By Merisa Sherman
Modern times call for faster cars and smoother roads, easing the methods of travel so we can get there quicker or go further. We are all trying to play keep-up by having the latest and the greatest, our noses glued to the blue light that comes out of our phones and rushing from one scheduled activity to another. Here in Vermont, we get caught up in our jobs and causes and communities, and then add the stress of being a tourist state. We grab our bikes, our boats or our hiking shoes and head off into our beautiful mountains to seek solace and burn off all that pent up energy.
But do we really see what is around us?
My first foliage season as a Vermont resident, 19 years ago, I was dropping something off at the cat yard and bumped into an old-time Vermonter. He took the time to talk with me, telling me stories of his homemade apple press and how well the processing was going since he had made a slight adjustment to the mechanism that year. I stood, captivated by the thoughtful manner in which he spoke and the tiny details, which he mentioned. He spoke about cracks in the wood and rust on the iron handle. When I pointed this out to him, he smiled knowingly and said simply,“You have to look to really see.”
That wise man changed my relationship with the earth that day.
Instead of marching to the peak as fast as I could, I started to really look and notice what was around me. More than just noticing the color of the leaves, I noticed the smell of them. That faint musty smell that contrasts so clearly with the crisp fall air. I started to hear the variable tones of the wind as it swept through distinct areas of the forest. I began to feel the different textures beneath my feet as I placed them on the earth. No longer did I simply place one foot in front of the other on a marked trail, focused solely on my destination and mileage and time. I was able to step away away from the prescribed path.
I had been set free.
As the leaves change again this autumn, as they always do, we are given yet another chance to look and really see what is going on around us. Mother Nature is literally shoving her artwork in our faces, begging us to slow down and truly notice her magic. She wants us to leave the ease of the paved road and turn down the rugged dirt one. Instead of zooming past the beauty, she is beckoning us to immerse ourselves in nature and see what we can see if only we slow down and look at it. Turn down the dirt road, lined with orange and brown leaves, and drive 25 mph instead of 65. Notice the yellowing canopy above our heads, rather than the rock that’s been mercilessly blasted to make room for the modern.
There are more than 8,000 miles of dirt roads in our little state. Get your car a little dirty, take a break from the aggressive bike trails or just stop and take a walk under the yellowing canopy. Take the time to explore that dirt road and you will be amazed at how much you can see. No matter which dirt road you choose, may you truly see what is around you. And maybe, just maybe, let the wind circle around you and let the spirit of the Green Mountains enter your soul.