Being in New England in the fall is about more that merely being a "leaf peeper". To be sure, the showy display of reds, golds, oranges, plums, browns, and remaining greens is breathtaking in its artful riot. Traveling along the highway is almost like driving through a museum. But the best of it can only be appreciated in slower motion - on foot.
We're staying on the southern coast of Maine, in Ogunquit. Our small inn is a historic home that has been updated and expanded. Part of the charm of this area of the country is found in eschewing chains for local, owner-operated businesses.
Fall is beautful everywhere but, like the foliage, seems intensified here. Ogunquit has a distinct crispness in the air, accompanied by the scent of wood-burning fireplaces in use. Leaves already carpet the grass after floating from trees. They crunch satisfyingly under our feet by the granite-lined curbs.
Homes and businesses are decorated for Halloween and fall, with pumpkins, scarecrows, hay bales, spider webs, ghosts, and goblins. Visitors and residents stroll down the sidewalks in bright sweaters. They've given up sandals for boots.
Yesterday we savored clam chowder on a cool and cloudy day. Dinner last night was lobster pizza, served on an enclosed patio with heat lamps. In our not-too-distant future, I foresee tasting a seasonal brew of some sort. Everything is enhanced by the sea air, spiced with the pungent smell of fallen leaves.
Locals can call us leaf peepers if they will, but we know that being here now is about so much more.