Another time, Another Place

 I’ve always liked autumn—the bright colors, the golden tint of the light, the scent and crackle of newly fallen leaves. You’d think I would have missed it when we lived overseas. Somehow, though, it never occurred to me.

For more than twenty years, we lived in the tropics where the only two seasons were rainy and dry.

I heard other expats lament the lack of seasons, but the sentiment slipped through my consciousness without making a dent. Four seasons was something that happened in another time and place. I was busy living my life where I was.

Eventually we moved back to the States. There were daffodils and tulips in spring, lilacs and petunias in summer. Then it was fall. Wow! How had I forgotten about this lovely season?

The distinctive fresh scent of fallen leaves brought back memories from childhood of walking to school, leaves crunching under my feet, memories of sifting through those leaves for the most beautiful ones to bring to my teacher or press in a book.

Experiencing fall again brought back to me how special the autumn light is. It’s slanted and golden, more dramatic than light at other times of year. Shadows and light conspire to show each other at their best. Some trees are so brightly colored they seem to be lit from within.

People have asked me if I’ve been back to Manila or Port Vila for a visit. Don’t I want to go back? they ask. But for me, that was another time, another place. I’m here now and happy to be.

How about you? When you were a child at camp, did you miss home? Do you long for days past or for some place you lived before?

This year we’ve had a gorgeous fall in the Pacific Northwest. Here are a few photos from my iPhone.

Yellow against the blue

scarlet beside the green (a burning bush?)

scattered leaves

pastels

my stewartia

reflections in a puddle

looking up

a rose in November

delicate leaves starting to turn

at Third Place Books for a meeting of my critique group

at the edge of the parking lot

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

About Nicki Chen

About Nicki Chen
Nicki Chen is a writer living in Edmonds, WA. Her first novel, Tiger Tail Soup, is set in China during the Japanese invasion and occupation, 1937-1945. She’s working on a second novel set in Vanuatu, a South Pacific nation where she and her late husband lived in the early ’90s.

expatriate life, fall, seasons, Washington State

26 comments


  1. Growing up in the suburbs of Washington D,C., I loved the change of seasons. When we moved to Florida in 2004, that’s what I missed the most. Thankfully, our time in Florida was short lived and now in Charlotte, we enjoy seasons similar to our childhood. Your photographs are so beautiful, Nicki.




    1
    • Thank you, Jill. The thing I found strange the first time I visited Florida was how flat it was. Every place I’ve ever lived has had hills and mountains. Charlotte must have some beautiful seasonal changes.




      0
      • Oh yes, it’s terribly flat, Nicki. I missed the rolling hills of the Virginia horse country.




        1
      • Maureen Rogers

        Love the photos NIcki! I imagine you were too busy raising 3 girls to think about the 4 seasons back home. What do your girls think about it after growing up in the tropics? They all live in northern states now so do they like having 4 seasons?




        1
        • My daughters don’t go around taking pictures of the trees like I do, but they seem to enjoy the seasons. My oldest, C, says she likes winter best. It seems there’s even more celebration of the seasons now than there used to be, especially fall, with Halloween parades and haunted houses and the pumpkin patches offering so many activities for kids.




          0
  2. Fall looks lovely in your part of the world, Nicki. Agree with you that the light and also shadows are more slanted during this season. Like the sun is slinking away to rest a bit. I like summer the best, love the tropics and often wish where I am here in Australia is tropical all year round. When I lived in Malaysia and Singapore, it was hot and humid all year round – and I miss wearing just a shirt and shorts/jeans all year round. Warm weather is something that makes me feel alive and I’ve felt that way since I was a kid. I remember when it was winter in Melbourne when I was four, five, I hated it and longed for summer to come. These days I still feel the same way.




    1
    • The Philippines was too hot and humid for me. During the years I was there, the electricity was unreliable, so we often went weeks without power and water for much of the day. Inside the house without a fan or AC it was stifling.

      The perfect climate for me was Vanuatu. It was a Goldilocks climate–not too hot, not too cold, just right. I know what you mean about the pleasure and freedom of wearing nothing but shorts, a T-shirt, and flip-flops. That was my daily wear in Vanuatu.




      0
  3. Our fall is late. The leaves are just starting to turn. That’s at least 2 weeks late (good thing there is no global warming!). I don’t mind fall but our winters are too long and cold. Fall always reminds me that I will be cooped up for several months until a lazy spring sashays in.




