I’ve been to a lot of different places around this world, but nothing compares to a New Brunswick fall.
The wildlife is like something out of Snow White, the leaves are a vibrant yellow, red and orange, and everyone is high on the crisp, cold air. The province exudes an intoxicating smell of apples and chimney smoke, and there’s a faint presence of summer that lingers during the autumn days. A New Brunswick fall is incomparable, no matter how often I try to best it.
All of these attributes are exemplified when living in the countryside. With Thanksgiving, Halloween and Christmas all on the horizon, a sense of family and community seem to fill the hearts of everyone around. The small town charm that enchants most visitors intensifies during the autumn months to the point where it doesn’t just make you want to visit, but makes you wonder why you’d ever be anywhere else.
It’s hard to explain growing up in the country to any city slicker. No one seems to understand why I would ever decide to move out to the backwoods of Sussex when I could have lived in the city closer to my job just as easily. But ignorance is bliss, after all. Unlike a city slicker, I would know what I was missing.
Just try to imagine a place where everyone knows everyone – where they all greet one another on the streets, and where they look out for each other like family. Imagine driving over hills and fields, winding around turns, swaying with the landscape rather than cutting through it. Imagine how quiet and peaceful it is to see out for miles into nothingness, breathing in a fresh, clean air that sweeps gently through the trees. Imagine how bright the stars can be, how much they light up the night sky when there’s no smog or city lights to hinder your sight. Growing up in the countryside is like being a comfortable, beloved celebrity, where all of your fans are like family and you feel as important as George Clooney without the disadvantage of going out in public and being mauled by reporters: you can’t quite understand it unless you’ve lived it.
Us country folk, we’re not hard to spot. Find someone who considers their cousins to be brothers and sisters. Find someone who’s big plans this weekend are going hunting or to the local arena for some hockey. Find the girl who thinks it odd when she goes for an evening stroll and wasn’t offered a lift by a neighbour driving by. Find the man who would willingly give you the shirt off his back, the food off his plate, and the keys to his truck. Find those kids who don’t hesitate to get grimy and dirty playing in the mud hole. Find someone, anyone, who had an entire community raise them. That’s country.
Sure, there’s the stereotypes: The country is nitty-gritty, tough and strong, and so are its people. Our best days were, in fact, spent at the end of a dirt road, we say “right” for emphasis, and think camouflage is always appropriate attire. Those country songs nail it when they sing of proud rednecks working hard for their money, who love mama, daddy and the lord above, but still head down to the bar for a shot of whiskey. We’re laid back, hospitable and simple. But it’s much more than any of that.
No one is ever alone living in the country. There will always be someone to help, there will always be someone to listen. It isn’t about geography, it’s about having a sense of belonging, and learning to love with all that you are. Small town living isn’t settling – it’s knowing that we’ve already been given the best this life has to offer, and we hold onto it with everything we’ve got. It’s happiness. It’s family. It’s our way of life. We plant our roots in the dirt, we’re born into it, and we proudly grow with a reckless freedom for the rest of our days.
We’re country, all right.