Massanutten Peak and a Shenandoah Valley farm between Harrisonburg and Weyers Cave, Va.
We've covered a lot of ground in the last few days, my husband and I. Three mornings ago we left Roanoke, Va., where the fall is just beginning to announce itself in spills of leaves on the roads in our neighborhood, the sharp shadows on the mountains left by late evening sun and an absence of humidity, and the chill in the night air through our back screen door.
We headed north, up the Shenandoah Valley to Harrisonburg where we joined my parents, then kept going north, all the way to New York. The occasion was sad – the burial of my mother-in-law, who has been fading away for a while now, lost into her past before she was lost into ours as dementia clouded her memories. The time together, however, was good.
It rained much of the drive up, but we could still see the leaves turning to yellows and oranges, a burst of red here and there, as we climbed in elevation, driving through the farmland and mountains of Pennsylvania.
We buried Eileen in Brooklyn, at the Evergreens Cemetery, where the trees, some green, some at the cusp of autumn, arch over the winding roads and shelter graves that reach back in time to the mid-19th century. We'd driven in through traffic, past the Manhattan skyline, picked out the Empire State Building, watched the waters of the Hudson, craned our necks to look up at the city's complex bridges, until we reached the Evergreens, an expanse of green and hills planted in the midst of urban streets. From just below Eileen's family's resting place, we caught a glimpse of skyline down beyond the trees, distant and quiet and almost faint.
After a short service, then lunch with our friend Virginia and her daughter near their apartment in the Bronx, we headed south to Harrisonburg again, covering the last stretch of miles by night, a half-moon hanging in the sky.
Yesterday we drove back to Roanoke, starting in fall, with trees crisp and bright, the mountains a soft kaleidoscope of early color, the sky deep blue. I stopped on the way to Weyers Cave and snapped some photos of this farm, with Massanutten Peak rising in the distance. We took Route 11 for a while, stopping in Staunton for Kline's ice cream, and in Lexington for coffee. VMI was playing Liberty and the stadium was crowded.
By the time we reached Roanoke, autumn's near-raucousness had calmed back to green. Fall, on its slow way south, still has to catch up, but now I know what to look forward to.