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New England Autumn Dream

Text by: Amy Carpenter

Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
-Edgar Allan Poe
Golden leaves fall silently outside my window. As the heater turns on, I push the blanket off my lap and stand up. I stretch like a cat, arching my back and yawning lazily. My limbs are sore from sitting, and my mind is fuzzy from reading. Glancing outside, past the falling leaves, my eyes squint at the bright sunlight. I need to go for a walk.
© Blake Werner Photography

Chilly air greets me as I go out the door. The tree-lined avenue where I live is a canopy of bright red and mustard yellow. A smile jumps across my face as I spy a pile of inviting leaves at the foot of a neighbor's driveway. Impulsively, I fall into it, my careening body cushioned by the crispy pile of summer's leftovers. I hear my neighbor chuckling in his garage. Chagrined, I get up, push the leaves back together into a neat pile, and wave an apology at my amused neighbor.

© Blake Werner Photography

As I continue my journey down the avenue, a breeze caresses my cheeks. It flits past me, picking up leaves as it goes. Then it turns back to me, and the leaves rise in a whirlwind around my feet. Soon my entire body is encased in the gentle tornado of leaves. With an impolite bump, the twirling leaves pick me up and fly me toward the sky. At first I am afraid, but the fear flees as the leaves form a magic carpet beneath me.

The ground recedes, and I see at first my neighborhood and then the city where I live. Springfield, Massachusetts, with its houses and its tall buildings, its river and its distinctive Basketball Hall of Fame, becomes a little blot in the scenery. As my leafy carpet takes me towards the east, I look out and see the snaking grey ribbon that is the Massachusetts Turnpike. Cars and trucks flit across its surface like little ants scurrying to take food home. Sighing, I turn onto my back and bask in the sunlight. The sun kisses my face, as the light floods my eyelids with pale red shadows. After a while, I turn back over to look again upon the ground.

© Blake Werner Photography

My breath catches as I look out and see nothing but trees — trees, trees, and more trees. Gone are the cars, the concrete, and the teeming towns. Instead, the land looks like a bright, rolling quilt of green, red, yellow, and orange. Here and there, a snowy white church steeple peeks up through the blanket of trees, and thin wisps of smoke curl up towards the sky. It looks like my home, and yet it is not. Where am I?

I should be more alarmed than I feel, but the leaves reach up with their feathery touch to reassure and calm me. On the horizon, I see the glittering, blue line of the Atlantic Ocean. A city appears. It looks like Boston, yet it is different. It perches on the banks of a harbor and a river, but its roads are cobble stone and dirt. No planes roar in and out of Logan airport, and no fancy suspension bridge soars over the Charles River near Bunker Hill. There is bustle and sound, but there are no noisy, irritated car horns. Men and women walk the streets in dresses and suits. I see Boston Common, minus the electric lamp posts, with its pond full of frogs and its grassy expanse. Instead of skyscrapers, there are trees and newly painted colonials. Gone are the Victorian painted lady houses, Brownstones, and the stinky sewers. But there is the Old State Building. Boston Harbor is filled with white-masted ships, and pentagonal Fort Independence crawls with soldiers on Castle Island. This is not my Boston. This is an older Boston. This is early 19th century Boston.

© Blake Werner Photography

My magic carpet swoops playfully back and forth and then takes me towards the north, landing me in a grassy glen. Through the leafy, orange trees, I see a small pond, shimmering and silent. The sun sits on the treetops, ready to sink to its quiet, nightly grave. I walk gingerly through the forest towards a settlement in the distance, following the sight and smell of its many chimney fires. As I walk into the village (could this be Lowell?), I see an inn, its face flat, its paint an earthy red. The leaves carry me up so I can spy into a second story room. Through the distorted glass of the window, I see a man slumped over a writing table. His hair is a dark mass. A candle flickers in the descending gloom, and his writing utensil has fallen from his twitching hand. Beneath him, papers line the desk and litter the floor. The windy leaves carry me through the wall and into his darkening room. Shadows dart across the wall as a nearly barren branch scratches at the wood next to the window. The man awakens with a gasp, sitting up in stark terror. As he sees his surroundings, his eyes relax, and he puts his head in his hands. I call to him, and he seems to hear me, but as he looks toward me, he looks past me, out into the dusky air. He cannot see me.

© Blake Werner Photography

In a fit of mischief, I blow out his candle. Startled, he looks up, and this time, he sees me in the setting, gold-red sunlight. He shoots to his feet, knocking over his chair in his shock. "What is this?" he cries. His eyes are grey and piercing, even in their wide fear. The leaves seem to swirl up around me according to my will. They lift up my long hair as I answer in my most haunting, low voice: "A ghost!" The man flies across the room, throws himself on his bed, and buries his head under his pillow. I giggle hysterically as the wind carries me out of his room and once again into the chilly autumn air. My magic carpet forms again and takes me back towards the west, towards the burning glob of gold that is the sun. My eyes close in the freedom of the twilight, and when I open them, I again see the cars and the highways and the tall buildings of Springfield. I am carried home and left at my doorstep. My hand reaches for the handle…

And my eyes open. It was only a dream. My blanket has twisted around me. I push it off and glance down at the floor. The book of Edgar Allan Poe poetry I had been reading has fallen on the ground sometime during my snooze. As I lift it, I see the words on the page it fell open to:

© Blake Werner Photography
'Twas once—and only once—and the wild hour
From my remembrance shall not pass—some power
Or spell had bound me—'twas the chilly wind
Came o'er me in the night, and left behind
Its image on my spirit—or the moon
Shone on my slumbers in her lofty noon
Too coldly—or the stars—howe'er it was
That dream was as the night-wind—let it pass…

It was only an autumn dream. Or was it?