MARIA KENNEDY FELT LUCKY. After a bitter break-up with her husband, she was living on her own with her four-year-old daughter, Alison. It wasn’t an ideal situation for a young mother but she was determined to make the best of it. And there was much to be thankful for.

She and Alison lived on Dupont Farm, a 300-acre horse farm in Columbia County in upstate New York. It was a wonderful place to raise a child. Far from the clamor of the city, they were surrounded by fields, horses, mountains and at the moment, the beautiful colors of Autumn.

It was Halloween and Alison was finally old enough to appreciate the holiday. Last year she’d been frightened by all the witches and skeletons, but what a difference a year made. This time around, Alison was fascinated. Maria laughed, recalling the boundless energy the girl had devoted to Halloween preparations. And finally the magical day was here. It was Halloween, the best day in the world!

At Alison’s insistence, Maria hung witches and ghosts from the ceiling of their home—though not in Alison’s bedroom. Scary is fun but not at bedtime. Also there were not one, not two, but three pumpkins guarding the porch with appropriately frightening expressions. Alison helped to carve each and especially loved Honk, which is what she called the honking huge pumpkin that sat in a place of honor right next to the door. Maria thought Honk was endearing in a collapsed sort of way. Alison carved a little too much of the pumpkin but Maria was able to rebuild the face with a few bent paper-clips. They both loved Honk. A lot of care had gone into him.

Since it was a gorgeous fall day, Maria took Alison for a walk in the late afternoon sunlight. There was something to this idea that the light in the Hudson Valley had a special quality—a luminosity. A number of famous painters thought so and Maria understood why. There was a timeless quality to the light that made the normal sights of the farm seem ethereal. Sometimes she shook her head in wonder at the beauty all around them.

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