Leaves on the Forest Floor

November’s air smells different, and the sky, too, takes on a slightly different hue as well. Sometimes it’s grey, other times sunny and blue, but the cold always makes it a different blue than in July. The forests of Pennsylvania are mostly done dropping their leaves by the time Thanksgiving comes around, leaving bare branches.

The ride down to Wheeling was always warm, and I recall watching the frosty hills and black trees glide on by. We would always meet with family at this time of year, and it was one of my favorite holidays. Taking walks outside in the crisp air was a treat, and the earth smelled so good. It was a mix of leaves, trees, dirt, campfire, and cooking– and it is my favorite scent. Looking down from the road, it is just forest, with its blanket of yellow, red, brown, and deep orange leaves. It seems to steep downward in a step formation, leveling off, then dropping again until the bottom. All of it was littered with rocks and fallen trees, but the same colorful covering was all over each part of the forest floor. I remember thinking, I wish I could go down there and explore, but how would I get back up here? I left it to my imagination to be that explorer and wanderer of those woods. We kept walking the road, but I never forgot that vivid picture of the forest floor. When I see something similar, it sparks a stream of consciousness that I associate with November, and never want to forget, full of warm memories, people long gone, and times that will never be again.

Sadly Thanksgiving never seems to live up to those times we all met at the cabins in Wheeling. Part of that I’m sure is rose-colored nostalgia, but part of it is because people grow a part, and people pass who cannot be replaced.

Duck ponds and playgrounds, lodges decorated for Christmas and the smell of an indoor pool, warm cabins and hearth fires, twinkling lights and cold air breath; the sadness of leaving when the holiday was over.

I think November sort of evokes a closing out the year theme for a lot of people, as we wind down and watch nature get ready for winter. It also always makes me think of dinners spent with close family and friends, and that feeling of welcoming love and hospitality that seems to get hustled and bustled out of the way too much.

Quiet, chilly, grey days and cold, crisp, log fire scented nights. That sums up November for me, and I absolutely cherish it.

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