I’d spent most of Friday wrapped up in a comforter on the couch with the shades drawn, recuperating from a minor medical procedure. My attentive Nurse John took a few hours to himself in the mountains with Cholula while I dove into a marathon of chick flicks and Carrie Bradshaw adventures. He sent me a handful of photos from his hike, all warm and golden.

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When he returned home, he declared that I simply had to see what he’d seen. Despite the waning sunshine, he packed up a car picnic, grabbed my fancy camera, and piled me into the car. I explained to my Connecticut boy that non-East Coasters call this “leaf-peeping,” a phrase he’d never heard. As we neared the top of Empire Pass, the setting sun illuminated the vibrant yellow aspen leaves. We caught the last moments of the true golden hour. We certainly weren’t the only leaf-peepers hoping for the perfect fall photograph, but there was plenty to go around.

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I used up my last bit of energy to walk up a short dirt road and, despite the less-than-ideal light, the view was worth it. I love the pockets of orange-red in the sea of gilded leaves. The sun was hiding behind a gathering thunderstorm, so I took one last shot of the sunset. We sat in the car with cheese and crackers and some wine in my to-go cup and enjoyed the show.

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On the way down the hill, I noticed the stands of still-green aspens that were awaiting their turn to glow and pose for the cameras. Just a few days into autumn and summer feels like a distant memory. I thanked John for this gift. He knew that fresh air and a change in surroundings would help my recovery, and he was right. I sipped my wine as we turned toward home, feeling invigorated, happily spent, and grateful for love.

One year ago: A lesson in letting go.


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