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Column By John Murray

Autumn is a time for reflection and letting go, and in New England, it’s the best time of year to hike and explore and get outside to embrace the forests and hills before a Nor’easter dumps two feet of snow on our heads.

A sugar maple exploding with color in Woodbury, CT.

October in Connecticut is my favorite month of the year. I love plunging into forests alone with just my camera and my iPhone, wandering off trails looking for moose or bald eagles or black bear, and feeling my heart thump with excitement as I surrender to the wild.

Moose have established territory in Connecticut and a few times a year a bull moose will cruise through Morris (this is on the edge of Bantam Lake), and occasionally stomp their way into Waterbury, where they are shot to avoid accidents on I-84.

A porcupine gnawing on acorns on a rural road in Litchfield, CT.

I climb over ancient stone walls that have been swallowed by the forest, I climb small trees looking for better vantage points. I fall down. I drop my camera. I get wet and muddy, and my clothes get torn by briars. Sometimes I lay down in the middle of the woods and watch the leaves flutter to Earth. Once I lay still in the woods for more than four hours listening to the birds, feeling the warmth of the mid-October sun on my face, and I felt deep contentment and joy.

Red maples are the signature tree that separates Autumn in New England from other regions across North America.

Most afternoons in Autumn I climb in my vehicle and head off on a mini-adventure exploring the swamps and lakes and woods of northwest Connecticut. I never know exactly where I’m going, and take lefts and rights that bring me down dirt roads into remote valleys where I park and explore small streams and look for wildlife prints in the mud.

Solitude is an essential part of my creative process. I am the publisher and editor of a newspaper in Waterbury, Connecticut, a city of 112,000 people nestled on the Naugatuck River. I am comfortable exploring Waterbury the same way I do Litchfield County. I often drive aimlessly around the city, cruising into every neighborhood to observe and document what I see.

To capture this shot I had to hack my way into a thicket in the Bunker Hill neighborhood .

I often find myself hiking through brush to get a fresh angle of the city skyline, or setting up a tripod on a highway entrance ramp to capture long nighttime exposures. I climb on things, I peek around corners, I fall down, and one time while trying to line up an impossibly beautiful rainbow with the cross atop Holy Land USA, I lost my iPhone, but was actually more upset that I hadn’t captured the image I was chasing.

Autumn in Waterbury is magnificent.

When light and subject intersect, it opens my heart, and I feel like a five-year-old boy racing down the stairs to discover what Santa Claus left. I get the same excitement capturing images of powerful storms sweeping across Waterbury as I do photographing sunsets on the high meadows of South Farms in Morris, just a few hundred yards from my house.

Occasionally someone in Waterbury will take a swipe at me for not living in the city I report about, but you don’t have to live in Vietnam to write about it. Often the clearest eyes are from the outside,

And Autumn is remarkably beautiful in Waterbury, a city built on hills looking down into a flat valley at the intersection of the Mad River and the Naugatuck River. The city’s magnificent parks are turning shades of red, yellow and purple. The trees in front of City Hall and the Chase Building and on the Green in downtown Waterbury are undergoing the magical transformation.

Career Academy on a hilltop above Waterbury.

In the 1980s I almost moved to Florida. My wife and I paid a deposit on a condo in South Florida and I was excited about palm trees and beaches and exploring the Everglades. But something was gnawing at me; everything was so flat and hot, and there was traffic and people everywhere. And worst of all, I could not imagine Autumn in Florida. The sharp and distinct seasons in New England are my guideposts, and the musical rhythm to my life. The condo deal fell through and we stayed in Connecticut. Eventually the marriage crumbled, too, but my feet were in New England, and it wasn’t long before the geese were flying overhead, the maples were turning red and yellow, and I was chasing magic light.

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