We are lucky to actually experience all four of nature’s seasons here in Tennessee. But fall is my favorite time of year. No doubt about it.
While winter doesn’t usually mean a lot of snow for those of us in Middle and West Tennessee, the season is short and mild enough to avoid all the transportation problems and high utility costs of keeping warm in the more northern states. Because our geography puts us in close enough proximity to the mountains of East Tennessee, those who long for a dose of “real winter” can make such an escape without too much difficulty.
Spring brings us tangible evidence of rebirth as the countryside comes alive and turns from brown to green. There is more to that concept than just flowers and trees. We tend to look at life a little bit differently once the birds begin to chirp again. So I understand why so many people love the spring.
So many fun things are associated with summer — the end of the school year, parades, neighborhood barbecues, family vacations, Little League baseball, swimming pools and trips to the lake or the beach — but these are all cultural and have little to do with the season itself. Frankly, the sweltering summer heat can be harmful to many of us. And day-to-day life requires just an extra bit of preparation to deal with those extra degrees on the thermometer.
Autumn is the time when I seem to most come alive. If you’re like me, mild temperatures just invite you to turn off the TV and get outside. The sounds and smells of a fire as you gather around it with friends and family are not things that can be manufactured; they’re only available in their real forms. And who wants to build a fire when it’s 90 degrees at 7 p.m.? The slight chill in the crisp night air is invigorating as you breathe it deep inside.
And the colors of fall are even more spectacular than spring, in my opinion. Even if you disagree, the quote of Albert Camus certainly rings true here: “Autumn is a second spring, where every leaf is a flower.” And in Tennessee, the leaves certainly outnumber the flowers. I am not alone in my opinion. Tourists come to our state by the busload and planeload to view the changing of the colors in the more than 100 native species of deciduous trees found inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. When was the last time you took a drive up to Cades Cove and witnessed the majesty of the mountains in the fall?
In Middle Tennessee, take a drive up and down the Natchez Trace Parkway sometime between mid-October and mid-November. The colors are breathtaking, and along the way are some of the most scenic overlooks you’ll find anywhere. History buffs will enjoy the monument to Meriwether Lewis. If you love waterfalls like I do, be sure to stop at Jackson Falls or Fall Hollow, where three waterfalls are within a few feet of each other. Stop in Collinwood to get a brownie before you turn around and head back north.
In the western part of the state, you’ll get an extra couple of weeks to enjoy the colors because of the lower elevation. Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park offers some of the nation’s best bird-watching — species include the majestic American bald eagle — in addition to the beauty of its 12,000-plus-acre landscape. Chickasaw State Park is situated on some of the highest ground in the state, making its leaves turn just a bit sooner than the rest of the Mississippi Delta. Cyclists enjoy the park, and what better time to take a long ride than when the scenery, rather than the ride, takes your breath away?
But other opportunities abound just around the corner from your house. Just search the Internet for “Tennessee fall foliage,” and you’ll see what I mean.
We are so fortunate to be surrounded by immense natural beauty. But if you are like me, you probably are so busy with the mundane things in life that you miss it altogether. Like your grandmother used to say, “Take time to stop and smell the flowers.” Take a few minutes this fall to slow down and see what surrounds you. I hope you will be happy you did.