In the Garden State the trees had caught fire, redder than I'd ever seen them. We drove through the center of the state, near where Washington and his troops crossed, through roads I spent my college years unmapping. See, it can be beautiful here, I said. See, see?
Sometimes it feels very important to me, showing off my home state's natural curves.
There were flocks of birds on our way, each of them fighting the wind. I became immensely devoted to rooting for them. They beat their wings, furious. Under my breath I'd murmur encouragements. They tried so hard to stay ahead of nature, to stay above the burning trees. They were so brave, those birds.
We stayed in a house on a golf course. We got lost. When we finally found it, it was empty, but our names were on an envelope inside the foyer. (It all felt very The Westing Game.) Outside, the trees were less on fire and more roasting, mostly oranges and yellows instead of reds; like how the tips of broccoli curl up and turn dark when the oven is too hot. It was somewhere between afternoon and evening, when the sky is more white than any other color.
This is fall, I realized. This is this particular autumn. Mark it.