One of the glorious gifts of moving to the east coast is the weather. It's not just a small-talk starter: it can be the spine of whole conversations. After nearly 30 years in Los Angeles, I had pretty much deep-sixed any memories I had of dramatic seasonal shifts. Oh sure, in L.A. one has the winds in the fall and spring and the bits of rain in late December and early January; one learns to appreciate subtlety in distinguishing summer from fall, fall from winter. Torrential rains, or as an old associate used to say, "Tarantula Rains", are really the only extremes you get in the thirsty, squinting-through-the-relentless-sunniness of Los Angeles.
When I arrived in Pennsylvania, I didn't need a calendar to tell me we were in high summer. I am acquainted with humidity, but we are by no means friends, and I very quickly needed to don my gratitude hat. "I am grateful for the greenery. I am grateful for thunderstorms. I am grateful to see friends and family," and so on, trying my best to belittle the humidity and the fact that I am prone to bursts of inner heat these days, which combined to make misery a potential boarder in my heart.
But just as quickly as it beset us, humidity - and summer - has beaten a rapid retreat, and we are now in the midst of a beautiferous autumn. My dearest and oldest (and he wouldn't like that descriptor at all) friend, Jonathan, moved from L.A. to up state NY nearly two years ago, and once I made the exodus out of Cali, he began a campaign to get me to make the 4 hour drive to visit him in the heart of a giant forest. Yesterday, I made that trip.
The GPS, or as I call her, "Jean," got me here with nary a glitch and the drive was stupendous; the further north I drove, the more dramatic the foliage of red, orange and gold. I had always had a picture in my mind of what Jonathan's home here would look like, and the reality is practically an exact duplicate of my imaginings. Of course, part of that has to do with the design leanings (gay gay GAY!) that had characterized his home in Santa Monica, but the way that the cabin (it really is one) is situated, overlooking forest and lake, is magical. On too many levels to count, he really does live in fairy land.
This morning, I got up, took Gracie out for her morning constitutional, and had a cup of coffee as I gazed out over the deck and listened to the wind which has begun to HOWL. With that wind, the leaves have taken to fluttering down - like brightly colored giant snowflakes - before settling in a many-hued carpet on the forest floor. As the trees become denuded, you can see more and more of the lake, which Jonathan claims to have snowmobiled on last winter. He also has hundreds of maples from which, last winter, he tapped and made real maple syrup. Are you getting the picture? Gorgeous.
It seems fitting to be in the midst of a marked season change; the friendship I share with this man has traversed so many, many seasons. We met in NYC when he was 22 and I was 21, became "besties", moved to L.A. around the same time, both got married. I made Jonathan and his husband J.P. my daughter's God parents, J.P., (whom Jonathan had divorced) died a tragic death, my husband Owen (whom I had divorced) died a tragic death, we went through a heart-wrenching intervention on my daughter when she was 16, he bottomed out economically and moved back east to a home his dear friend Roy had bought for him (where are those kinds of friends and how can I make them?), and my bank account also scraped across the rocky bottom of the "recession," with the result that I, too, made the choice to move back east to be close to family with the possibility of returning to school. What a long strange trip it's been is pretty much our theme song.
And so here I am, working remotely on a piece of business that's based in L.A.(?!), while looking out into Jonathan's woods, my dog snoozing in front of the fireplace, the spidery pot plants leaning toward beams of sunlight dappling the living room floor. The thought that occurs is "How lucky I am to be alive", and how far is that from from the desperation and sadness I felt only months ago? This fall, it seems to me, is a season ripe with pure delights, pure comforts, pure glamor. But most of all, it truly is a season of pure miracles.