17 dad and son in pumpkin patchFunny how our perspective can change. Until recently, I didn't think I'd ever enjoy arriving somewhere to find it already crowded. The past few weeks have seemed completely alive in our part of North Carolina.

Waking to cooler mornings and flipping the page on the calendar to seal the arrival of October made it really feel like fall. Overnight, it became more acceptable to lean into the colors that only seem appropriate at this time of year.

Traditionally, it's a time for festivals celebrating harvests of one kind or another, and a time when people begin to drop the pretense the summer seems to carry with it.

As I drove past the farms on Gillis Hill the past few weekends, I was thrilled to see the crowds. People lined up for ice cream, and families wandering through the pumpkin patch on a quest for the one that will perfectly adorn their porch. And the kids. It was a joy to see dozens of children, unaffected by all that's tainted their parents' worlds these past seven months, laughing, playing, jumping and just being together.

If we've learned nothing else since we closed the doors on so many of our regular haunts since March, I hope we've learned how much we need each other. We're built for community. Whether or not we'll admit it, we all crave human contact.

To hear a voice speak directly to us, see a smile directed at us, and even to shake a hand or feel an arm around our shoulder is irreplaceable.

Being secluded at home and having to wonder as we wander in a store as we gather necessities has been trying at best. I wonder if he's smiling? Do I shake his hand? Is it going to freak my old friend out if I try to give her a hug? But the sunshine, the cooler days, and the feeling of fall has beckoned us all out of our castles and into the open where we can begin to share experiences once again.

With all the forces that have seemingly been working to divide us, this fresh, new season has given us all a way to both forget and remember. Like a family reunion on a grand scale, coming together again gives us the opportunity to forget that bad news gets good ratings as we remember that we were always on each others' side.

If you haven't done so already, I hope you get out and enjoy the company of other humans soon. Go for a walk in one of the great parks surrounding us. Enjoy lunch in the fresh air outside a favorite restaurant. Visit one of the many agri-tourism spots here in Cumberland County. Wear a mask if it makes you more comfortable, but let people get a peek at your smile every now and then. We need you. And we need each other.

Pictured: The beginning of fall can give us a fresh perspective on sharing our lives with each other.


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