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Stop and Smell the Seasons by Krystal L. '17

Before it's winter and your nose is so numb you can't smell anything.

The leaves are falling like snowflakes and sometimes when the sun hits the trees just right, the Massachusetts landscape burns golden. The fabled season of fall has arrived in all of its deciduous glory and is currently running around giving everyone chilly hugs. I’ve lived in Southern California for ten years now, but unlike other sun-loving transplants, I consider the brisk weather a welcome change.

My impressions of fall, in the absence of any real comparable seasonal changes, are idealized and heavily informed by cheesy holiday movies and distant memories of childhood days spent frolicking in Indiana. When I think fall, I think piles of crunchy, crispy leaves ripe for the leaping, apple picking, cinnamon and nutmeg sunshine, crackling fireplaces, and pie.

Mmm, pie.

Here is a picture of pie I found on the internet for all you visual learners out there.

Two weeks ago, four or five buses wound their way down 30 miles of tree-lined asphalt to Honey Pot Hills Orchards. Laden with sleepy MIT students, the buses arrived in a cloud of dust and we stormed the orchard, wielding plastic bags and enthusiasm. It was like we had found a way to bottle the effervescence of autumn in just one day.

Photo credits to Elisa ’17. Thanks for letting me use your beautiful masterpieces!

After munching on cider donuts and a bottle of apple cider, we sat down between the animal pens and the pumpkin patch, breathing in the smell of falling leaves and listening to the sounds of laughter. Away from psets, exams, and the confines of dormitory walls, I could feel the last bits of summer peeling away, like a banana, or a skintight jumpsuit.

The main attraction, of course, was apple picking. One hayride later, we were dropped off amidst the sprawling rows of trees heavy with fruits. Before we began hoarding apples left and right, we took a crash course in apple picking courtesy of the internet. The proper technique, apparently, involves consideration of the color, firmness, and age of each apple. Not particularly interested in perfecting my apple picking skills, I stuck with my own improvised method. I call it the tickle test:

Step 1: Tickle the apple.
– If the apple has fallen, congratulations! You are the proud parent of a ripe apple.
– If the apple has not fallen, repeat step 1 on a different, hopefully more ticklish apple.

We clambered up rickety ladders wedged between branches, scaled tree trunks, and hung from branches, channeling our inner three-toed sloths. Along the way, we polished a few apples with un-tucked shirt ends and devoured them. Despite the rampant snacking, our bags were filled to the brim in no time and we headed back to the buses, sad to be leaving the crimson yellow landscape.

Look! Rita is a sloth!

There’s no doubt that we are firmly rooted in fall now. Another summer has come and gone and there are only a few more months until winter pokes its head around the corner. Some branches are already entirely bare, perfect for Halloween spookiness, but less ideal for providing shade or general leafy pleasantness. Which I guess is pretty hard to do if you don’t have any actual leaves.

Even the Johnson athletic center has already been transformed into an ice skating rink. I used to take ice skating lessons in Indiana, but all I can remember is how to lace up my skates and how to fall. I’m probably an expert at falling down, so if you need any tips or pointers on how to be clumsier, I’d be more than willing to help.

The ice rink is opened to the students for free during Spookyskate, SaveTFP’s annual Halloween event, where students can dress up, eat cookies and candy, and skate to their hearts’ content. Like a seasoned ice skater, I spent about an hour hobbling around the edge of the rink, gripping the side walls and shuffling one foot after the other. Finally, after mustering up the courage, I broke free and sailed across the ice like a majestic whale breaching the water for the first time. The sailing deteriorated rapidly into flailing and eventually into tumbling. I no longer felt like a majestic whale. But I picked myself up, brushed off the ice shards on my pants, and resumed skating. Now I have a nifty bruise on my knee as a souvenir but absolutely no regrets.

Sometimes it feels like time is slipping away, like we are always moving from one moment to the next and there’s never time to stop, breathe, and just look around. College is often considered one of life’s greatest transitions, and in many ways, it is. We leave our old homes, parents, and friends to come to a new place where we have to learn to rely on ourselves. Part of the experience is making new friends and finding a way to call this strange new place home.

I feel lucky to be living in a place where I feel like I belong. Even though things are constantly changing around me, I have not once felt unwelcome. I’m not saying I don’t miss my family and my home, because I do. But after only two months here, I’m already starting to call MIT my home as well.

Life is just a series of never ending transitions and I think I’ve learned that sometimes, we can get lost looking into the future. I don’t want to live through fall just waiting for summer to turn into winter. I want to invite fall into my humble dorm room, make it a steaming mug of apple cider, and tell it stories about my two cats back home.

What I’m trying to say is, it’s important to slow down and enjoy the moment. While I look forward to wintery whiteness, right now, I’m enjoying all the crunchiness and crispness of fall. We’ve already taken two out of four tests in each of my GIRs and have officially passed the halfway mark. Soon freshman fall and the ever gracious pass/no record will be a distant memory.

At the orchards, three of us wandered through a mini monster hedge maze with towering green shrubbery and only the sounds of other people’s laughter guiding us towards the center. After quite a few wrong turns, we made it triumphantly to the middle flag.

Even the backs of our heads look befuddled.

I could compare pretty much anything to a maze and it would work. Freshman year. Life. Problem number 5 on my last chemistry pset. Mazes are pretty versatile metaphors. I have decided to embrace the cheesiness and clichéd nature of this metaphor and leave you with these little pearls of wisdom:

  1. Never, never, never give in.
  2. Just keep swimming.
  3. Ruining Regina George’s life definitely didn’t make me any happier. All you can do in life is try to solve the problem in front of you.

*Deepest thanks to Winston Churchill, Dory, and Cady Heron for letting me use their beautiful words. Really, it means a lot to me.

I just hope that by the end of our four years here, or by the end of any of our future endeavors, we will look as happy and accomplished as we did that day.