For the love of autumn... (part 2: New Jersey/New York 2006)

"I've never known anyone yet who doesn't suffer a certain restlessness when autumn rolls around...we're all eight years old again and anything is possible." ~ Sue Grafton

Bleary-eyed and jet-lagging a day after I returned from Africa, I joined my husband and our dear friends Brad and Mary Herridge (and little Grant, who was in Mary's tummy at the time) for a trip to New York and New Jersey.  During those few days in early November 2006, we walked all over God's creation - probably 8-10 miles a day with barely a rest!  If I can be half as energetic as Mary was when I'm pregnant one day, I'll be happy.  What a trooper.

The scenes on this trip could not have been more of a contrast to those I had witnessed in Africa just a few days prior...the wild, lush beauty of Uganda vs. the urban landscape and busyness of New York City.  Million-dollar mansions in the New Jersey countryside vs. the slums of Kibera.  I spent many moments on the subway staring out the graffiti'd windows in a daze, the voices of the orphans singing still echoing in my head.  Hard to believe that such contrasts exist in the same world...

On this trip, autumn was experienced through one long walk after another.  The leaves were at their peak - firey reds, golden yellows, laying a carpet underneath our feet as we trekked from my parents' house into downtown Madison to board the train for the big city.

my street in madison

a neighbor's fence around the corner

In New York, we ate at some new favorites, all recommended by our virtual tour guide, Tara Leigh, who was just a phone call away...places like Max Brenner's Chocolate by the Bald Man, Spring Street Natural, and Think Coffee.  We camped inside Chelsea Market hoping for a Rachael Ray sighting (no luck) and strolled through Central Park where the curbs were scattered with leaves, and folks were already ice skating at the whimsical Wolman Rink.


It was jacket weather, and it was heavenly, of course.

Back in New Jersey, we spent an afternoon in the woods at Drew University where Brad and Steven sat on logs and smoked cigars, and Mary and I walked under the canopy marveling at the leaves.

Finally, our friends The Sullivans who live in New York came to the "country" to join us, and we set off to find a roadside pumpkin and apple stand just like it was in our idealized minds.  They do exist...just a short drive away, outside of Chester, NJ!  Here is Alstede Farms...


brad, steven, and david


shawna, mary, and me

Back at my parents' house, since we were all together, we had an early Thanksgiving meal.  This had to be one of my most memorable meals, ever.  It was the perfect fall day, and we borrowed our neighbor's picnic table to set up an outdoor feast featuring my mom's vintage cookery and dishes filled with already-prepared items from Whole Foods - roasted turkey, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, chewy Italian bread slathered with creamy butter, and of course, lots of red wine.


As I look back on these autumn moments, I know that there is hope for the stark winter days that seem to literally and figuratively suck the life out of us.  As long as there are seasons and color and leaves and shared meals and friends, it is going to be okay.