I’m an American from a tidy suburb in metro Detroit, Michigan, and I’ve been living abroad for five years. I’ve lived in a tropical climate where it’s summer all year long, and I’m now living where it rains more days than not during the winter. Around this time of year, while buying back-to-school supplies and retraining my body to get up earlier, I begin to really, really, really miss my home US state of Michigan in the fall. Fall in America is just so beautiful!
Cue homesickness violins.
Fall in America – Michigan to be exact, and much of the northeastern to Midwestern states is short. It’s only about two months, if we’re lucky, three. Starting at the end of September the leaves turn red, golden, and light green and drop, ever so carefully, one by one, off the branches until about mid-November.
It’s a beautiful time of year. So if you’re lucky enough to be on a J1 visa in the northern states, do me a favor? Savor this season. Here are all the ways you can.
1. Go to the apple orchards
Even though the origins of apple orchards in the US are colonial, the apple orchard has been a part of my upbringing and my memories of growing up in America.
When I was a kid, we’d take an annual trip to the apple orchards every year (though now I wish they would have taught us the real origin of them). We’d go on a hayride through the fields, picking apples as we passed the trees, and later we’d get to feed the animals on the petting farm.
They were fun field trips. It was nice to be out in nature and eating the crisp apples fresh from the tree.
2. Enjoy hot cider, donuts, and all things cinnamon
Typically, an apple orchard will be on the same property as a cider mill. And the cider mill usually makes and sells a variety of delicious goodies (if they don’t, then definitely go to a different cider mill!). Among these delicacies are, of course, cider, fresh-baked donuts, and types of candy I’ve only ever seen at a cider mill store.
The smell of cinnamon permanently lingers in the air, indicating cinnamon dipped donuts.
On a chilly but sunny Sunday afternoon, the apple orchard/cider mill is a lovely outing, complete with a hot cup of cider and fresh out of the oven cinnamon-dipped donuts….and animals to pet!
3. Rake the leaves
Okay, full disclosure: I haven’t raked leaves in at least a decade. But it’s on this list because I only have fond memories of doing it, even though it was often a chore.
It’s so rewarding pulling giant, fallen leaves into a big pile. And after you’ve made that big ol’ pile, heaving your whole body into it.
The crunch of the leaves beneath you in your ear, the fresh autumn air in your lungs, and then another hot cup of cider afterward….all of it makes me want to go home now.
4. Go for long walks among the trees
Have you ever seen the leaves change colors? It’s such a beautiful, magical thing the earth gives us every year. A celebration of what a wonderful summer it’s been, a gentle reminder winter is coming.
Walking underneath the trees, listening to the leaves fall and crunch beneath your boot (because, boots and scarves), is the most relaxing, nostalgic feeling. Healing, even. Alone or with lovely people you’ve met along your journey or, if you have them with you, a family member, a walk in the fall, at least for me, ignites poetry and pondering and clears the mind of the clutter.
Pics or it didn’t happen.
Just kidding, I’m actually talking about real photos. Although, you’ll do what you want and Instagram is a-okay, but do you remember what film is? In high school, we were lucky enough to have black and white photography as a course of study, developing our film rolls in an actual dark room.
Fall was my favorite time to take photos on 35-millimeter film for class because…
5.5. The autumn light
The light this time of year in this part of the world has a filter you can’t match on an iPhone. It is a quiet light as if all day were just before sunset. Perhaps it is a sunset of sorts, a grand goodbye from the sun until the spring.
Take advantage of the light, of the trees, of the smells and tastes and sounds of this wonderful season. Obviously, it’s my favorite. Enjoy.