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Fall into Harvard: Autumnal Vignettes from Crimson Arts

Autumn foliage along a New England highway.
Autumn foliage along a New England highway. By Courtesy of Sheba_Also / Wikimedia Commons

Fall at Harvard brings pumpkin spice lattes to the coffee shops in Harvard Square, midterms, brilliant orange and red leaves that match the Georgian-style bricks of the Yard, and many more autumnal events for Harvard students to take in. However, autumn is also a time for reflection, as the change of seasons reminds us of memories long past.

Read on for some of the Arts Board’s favorite fall memories, from the beauty of fall foliage in New England to all the delicious tastes of autumn!

Leaf Bed

Raking leaves is not the most pleasant of tasks. The prongs of the rake scrape roughly against the blacktop, and I have to give it a mighty shake every once in a while to avoid getting leaves caught up in the rake, which would render my hard efforts all for naught. If I’m lucky, clearing the driveway takes an hour; two, if I’m working alone.

Yet as I work, the dryness of the chore fades away, and anticipation builds as the foliage accumulates into colorful piles. Higher and higher rise the summits of these make-shift mountains as I push inwards at their bases. After a certain point — when additional leaves begin to tumble softly down the sides — I know it’s ready.

Turning away from the pile, I raise both arms perpendicular to my body, tilt backwards, and land with a satisfying rustle — a trust fall that never fails.

My body is covered with a blanket of red, orange, and yellow with only my face exposed to feel the caress of the chilly autumn air and catch the wafting smell of a warm dinner. The thought arises that Mom would nag at me about getting my hair dirty, but the bed of leaves is decidedly worth this future scolding.

When my dad asks me to help stuff the leaves into the compost bin, I ask for one more minute between me, the leaves, fall, the leaves, and me.

—Nicole L. Guo

Sunlight in Vermont

Wearied and worn by too many all-nighters, we sleep through three states.

Rubbing our eyes, my friends and I pile out of the van into Woodstock, Vermont. Here, every store sports maple syrup paraphernalia, every window inexplicably flies a Canadian flag, and every porch has a small army of pumpkins. Here, the mundane minutiae of college life and looming horizon of the future cannot reach us.

We’re starving, but every downtown restaurant is overrun by overeager tourists, so we retreat a mile down the road to a gas station for lunch. We order ourselves chicken parm and buy soda and chips, our fingers growing sticky as we feast. By the gas station restroom, we pick up an advertisement on kittens for sale. We scheme to adopt a cat and give it six names, one for each of us. “Asparagus,” I think I’d name it. Gus for short.

Walking back to the town center, we pass distant emerald hills, the shapes of faraway cows like clouds in a verdant sky, and soaring trees whose golden limbs are just beginning to turn crimson. We take endless pictures of each other, bathing in the last remnants of warm fall light. We crouch to watch the progression of a babbling brook, arms windmilling as we hop between slippery riverstones. Senses flooded by an abundance of beauty, more than we can ever hope to remember, we practice slowness, try on unfamiliar tempos for size.

Still, we are 19, dreaming of a cat to call our own, and we have everything we need right here.

—Emma E. Chan

Picnicking in The Yard

This year, as I moved from small-town Maine to Cambridge to start my first year at Harvard, I was worried about the transition to city life. Although excited for the wealth of experiences now available, I very much value my time out in nature with the people I care about. At home, I had always spent extra time outdoors during the fall, taking in the last moments before it became too cold to sit around outside and take it all in.

In the Lionel courtyard just outside of Harvard Yard, I sat with some of my new friends on a weekday afternoon in mid-October. Basking in the sun and taking in the views of the changing leaves, we talked and relaxed under the guise of p-setting and finishing readings for our upcoming classes. On our picnic blankets from the check-in table at orientation, we exchanged Trader Joe’s snacks and stories of our first weeks on campus.

Although definitely a common first-year activity, it was during this time that I realized sharing time outside with others wasn’t something I had to give up in an urban area. As the campus has settled into fall, it has proved to be just as charming, festive, and beautiful as it was at home and a lovely opportunity to get to know my new classmates.

—Hannah M. Wilkoff

Apple Picking Is a Metaphor

It’s fall. You’re walking and awkwardly laughing with family friends that you haven’t seen in months, leaves are peppering the gradient between green and red and — my gosh, it’s fall! It snuck up on you like it did every other year, with the summer slipping away like an overwhelming concert that counts hours, then minutes, and then seconds until its close.

An apple offers itself. Ripe? No. Tasty? Maybe. You take a bite, the sugar and tartness combining in a sweet symphony — you’ve never tasted anything better. You throw it at your brother. The next apple goes in the bag — it was pretty solidly Red you would say — and so does the next one after that. You forget about the bag and reminisce for half an hour, the conversation flowing easier now. It’s fall. The school year has started, dragging along the stress of classes and extracurriculars; the burdens of life have begun and it’s time to be a person again. But wait — an apple draws you in, shining red amongst a sea of green. Maybe life can wait.

It’s fall. It’s cold and it’s rainy and it’s miserable half the time. The other half is mostly melancholy. But wait — an apple draws you in, glistening red in an ocean of green. Does life wait? No. You take a bite anyway, the sweet symphony tasting better than anything and everything until you step in the car to leave. It’s time to be a person again. It’s fall.

Life can’t wait.

—Alessandro M. M. Drake

Remembrance of Mountains in Fall

Every fall, my family would pile into our minivan and drive north from Connecticut. I’d watch the fall foliage speed by from the car windows — a fleeting blur that grew more brilliant in color as we approached New Hampshire and autumn with my grandparents.

Once there in their house perched on a hill, I’d rise late in the morning and make a cup of hot chocolate in their dark, homey kitchen. I’d trace the purple shadows of the White Mountains beyond the kitchen window with my finger. I’d run through the meadow in front of their driveway, leaves crunching beneath my feet, and dive into an old hammock by the feeders where bluebirds came in the spring and summer. But this was fall.

One day, my dad decided to take us hiking on a real mountain. We started early in the morning, when the air was fresh and bright, and morning dew glimmered on the grass like diamonds. The trail wound through glades of birch, pale against the blaze of red and orange foliage.

A few hours passed. We had made our way up a good portion of the mountain, though the mosaic path of leaves looked the same. All at once, the trees opened ahead and a portion of the sky appeared. I looked out over all the colors of fall: wisps of mist blanketing the small town of Lyme, a white church steeple barely visible through the fog. Beyond, hills of lush foliage rolling into high mountains — and then sky.

I took a deep breath, searing the image in my mind. A memory of autumn, an instant in time, a transient moment of stillness in the flurry of life.

—Arielle C. Frommer

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