constellations #14: playlist for peak foliage
Growing up I didn’t get excited about the leaves turning, maybe due to the oversaturation; I grew up here, I saw it every year, what’s there to get excited about? But ever since I moved out of my parents’ house, I’ve found myself texting my mom every October begging for photos from home. My parents’ yard has a lot of good trees, and now that I’m back, I often catch myself pulling into their driveway yelling, to myself, What the heck?! How is this real?!
I mean, who isn’t seduced by the morbid poetry of it: enormous living things vibrantly signaling their own oncoming decay?* Last week Lars told me I’ve turned back into a real Massachusetts girl after I went off about the foliage but I assured him that anyone who spent time around here would be astounded, contradicting even my own memories of my childhood self.
The other day I ended the work day feeling pretty distraught, which I imagine is a pretty common sentiment these days. I didn’t think much would cheer me up, so I dug into an old habit — driving around the backroads of the towns around my town, just before sunset, listening to favorite songs. (If M were here he’d be smoking an American Spirit with the window rolled down too far so, to compensate, I’d crank up the heat in the car; now, unfortunately, there is something about the combination of cigarette smoke, a cold autumn breeze, and my car blowing hot, dry air that hits some kind of soothing nostalgic nerve for me.) I drove a route I knew would take me by a couple barns — a Haflinger whose winter coat is coming in, a couple cows, an erstwhile goat pen that, as far as I can tell from the road, I think is now home to some miniature donkeys? (Unclear.) I started to feel better after a couple songs, a momentary, distracted pleasure melting away the despair.
From there I drove to the reservoir which, despite being small and kind of dorky in a provincial way, I really do find beautiful. To my surprise, once I got there, I wasn’t alone — there was a line of cars parked along the road, a handful of young people (I think they were high school kids? I’m bad at guessing ages; they were young enough that I would have felt like a narc if I had slowed down to stare) hanging around. Some of them sat on the roofs of their cars; some stood along the guardrail between the road and the water; most of them were alone, or in groups of two or three; it didn’t feel like a COVID-unsafe situation, is what I’m saying. They were there for sunset, to watch the sky and the trees and the water light up for a minute in the cold. It seemed so wholesome. It really warmed my heart, to be honest. And when I went back the next day for another sunset drive, the kids were there again.
During these drives I listened through a playlist I made of good autumn driving songs called peak foliage III. I made the first version** of the peak foliage playlist when I was driving up to Vermont to visit a truly magical place and volume II last year when I was lucky enough to be back in New England during the autumn.
Volume III opens with Rilo Kiley because I believe RK’s catalog is ideal for transitional seasons and closes with some very lovely ambient stuff that hopefully might help soothe your sense of distraught-ness. In between there are some seriously underrated jammers (“Cut Your Bangs,” AGBPOL), the 2020 Tiny Desk Contest winner, and at least one song that makes me cry. Hope you enjoy!
*When you put it in those terms, I’m surprised we don’t hear more about the goth/leaf peeper crossover.
**Turns out I had only ever made vol I on Apple Music before today, so there you go! Now it’s on Spotify.