Out & About: The Leaf Peepers Are Right, Slow Down and Appreciate Our Home

  • The Plainfield Pumpkin People are out in full force. (Valley News — Liz Sauchelli)

  • The Plainfield Pumpkin People are out in full force. (Valley News — Liz Sauchelli)

  • The Plainfield Pumpkin People are out in full force. (Valley News — Liz Sauchelli)

  • The Plainfield Pumpkin People are out in full force. (Valley News — Liz Sauchelli)

  • The Plainfield Pumpkin People are out in full force. (Valley News — Liz Sauchelli)

  • The Plainfield Pumpkin People are out in full force. (Valley News — Liz Sauchelli)

Valley News Calendar Editor
Friday, October 12, 2018

Plainfield — A college friend of mine was coming to visit over Columbus Day weekend, and before he headed out from Albany, N.Y., I imparted the wisdom that has been imparted to me: Beware of the leaf peepers.

Don’t be surprised, I cautioned, if the car in front of you suddenly pulls over and people jump out and start taking photographs of a tree, or a covered bridge, or a barn, or a cow, or a stone wall or …

And, true to form, that’s what he encountered.

I have always lived in the Northeast. I have never not seen the leaves change colors before falling to the ground. My voice has joined others in the Upper Valley in the annual chorus of leaf peeper complaints when I can’t find a seat at my favorite restaurant, when out-of-staters park at a gas pump and, despite the line behind them, take their time in the convenience store. My eyes have rolled at the parade gathering by the Quechee Gorge, and I have been known to vacate the premises when I see a tour bus roll into the parking lot.

This could be a sign that I feel at home enough here to complain about the season’s challenges. It happens every year, after all, and every year I have been greeted by the familiar traffic clogs and other small annoyances.

While out hiking, I will regularly stop to admire the views, the trees or anything else that I find interesting on a trail. But while going about my day — the mundane drive to work, a trip to the grocery store — I don’t often take that moment to pause and appreciate the daily display of fall that surrounds me.

When did I start to take it for granted? When did I stop celebrating the first change of colors, the first hint that fall is here? Did I ever fully appreciate it at all?

These questions are rhetorical. I cannot pinpoint when this cynicism started to creep in, but I knew it was something I didn’t want to continue.

When I saw the first Facebook posts for the Plainfield Pumpkin People, I knew I’d found the cure for my cynicism. I remembered the tour John Austin, the event manager, gave me last year and how much I enjoyed the bursts of creativity Plainfield residents put up on their properties.

My first attempt, the last week in September, was too early. I stopped in, slightly discouraged, at Anne’s Plainfield Country Convenience Store. Come back in a couple of weeks, owner Anne Yates told me.

And so last Wednesday, armed with my Plainfield Pumpkin People map (found on pumpkinpeople.org), I returned. I was determined to make this a leisurely trip, so I kept my GPS turned off, choosing instead to stop back in to see Yates for her recommendations on what roads to take. She drew me a map and I was again reminded of the charms of talking with people instead of relying on technology.

The Pumpkin People did not disappoint. There was Fred Flintstone, Mrs. Doubtfire, Jack from The Nightmare Before Christmas. There were pumpkin skiers and pop stars, musicians and fishermen. Pumpkin People in tie-dye shirts manned a lemonade stand outside the Meriden Deli Mart, and a pumpkin choir singer perched outside the Plainfield Community Church.

During my friend’s visit, we drove over the Quechee Gorge bridge and stopped by the Windsor-Cornish covered bridge. We hiked Gile Mountain and walked through downtown Hanover. Nearly everywhere were signs of fall — along with the leaf peepers eager to take it all in. I found myself getting caught up in my friend’s excitement, and that of those who surrounded us.

It’s easy now, with all that’s going on in the country and the world, to become jaded and cynical. It can be hard to disconnect, to appreciate the trees and the leaves and the crisp air when you’re stopping at the grocery store to pick up a last-minute item, waiting in line at the gas station or hurrying to work.

And then I realize that the tourists who visit our area for a month each year are coming to do just that.

On Wednesday, somewhere near the Cornish-Plainfield town line, I stopped my car to take a photograph. I took in the bright blue sky, the fluffy white clouds, the green grass — and yes — the changing, colorful trees.

The leaf peepers have it right: We live in a pretty incredible place. It’s worth slowing down to appreciate that.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.