Sometimes there are periods of life where you walk around in the present and you feel the past with you, at your back. 

This autumn I can’t stop thinking about how last autumn I was newly engaged, spending these four months of the busiest time of our year planning for my wedding day and my honeymoon.

That fall was full of calls to venues, culinary plans, finding dresses, pre-marriage counseling, traveling, red beret hats and wool scarves, leather gloves and long coats, crimson leaves and hot chocolate in the Smoky Mountains.

A year later, after an Italian honeymoon, a blizzard, a busy spring, a crazier summer, and a full cross-country trip, I am again traveling in the vivid paint splashes of dying leaves, this time with my husband beside me. 

I love traveling North in this season. I love Starbucks hot chocolates, fuzzy blankets in the car, hoodies and sweatpants, the panoply of fire-red and purple and canary-yellow flying by the car window. Tennessee is lovely, but the fact of the matter is that its Autumn and Winter pales to the glorious color-ridden climes and then the frosty wonderlands of the north country.

One iconic day this October, we find ourselves in the lovely town of Madison, Wisconsin, performing in a theater in the nearby city of Edgerton. A morning free, and James, my sister Annie, her two children David and Vincenza, and I are off to enjoy a few hours in the most enchanting autumn day I have experienced this year. Blue skies, brisk winds, trees effervescent in the colors of fire, and the lovely downtown of the Wisconsin capital.

After a delicious breakfast of farm-to-table crepes and pour over Ethiopian coffee, we set off to explore the day. Annie and her children enjoy the lovely children’s museum, complete with a fairy-tale porch garden.

James and I enjoy the beautiful farmer’s market in the shadows of the Capitol building.

Among the tables and tables of honey and flowers and vegetables and apples and Wisconsin cheeses, I find a magical cornucopia of everlasting bouquets, scarlet pumpkins, dried maize cobs, pussy-willow and fern.

It is all arranged delicately, atop barrels and baskets or piled enticingly. An autumnal paradise. All grown by an elderly woman who gardens, hangs the plants to dry and then arranges them with twine.

Whenever I see such enchantments, I am inspired. My mind’s eye sees the day, one day, when my husband and I and our seven children will have our own pastoral wonderland. 

And my husband and my boys will till the soil and weed the garden, of course. Why else have all those kids? ; )

Since James and I are a pair of hobbits stuck in human bodies (when we don't feel like being elves), after very little walking and exploring, with two little brown paper packages tied up with string and our artisan coffees, we find a quiet nook to read our books underneath a great flaming tree that blocks us from the chilly sweet-scented autumn wind. 

Because sitting together, reading our books, and drinking coffee on beautiful autumn days is quite our favorite thing to do.