Last fall, having moved to New York only a few months prior, I didn’t really feel settled in the city and didn’t let myself embrace everything great about the season. This year, I’m having more of a lovefest with autumn in New York – and the lovefest hit its height today while watching the New York marathon. My friend Leslie and I spent the entire afternoon catching it from a couple different vantage points, in Long Island City and Central Park.
The trees in the park have reached full When Harry Met Sally… status. It’s a wonderland of red, orange and yellow. There is no better complement for the gorgeous buildings of Central Park West.
Walking in the park, glimpsing runners as they neared the finish line, I was reminded of a scene from Rules of Civility, a book set in romantic 1930s New York. The protagonist, Katey, hears Billie Holiday singing “Autumn in New York” on the radio. Thinking of a line from the song – “Why does it seem so inviting?” – she muses:
“…each city has its own romantic season. Once a year, a city’s architectural, cultural, and horticultural variables come into alignment with the solar course in such a way that men and women passing each other on the thoroughfares feel an unusual sense of romantic promise. Like Christmastime in Vienna, or April in Paris.
That’s the way we New Yorkers feel about fall. Come September, despite the waning hours, despite the leaves succumbing to the weight of gray autumnal rains, there is a certain relief to having the long days of summer behind us; and there’s a paradoxical sense of rejuvenation in the air.”
New York seems uniquely suited to fall. It’s when the city really shines, and I can attest that the “paradoxical sense of rejuvenation” is palpable. Even though Katey notes September is the beginning of fall, it wasn’t until this chilly November day that I was truly convinced autumn in New York has begun.
Those fall colors in Central Park are a picturesque background for the marathon. I’d never been to it (or any marathon) in person, and I can safely say it was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had while living in New York. It’s less spectating and more interacting. Yell out the name of a runner passing by (many of them have their names written on their shirts) and they’ll wave or smile or pump their arms in the air. They genuinely appreciate the support. Some will purposely run close to the barricades so you’ll high-five them. I yelled “Go Ducks!” to a few runners wearing Oregon t-shirts and they returned the cheer.
These runners are inspiring, in the purest sense. Yes, it’s inspiring to see them accomplish a grueling physical task, but it’s even more inspiring to see them living out their dedication to some higher cause. They’re running to prove something to themselves, or to commemorate the life of a loved one, or to support finding a cure for cancer. They are amazing.
Fall is fleeting and we’ll find ourselves in the dead of winter soon enough, but if today is the best taste I’ll get of it, I’ll consider it a season well-spent.