Many, many years ago, my very best friend in the world took my children and me camping at a place called ‘Jellystone Park’, in Massachusettes. She had a little, tiny travel trailer, complete with miniature propane stove and heater, which slept six, if you included the available floor space! It was only a week past the end of summer, but you could tell by the quality of the sunlight and the changes in wildlife – both the flora and the fauna – that autumn was about to burst forth.
That first night, we all gathered around a campfire, just like all the other campers, and roasted our hotdogs and marshmellows, whilst “oooh’ing” and “ahhhh’ing” about the vast array of stars showing the path of the Milky Way in the velvety night sky. We all went to bed, replete with our typical campers fare of food, and a peace that can only be had in the realization that God is in His heaven and that, for now at least, all is right with the world. The lot of us slept deeply and well.
Susan was the first to arise the next morning, before the sun even had the chance to begin to blanch the sky and extinguish the stars. I awoke to the scent of “cowboy coffee”† as the vapours followed her into the camper when she, ever so quietly, tiptoed in to wake me. She was raising her nephew and, of course, I was always surrounded by children, so we took advantage of the opportunity to just be two adults, having a grown-up conversation, with nothing but the peaceful, near silence, of nature to keep us company.
When I stepped out of the trailer, I was greeted with a fairyland sight. During the night, the temperature had dropped considerably, and apparently quickly, and the last vestiges of last night’s moon shone on a sparkly landcape. The tiniest of ice crystals clung to everything, from the needles on the pine tree behind our temporary home, to the bark of the birch stand, just there to the right…and even the vapour of our exhaled breath twinkled in that soft moonglow, spreading out and disappearing somewhere beyond, like stars winking out.
I stood like a statue, taking in the beauty around me, from the softness of the grass at my feet, still apparent through the crunchy frost, to the glittering moisture released from our noses and mouths and those trees, looking like a colony of fairies had taken flight amongst the branches – and then on upward, to the breathtaking diamonds in the midnight blue sky – some of those diamonds flashing across the heavens in the brilliant display of a meteor shower.
It was breathtaking. Awe inspiring. Humbling.
And freaking cold!!
We built up the fire from the slumbering coals we had banked the night before, and soon a cheerful blaze joined the sun in lighting up our little campsite. As I inched closer to the flames to warm myself, I caught Susan grinning at me.
“What?” I asked her, already responding to her contagious glee with a smile of my own.
“Today’s language lesson,” she replied, her voice vibrating with humour (because we were both aware that I constantly speak in flowers; so what could she have to teach me about language?!).
“Ummm…okay. So what will you be teaching me on this fine, cold morning?”
“Do you know what today is?” she asked, then grinned a bit bigger as I scrunched up my face, trying to read the calendar that I keep in my mind’s eye.
“I got nuthin’,” I replied. “Enlighten me.”
Susan stood up, stretched and gestured expansively around us, then pointed to something on the ground. It was a pumpkin that the campground staff gives every camper to carve as a jack-o-lantern during their autumnal vacations. This, too, glinted with a thin sheen of ice crystals in the dawn light. She turned back to me, the joviality on her face replaced with that peaceful look we all wore the night before.
“Today is the first day of “Frost on the Pumpkin” season…the first sign that winter is just around the corner. It’s time to take a deep breath and prepare for the end of another year.”
This time I not only gazed about me at the fairytale landscape, I also took a moment to close my eyes, breathe deeply through nose and mouth and make a memory. “Frost on the Pumpkin season.” I opened my eyes to find Susan in the same meditative pose. She opened her eyes a moment later and we shared a smile. My best friend – the sister of my heart – and we both breathed the same thing, in an identical instant:
“I can taste winter on my tongue.”
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[† “Cowboy coffee” is made by heating coarse grounds with water in a pot, letting the grounds settle and pouring off the liquid to drink]
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With “Frost on the Pumpkin” season upon us (and as a Pier 1 Affiliate) I thought I’d share a couple of the beautiful decorations for which Pier 1 Imports has specials going on for the next few days.
[see: Affiliate Disclosure]