    1
    • I love September and October. November, not so much. Already the rains have started, and it’s getting cold. We still have some colorful leaves, but the leaves on the ground that we haven’t raked up yet will start to get soggy soon. This morning I took a short walk. It was 37 degrees, wind, and some sprinkles. Yesterday the cool weather kept me inside. Today I went out and met it head on.




      0
  4. Oh Nicki, what a lovely post! And what a lovely fall season you depict in your wonderful photos. I love the change in seasons. I’ve seen some beautiful leaves here in Illinois.

    I missed home when I went to Girl Scout camp when I was a kid. But that camp experience was kind of a nightmare. When I went to college, I didn’t miss home. ? ?

    I enjoyed being in New England off and on for VCFA. Vermont is so beautiful!




    1
    • Vermont is beautiful. I enjoyed being there for VCFA.

      The first time I went to camp, I was about ten years old. I wasn’t homesick while I was there, but when my friend’s mom dropped me off on my driveway, I saw my mom and started crying. Maybe I was homesick at camp and didn’t know it.




      0
  5. Gorgeous photos.

    I would have been the expat moaning over lost autumn leaves. When I moved to Los Angeles, I missed fall most of all. Then winter.

    My East Coast family reminds me that I would be less nostalgic if I had to shovel more snow and rake more leaves.




    1
    • Raking leaves and shoveling snow is fun–if there aren’t too many leaves or too much snow and if you only have to do it once or twice a year.

      Winter was fun when I was a kid. Now I’m just glad when it’s over. Hurray for spring!




      0
  6. Nicki, your love for the season shines through in this post and the photos are glorious – such rich vibrant colours! Luckily I’ve always lived in the Northern hemisphere so enjoyed all the seasons and Autumn is at last coming into its own here in the UK – it’s almost been too warm earlier! The fall in America sounds amazing though and I would love to see it one year.




    1
    • The English are such fantastic gardeners. All that gardening must give you a great variety of plants and colors in all seasons. Traveling across the mountains as I did a couple of weeks ago, I saw mostly yellow leaves among the evergreens and in a couple of spots red bushes (maybe huckleberries). In the cities and towns the variety is much greater because people plant trees that are native to other places.




      0
  7. I used to love winter until I moved to this part of the country, where houses don’t have heating, haha. Now I hate it.

    I sometimes remember past times and cities I’ve lived in, but even if you visit… it’s not the same. The place has changed, you have changed, the people and dynamics you had there have changed.




    0
  8. I’m like you, Nicki ~ I’m too busy living life where I am to have wanderlust for somewhere else. What I appreciate about fall in Florida ~> cooler temps, lower humidity, and the return of “high season” as friends return from summering up north. 😀




    0
    • I know someone who grew up in the Pacific Northwest. For decades now she has lived in a beautiful city in southern California. She raised her children there. Her grandchildren live there. And yet, she still longs for the Pacific Northwest. She bought property up here, and she comes up every year to spend some time in the place she loves, the place she can’t let go of.




      0
  9. Born and brought up in France, I love the change of seasons, but I totally understand what you mean, Nicki when you write that you could go without when away from it, busy living your life. Fall is my favorite season and I love it when I can be in the Northeast at that time. It’s even better than in France, less rainy and more colorful. This year was rainy, though.
    But anywhere I still find fall irresistible. I like this season tucked between the careless freedom of summer and the closing in of winter. I also like cooking warm again after months of salads and sushi. I love the oranges and reds of the season through veggies and fruits. And fall baking is so wonderful. So, anywhere I am between September and December I try to live fall at its fullest. If colors are there even better.




    0
    • You really are a big lover of fall, Evelyne. I forgot to mention the seasons of our food. But you’re right, the fruit and vegetables we find in the supermarket change with the seasons. Instead of cherries and fresh blueberries, we find oranges and the new crop of apples. The many varieties of squash make an appearance; asparagus is becoming hard to find. It’s a good time of year for baking apple crisp.

      This has been an excellent year here for fall color and blue skies. September and at least the first two or three weeks of October are almost always beautiful. But after we go back to standard time in November, all of a sudden it seems that the days are too short and dark and rainy. That’s when we start thinking about Thanksgiving, our conveniently timed holiday of gratitude, family, and good food.




      0

Leave a Reply