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Returning to November Stillness

Walking along the edge of the woods through a thick blanket of fallen leaves, I noted the changes in the landscape since I was last home. New Hampshire is well past peak now, and recent wind and heavy rain coaxed some holdouts down in my absence. The hardscape is glaringly obvious now. November in New Hampshire offers a cold stillness that can be jarring for the uninitiated. But I love it for all that it offers.

No doubt the pandemic made everything different for all of us. Collectively we might never be the same, but this is the natural state of the world, isn’t it? The one thing the pandemic did, aside from all the horrific stuff, was alter our perception of the world. For if there’s one benefit to what we’ve collectively gone through, it’s acquiring a heightened sense of change. We were forced to slow down and look around at the circle we placed ourselves in. And reflect on whether that was where we wanted to be.

Bouncing across the country these last two months, I’ve savored some incredible regional food that’s as much a part of the uniqueness of a place as the language and landmarks. I’ve had sourdough bread in San Francisco, popovers in Vermont and biscuits in the Carolinas. Breaking bread offers lessons. The food tastes amazing whether you lean to the right or the left. We’re all human, we just forget that sometimes in our race to categorize others. There’s nothing like a face-to-face conversation to define the common ground between us. And this is one of the primary benefits of travel — getting out of your circle of influence into something wholly new. And seeing that we’re not all that much different from each other after all.

When my son was two months old I went away for ten days on a white water rafting trip through the Grand Canyon I’d had booked for well over a year. As funny as it seems, I felt in that time away that I’d missed a lot of him growing up. But in going away, I learned to pay more attention to the moment-to-moment changes when I was back home. Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got until you’re gone. Returning to the stark woods of New Hampshire this November, I’m aware of the changes I’ve missed here. And the changes that have taken place within me while I’ve been away. In the stillness of November, I celebrate both.

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