I left Vermont on October 6, just as my body was swinging full into fall mode. One evening a couple of weeks earlier, as I was wrapping up a day’s work on the farm, I felt the first autumn breeze: crisp and a little bit heavy, bringing with it the scent of changing leaves. I stopped in front of the barn and breathed in through my nose, filling my lungs with the cool scent, and instantly craved apple cider. It didn’t take long after that for my taste buds to yearn for squash, pumpkins, apples, cider doughnuts, and all the flavors of fall that swirl around with the foliage.
The week before I left I filled up on Cold Hollow cider, and on my last night home my mom baked pumpkin pie for dessert. My last taste of Vermont before traveling halfway around the world was a simple sandwich on honey-wheat bread from Northfield with Cabot cheddar cheese, a honey s apple from Grande Isle, Pete’s Greens mesclun mix, and a thick layer of honey mustard from South Burlington, which I took with me on the bus to the Boston Airport. (Mmm, I crave this as I write, thinking of autumn afternoons in my kitchen at St. Lawrence University with Katie Craig, Jaffe, KO and CQ when we’d made this ame sandwich open-faced, melting the cheese under the broiler).
Now, in the end of New Zealand’s spring, I find myself confused by the reversal of seasons. As the locals are getting excited for summer, I keep expecting the sun to go down at 6:00, then 5:00, even as it stretches on past 8:00 p.m. The excitement and lightness that comes after winter is visible in the eyes of the people in Karamea. The menus boast of asparagus, rhubarb, and whitebait (a small fish whose season lasts six weeks in the spring). I see calves, buttercups in green fields, unripened strawberries and greens just popping up in the garden as the spring rains water the ground.
This past Sunday we seeded corn and pumpkin; I imagine houses in New England decorated for fall with dried corn husks tied up around porch beams, with mums, gourds and pumpkins lining walkways and framing front doors. The contrast is so vivid–Karamea in the stage of rebirth and Vermont at the end of harvest that autumn’s death brings–and I am pulled between the place I am in and the place I came from. It is said that for every time zone you cross, it takes that many days to recover from jet lag. I’ve been in New Zealand for more than 17 days, and though my sleep schedule is back on track, it will take much more time to adjust to the reversal of seasons.
How does one move in time and still be part of the rhythms of a place? How long does it take to really be part of a new landscape–a week, a month, a year? It is hard to know. I can think of only one answer: Stay put. Be still. Listen.