A Spooky Story

By |Published On: October 31, 2023|

Part One

Once upon a time, last week, I found myself in a spooky situation. I was sitting at the little green IKEA desk in front of the window that looks out onto the front stoop of our house. (Sitting here makes package deliveries very… personal. “Hello! Nice to see you! I know you weren’t expecting to see a human sitting right here, but nonetheless, thank you for delivering the laundry detergent and toothpaste that we have so anxiously been anticipating. Have a nice day!”)

Anyway, delivery workers being scared by my disembodied head hovering over the open screen of a laptop through the window is not the spooky part of this story. On this particular day, I was supposed to be typing up a fresh newsletter draft. Something fun and fall-y that would remind you just what a dream this town is at this time of year.

The only problem was that I was stuck. “Writerly constipation,” as I described it to the team members who were awaiting my draft for editing. My draft was technically due the day before and yet here I sat, unable to put a sentence together in any form that felt worthwhile.

I concluded that I would obviously never write anything good ever again, told my husband to buckle up, because I was about to be fired from my job because I had peaked and my best days were behind me, and then decided to go for a walk to clear my head and mentally prepare to never do anything of substance ever again.

Luckily, it was, like, extremely nice outside and one big loop around the block provided me with a whole list in my Notes app of things I wanted to share with you. So. Crisis averted. This time.

Part Two

Thank you, State College, for sidewalks and dazzling fall trees, right out the door. (Thank you to my mother-in-law for using the word “dazzling” in a text message earlier in the day and planting it in my brain. It truly is the word to describe what it looks like outside right now, everywhere you turn.) Thank you for extremely accessible system resets for stuck brains and just-the-right-temperature, fresh, fall air. Thank you for Golden Hour in October in Central PA!

As I walked, I noticed that on this particular Wednesday, for various neighbors, Golden Hour also happened to coincide with:

Trumpet Lesson in an Open Garage Hour
Sidewalk Chalking the Driveway in a Tank Top Hour
Biking Home From – an after school practice? a friend’s house? – Hour
Chopping Firewood Hour
Practicing Rollerblading Hour

And I saw some incredible Halloween decorations.

So thank you, State College, for your lawn decor comedy, which infused a little life back into my own creativity! And thanks to whoever lives here for their commitment to this epic front yard scene:

(Is it Darth Maul’s wedding day? I feel lucky to have witnessed it, even from the outskirts…)

I spent a solid 40 minutes somewhat aimlessly wandering up and down the sidewalks, just noticing. I walked past Orchard Park where a fabulous poodle/doodle was on a walk with their family. I walked by a woman mowing her lawn and another blowing leaves into a pile. I heard one neighbor say to another, “How we doin’?!”

And then I cut through our backyard neighbors’ side yard and took the path that they generously keep cleared through the treeline between our houses. (Generations of neighborhood kids before me have used this path as a shortcut to the park. We’ve got great neighbors on all sides!)

I emerged from the trees, tramped through our yard, and headed back inside, feeling much more prepared to share State College fall fun.

Laura Mustio made her way to State College via Pittsburgh in 2015. Her writing celebrates our area’s hidden gems, treasured locals, and not-to-be-missed experiences.

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