There is something about autumn that overtakes me. It wraps me up in a nice warm blanket and takes me to the park underneath that one tree that’s started to change colors and tells me to be patient. To wait for that one crimsoned leaf to fall right beside me. And it hands me a cup of tea to sip slowly.
Fall takes me back to my younger years when I would go to Iron Kettle Farm in Upstate New York and run around the pumpkin patch and get lost in the maize maze. It takes me to apple cider doughnuts and apple cider mulling on the stovetop. It takes me to adventures in cars to farms I never knew existed. Autumn takes me to my grandparent’s house for Thanksgiving and gives me pumpkin pie spiced with exuberant amounts of cinnamon and nutmeg.
What fall does to me is makes me happy and warm.
I don’t know what it is about fall that makes me reflect back on years past and look forward to large scarves, wool-knit hats, and lots of root vegetables. Maybe it’s that transitional phase in the seasons – that pause before the dive into the deep bone-chilling winter that I’ve grown so accustomed to. Maybe it’s the aesthetic change from the sizzling heat baking off the pavement to a crisp clearness with trees shedding their clothes. Either way, it’s distinct.
Even the smell of autumn is emblazoned into my mind. I smell that crunching leaves smell, that pine needles on the trail, that cold water over the rock smell, and I smile. I can’t help it. I feel like a little Pavlovian dog, but fall has it’s control over me.
Since I’ve been in the city for the past two months, I haven’t really smelled much other than food and car exhaust. Maybe an occasional garbage whiff, but that’s all I have. At least that’s all I had until I made a somewhat necessary escape to the countryside of Korea this past weekend.
Packing my bags on a Sunday morning, didn’t expect myself to be starting a journey on the last day of the weekend. But seeing as I don’t start work until 2pm on Monday, it seemed the best use of my time. My good friend here in Korea and I found a bus and hopped on it for the next two hours to end up in a little hot springs town where we tried to get off to get our bearings.
This wasn’t what the bus driver had in mind for us. He knew we were bound for the mountain to go hiking so he started to toss Korean at the two of us, and Darcie was the one to actually catch it. I caught a few words like “ time” “later” “morning” and “beer.” What he ended up saying was “it’s too late to start hiking now, so you should get out at the mountain town, walk around, eat, get a beer, maybe have a date, sleep, and get up at 5am to hike to the top of the mountain.”
He believed that his plan was the best so much so that when he let us off – in front of a restaurant – he beckoned to the waitress to take care of us, feed us bibimbap, and give us a room to stay in.
We ended up only taking two parts of his advice: eating at that restaurant and drinking beer much later.
Instead of meandering around the town and having a date, we headed for one of the mountain’s peaks. And it was almost exactly what I expected from Korean hiking: nothing I would expect. The trail started off as a nice gradual incline, then turned into elongated steps, into a steep incline, to stairs that I could stand upright on and touch the next step, to crevasses carved out with hand rails next to them.
But I have to say that it was all worth it. Wouldn’t you agree?
When I got back to Seoul the next morning around noon, a short two hours before work started, I was enlivened with a desire to embrace fall in so many ways. Hot beverages, scarves, apples, and root vegetables.
So tonight I sit here typing as my pumpkin-apple soup is simmering over a low heat, filling my apartment with warmth, hearty-sweet smells accented by cinnamon. That is to say: I made fall smell in my apartment. I step outside and I smell frying chicken, but in here, oh it is nothing but greens-yellow-orange-red-crimson leaves falling around me as I bite into a crisp apple.
The soup is turning out to be a nice thick soup subtly sweet and distinctively deep. The apples add a spark of brightness amongst the simmering onions, garlic, salt, cinnamon, and pumpkin. I added a little brown sugar to bring out the sweetness of both the apples and pumpkin, and to round out the salty-sweet taste we all know, love and savor.
To fall, soup season, and a crimson leaf or four.