We live in a college town in the Appalachian mountains. Our town’s population doubles when classes are in session, and swells again when there’s a football game. It is Homecoming this weekend. There was a parade last night, which we avoided downtown because of, and the football game is today at 3pm.
I debated whether to reserve a lane at the pool today. A noon reservation would put me on the road home in the two hours before kickoff. Traffic could be terrible. I really wanted to swim, though, so I took the risk and booked a lane.
During my swim, I forgot about traffic, forgot about the game, forgot about the outside world. It wasn’t until the way home, when I crossed the overpass to get on the highway, that I remembered.
Traffic was heavy but flowed fine, and as I approached the highway, I saw on it the blue flashing lights of a police escort leading the caravan of team busses into town. I chose a different route to avoid them, and when I entered the highway at a different point, the highway was normal, like any other day.
Except it wasn’t. Trees still heavy with leaves swayed in the wind. An eddy of golden leaves lifted in an airy funnel between the road and the treetops. The sky was both dark and light. Thin sunbeams shone through gray rainclouds, and against the backdrop of a dark clouded sky, I saw the beginnings of reds and yellows on the mountainsides. Cars passed with maroon VT window flags whipping on the driver and passenger sides.
Off the highway, on the roads that take me home home, I passed a row of sugar maples blushing orange around the edges. I passed houses where tailgaters clustered around smoking grills, maroon hoods up, one hand in their sweatshirt pocket, the other holding their plastic Solo cup. I had my windows down and heard talking, laughter, and the whoosh of wind gusts through the trees. The day was becoming blustery.
In the neighborhood, leaves blew and swirled in the air in front of me. They collected in piles of bronze crisps at the curb, and they crunched under my tires on the street.
Just before my final turn home, I watched a small murmuration of starlings swoop and cloud, then stretch out, then clump again, then disappear behind the trees. I stopped the car to watch them. I’m glad I took the risk to go out today.
Now, at home, I type in a flannel shirt. All of our windows are open, and the temperature is dropping. A cold front is passing through. I hear the building rustle of leaves, the clong of a neighbor’s wind chimes, and the honk of Canada geese high above as they fly over.
I don’t care about football, but I do love football weather.