the more alive I’ve felt. Though Autumn inevitably leads to Winter and with that the contemplation of one’s own mortality (or at the very least Vitamin D deficiency brought on by lack of sunlight), I feel reborn. How can you not feel alive when every trip to the trails is like falling down the tunnel of a kaleidoscope?
New sights, new smells and new opportunities to break out into the clean light of day as I did this past weekend in the mountains of western Maine. And what before my drought-encrusted California eyes has appeared? Actual water running in the rivers! The change in the forest here is just getting started, a mere hint of things to come as the foliage approaches peak.
Once the winter snows arrive (I’m assuming 17 years of Autumn is not in the cards) a whole new world will open up on the fat bike friendly Maine Huts and Trails. I can’t wait to ride out here on a sub-zero day this coming winter. After all those years of summer I’m primed and ready to see my breath again in the mornings instead of a blanket of smog covering the horizon.
Autumn is not the end but a new beginning, one that spreads a smile upon the face of the earth. Some day I’ll head back to California to revisit my old haunts (specifically the Caldera 500 is beckoning), but until then a grand new world is at my fingertips just waiting to be explored. Autumn has arrived with vengeance in the forests of northern New England. It’s time to leave summer behind and pedal into the unknown.