The hardest part about falling in love with a mountain is figuring out how to take it with you.
I once heard “nostalgia” described as anticipating the pain of a moment ending before it has. As the crisp, clean fall air begins to descend over the mountain, I feel myself overcome with waves of gratitude and nostalgia, for a time that I know hasn’t even finished.
When October comes to a close, we will depart for two months before beginning our Phase II placements in the surrounding area. During the year of Phase II, we will take what we have learned and implement it in surrounding communities in partnership with wonderful organizations.
Three weeks ago, the air began smelling of fall. One morning I walked out of my cabin and felt the crisp, clean air bite at my cheeks. I noticed for the first time just how much the sunrise had shifted across the horizon over the last few months. I felt a rush of excitement followed by a pang of knowing that once fall arrived, I would be heading back home to Lynchburg.
Instead of looking too far ahead and swimming in the speculation of what may come, I’m trying my best to let these waves push me into being more present. I’m trying to experience and find ways to preserve memories from this bountiful season of growth, beauty, and challenges so that I can take them me.
As we put up jars of preserved fruit, pickles, and other produce on the shelves for next year, I find myself sinking a little deeper into the moments in front of me to try and preserve each one in my mind for when I leave on that first day of November.
I want to save moments that I want to revisit when the snow blankets the gardens and my mind craves the colors of summer, to preserve getting lost in fields of goldenrod down the hillside that echo every shade of yellow and orange with pops of purple thistle clusters.
I want to preserve swimming in a magical pond -- full of red efts surrounded by visiting mushrooms and moss gardens -- with current and past fellows, slack-lining, listening to music, and taking turns canon-balling into the cold water during alumni weekend.
I want to preserve the memory of walking on the deck and seeing 30 people who have been united by this fellowship, and that are now united by this experience, laughing and sharing their favorite memories of this beautiful place. To know that those friendships will continue to grow and deepen as time continues.
I want to remember morning runs to see the sunrise crest over the Allegheny range, sometimes crossing paths with deer and turkeys, terrifying both of us in the process.
I want to remember how, for my birthday, the other Fellows asked my Mom what my favorite kind of cake was, and then proceeded to surprise me with my great grandma’s buttermilk cake and the most thoughtful handmade gifts.
I want to remember seeing curtains of fireflies fill the valley and pulse to the rhythm of unknown songs and shimmer with the thunderstorm as it rolled overhead.
I want to wander in full wonderment of this place and take that deepened connection to nature with me, wherever my path leads.
When November 1st arrives, I know that I will be leaving this beautiful place carrying a toolbox filled with knowledge of how to address issues in our current food system and build community –- the catalysts that brought me to this amazing place and immersive program.
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