Smile away

Hanni and me at the University of Illinois quad.

Hanni and me enjoying the out-of-doors at the University of Illinois quad.

What a fun time Hanni and I had on our visit to Champaign County! We made lots of new friends at the Philo Library, Countryside Day School and St. Thomas School, and the weather was absolutely sensational. Between school and library visits we managed to meet up with a few old friends, take long walks, linger on park benches and catch up on each other’s lives. An excerpt from my first book, Long Time, No See describes the beauty of a Fall day in central Illinois:

I’d fallen in love with the twin cities of Champaign-Urbana back in my freshman year at the University of Illinois. It didn’t matter that there was nowhere to hike or canoe, or that the campus was surrounded by, even included, corn and soybean fields. It seemed a vibrant place. I was caught up in the rush of thirty-five thousand students hustling from class to class.

Champaign-Urbana may lack a striking natural beauty—it defines the word “flat,” and the creek that trickles through it, more of a drainage ditch, is known as The Boneyard. But what the two towns have, especially Urbana, is trees. Huge, magnificent old maples and oaks with an unearthly gift for turning brilliant scarlet and sunset yellow. A few white clouds set against a deep sky on a fall afternoon—we could watch them indefinitely from our vantage point on the porch swing.

I may not be able to see those brilliant scarlet and sunset yellow leaves anymore, but c’mon – don’t you think you can smell the colors? My friends and I felt the sun on our faces and heard the leaves crackling under our feet as we walked arm in arm and shared our stories. One talk reflected on a reunion, another on a retirement, a reconnection with a long-lost friend, a dear relative who had just died. Change was in the air, and in our conversations, too.

How perfect it was to be surrounded by all those falling leaves as we talked, reminding us that hey, depending on how you look at it, change can be a beautiful thing.

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10 Responses to “Smile away”


  1. 1 Maria November 10, 2010 at 8:50 am

    JUST BEAUTIFUL!!!! Better than any person with sight could describle fall and the changes it and life brings. Ahhhh….
    Glad you had a good time.

  2. 2 Cheryl November 10, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    I’m smiling…..

  3. 4 Bob November 10, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    Why were you walking arm in arm? Do you walk arm in arm when Hanni is with you, or wasn’t she there?

    • 5 bethfinke November 11, 2010 at 9:53 am

      On one walk Hanni wasn’t there – she stayed back with my friend’s husband.
      On all the other walks, Hanni was there with us. My friends offered their left arm. I grabbed their elbow with my right hand, kept a hold of Hanni’s *leash* with my left hand but no longer held on to her harness handle. That’s a signal to her that she is “off-duty” temporarily. Every once in a while, especially if passages got narrow, I’d pick up the harness again and instruct Hanni to “Follow.” My friend would walk ahead of us at a normal speed and Hanni and I would follow. Once we got back to a spot wide enough to accompany all three of us, I would drop the harness handle again to walk arm in arm with my friend.

  4. 6 theadvantagepoint November 11, 2010 at 8:19 am

    Beautiful post Beth. Seeing the beauty in the change of seasons is a good way to remember to embrace change in our own life.
    Mary Jo

  5. 7 marilee November 11, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    A simple, touching blog post. You have a way with words that make us all take pause. Thank you for sharing.

  6. 8 nancyb November 14, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    Great reminder of how beautiful it can be here in little old Urbana. Yesterday, even though it was rainy and most of the trees were brown or had leaves down, there still is the occasional knock you out red maple or burning bush still going strong.

  7. 9 Ray V November 16, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    Great post Beth. The one thing I do in my gardens in the fall is to smell the different fragrances that the plants give off as they are fading into dormancy. The other smell I really still enjoy is the leaves when they are burning. Nothing says fall more than that.

    • 10 bethfinke November 17, 2010 at 8:58 am

      So glad to hear you take the time to smell the different fragrances in the fall, so many people forget to take the time to do that. And yes, the burning leaves — just so happens that Philo, IL is one of those towns that still allows residents to burn leaves, I smelled those leaves burning immediately as Hanni and I walked out of the library after our presentation. Reminded me of my childhood, when many of the western suburbs of Chicago were still farm towns…


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