Joyce Maynard's Guide to Falling in New Hampshire

The stretch of Route 12 from Cornish southbound is one of my favorites in the state, with the kind of sweeping, sweeping views that folia...


The stretch of Route 12 from Cornish southbound is one of my favorites in the state, with the kind of sweeping, sweeping views that foliage seekers typically travel north to find. It was 6.30pm when we arrived in Walpole, a town whose notoriety was greatly enhanced by the presence of filmmaker Ken Burns. In the general store, there’s an exceptionally fine range of cheeses and take-out – great for film crews and fall foliage picnics. Just down the street is a perfect place to consume these items: Alyson Orchard, where you can buy half a dozen or more varieties of apples, or pick your own and eat them in the orchard (possibly with that good cheese) facing the red and golden hills.

For Jordan and I, it was closer to dinner than lunch, so we returned to my old home in Keene (I wrote my novels “Where Love Goes” and “To Die For” there) – known as the city with the widest main street in America. A few years ago, the city funded a mural project on the sides of brick buildings featuring highlights from Keene’s history. My favorite is the portrait of Jonathan Daniels, who grew up a few houses away from where my children and I lived. Daniels was shot dead in Alabama in 1965 while participating in a civil rights campaign.

I still remember the city’s pumpkin festival. Each Halloween, residents joined forces to create a record number of Guinness carved pumpkins that volunteers would set up with flickering candles on scaffolding all over the square. But my favorite part came later – around midnight on the night of the festival – when I was coming back to town on my own to see all those lighted lanterns with no one else. No pumpkin party this year, because of the Covid, but organizers promise it will return.

It was after nine o’clock when we returned to the little cottage on a dirt road where I spend my summers now, a house that I would lock up in a week or two, when the nights got too cold. Jordan and I had covered almost 400 miles since we left that morning, and I was feeling the weight of the ends. The days are getting shorter. My November birthday is approaching. Another year that is coming to an end.

I looked at the lake on which my little New Hampshire summer cottage sits, with its lonely loonie. The crickets were chirping, which reminded me of the chapter of “Charlotte’s Web” that I had just finished reading aloud in the car.

“Even the best days of the whole year – the days when summer turns into fall – crickets spread rumors of sadness and change,” wrote EB White. “Summer is over and gone,” repeated the crickets. “

White is right. Each fall brings a little death, marked by the most glorious explosion of color, like the last turn of fireworks before the sky is silent. The good news: the seasons just keep turning. Come in the spring, new leaves will grow and we will start the cycle again, if the luck is with us.

Joyce Maynard’s most recent novel is “Count the Ways,” the story of four decades of a family on a farm in New Hampshire.

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