right place, right time

I only took two photos the day I left.

I said goodbye to the family and then Bill walked me downstairs alone. After a quick hug he stood in the street behind my rental car and directed me out of the narrow driveway. Then he came to the driver's side window. "Remember," he said. "Nothing is ever as bad as it seems in your mind." I nodded. He quickly kissed my cheek and waved me off. I kept it together until I was out of sight of the house.

As I passed the boat dock on the way out, I glanced down at my favorite maple tree. The weather of the past two days had taken a toll, and her red was losing its verve. The tree directly beside, which had still been green when I'd arrived at the lake, was now a rich crimson, full and proud. I put the Jeep in park but left the engine running, and ran down to them in the sputtering rain. One last picture.

I cried hard, but not for long. I can shake off goodbyes fairly quickly; God knows I've had enough of them. So my eyes were dry when, not three minutes later, I passed by a sight that made me nearly wreck the car, the double take I did was so extreme. "Oh no," I said aloud to an empty car. "No way am I passing that up." Again I pulled over, this time inching as unobtrusively as I could onto the driveway, presumably, of the person's whose property I was about to photograph. I watched the house's front door for a moment, but when no one emerged, I shoved my phone up my sleeve (it was really coming down now) and ran through the marshy grass alongside the road back to one of the most spectacular natural vignettes I'd ever seen:

I had to laugh; it was too unbelievably perfect. The mist on the mountains. The fall foliage, flaming in the tree above and scattered evenly in the ground below. The fact that the horse was here, underneath the tree, when it had an entire meadow to graze. I don't know a thing about horses; I wish I knew at least enough to be able to say whether it's a mare or stallion (or a gelding?). I stood there as long as I could considering the rain, the trespassing, and my fear that I was giving her? him? indigestion with my gawking. Back in the car, my clothes steaming, I zoomed in, making sure I'd gotten a clear, crisp shot. I vowed to leave it 100% unedited and unfiltered.

Magical thinking, my old nemesis, danced on my brain. Lake Burton's farewell to me? A benediction? A reminder of some kind? A last, fairy tale image to hold in my mind, to crowd out reality as long as possible?

None of those, of course. It's none of those. It's just being in the right place, at the right time - nothing more. Sometimes that's enough.