Before I moved here, I heard a lot of good things about the city – its green rolling hills and perfect fall foliage, its old small-town flavor and charming pedestrian mall, its nooks and corners imbuing rich history and university with remarkable architecture, which its creator, the Great Thomas Jefferson, loved so much.
But when I first reached Charlottesville on a bleak Christmas Eve, I could not feel a vestige of that charm. The ache of uprooting myself from the place I lived all my life was still raw and the uncertainties of the new life were looming large over my heart. The unfamiliarity of the new place and its people was making me really nervous. The deserted college town during Christmas, with its leafless trees and the piercingly cold wind, was no solace. Coming from a crowded part of the world, I would sit by the window to have a glimpse of a passersby and my first snow made me extremely depressed.
Eventually spring arrived and suddenly things started getting better. Through the large windows of our little apartment, I could see the young leaves growing by the day, luminous green. I could see the fluffy-tailed squirrels busily running around, the red robins perched on the railing of our deck, lost in thought and, once in a while, a stray deer.
And I started making friends too, tentatively. We would sit under the blue sky, enjoying the soft breeze or leisurely stroll the downtown mall. Time to time, we would take a trip to the Blue-Ridge; layers and layers of soft-shaped, almost adorable, mountains looked literally blue, actually gray blue, on crisp spring days.
One fine morning, I was pleasantly surprised to discover those little enclosed gardens hidden by the side of the main grounds of the university. The gardens are nothing like the elaborate English ones or the Japanese ones with profound meaning. But they have a certain blissful character, inviting you to rest. I spent an entire afternoon sitting in a shadowy corner of one of these gardens, reading my book. On languid afternoons, I would read books lying down on my couch, while the birds kept chirping and the green shadows kept dancing in the light breeze outside my window.
The next one year simply whizzed by. We spent the summer in the other side of the country, Seattle. That’s another story but when we came back, it was almost fall. The background of my little apartment was already changing. Gradually, the luminous green gave way to an extravagant medley of crimson, orange, yellow and all possible shades of brown. One early morning we went to the mountains. This time though, the Blur-ridge, in the morning light, took an otherworldly hue of a very soft purple. I’ve always felt an inexplicable attraction towards the Himalayas. I still do. But if Himalayas is the Cleopatra of mountains, I would imagine Blue-Ridge as that down-to-earth woman, whose beauty has a warm and comforting quality.
This time, we went apple picking and had fall picnics, on mountain top orchards and by the lakeside. And our little group of friends have become so close in such a short time that the lonely and sad winter last year felt like a distant nightmare. The first snow this winter felt delightful, all around pristine white glittering in golden light. But before I could get used to the wonders of this amazing place and be a part of its daily life, it was time to leave. Perhaps, I was never prepared to be a part of this city, because I knew I was going to leave. I was sad to leave Charlottesville and my friends, without of course knowing that I will be back again.