We’re all feeling it; the decline of delicious summer and our steep descent into the darker months. Fall days have always been, for me, the pause to consider how we will handle the pace change as a family. It’s a quick respite of quick-bursting color and sun-filled pumpkin hunting afternoons. But with each passing day, the dark lingers longer in the morning, the wind kicks up it’s powerful gust – ripping leaves from branches and buffeting the trunks of trees into straightness.
I recently spent/wasted hours at the RiverBend Prairie. There’s a stretch of .5 km that runs the circuit of the prairie, making it easy to see the end of the fall plant-life from all angles. The prairies are all turning over to go to sleep. The mountain mint is bright and bitter tasting, forcing the last of it’s sweetness into the tips of the needly leaves. The bees have gone, most have died – and there are few precious things left for the flowers to impress. The monarchs have migrated, along with the Bobolinks and other blackbirds. I found a single purple gentian flower stretching it’s neck out along the path and wove it back into the safety of the prairie, away from trampling foot. Yes, there is no doubt, it is seed collecting time; summer is dried up, the color all washed out from the faces of our once-singing flowers. What is left is their potent offspring.
And with the natural transition, we’re in that strange time, commercially, where the glitter-covered spooky spiders are sitting on shelves next to elves. And we’re going to try to cram a styrofoam pumpkin somewhere in between, because we almost forgot Thanksgiving. It’s chaos for the mind; sweeping us from one event to the next in a parade of fake foliage, sentiments about “gathering”, and excessive candy-cane striping. When the whole of the natural world is screaming out that it’s time to slow down, hide, lay-low, our senses are shocked into constant movement. Fog-horns are the demands of the holidays and we wonder why we feel so tired , depressed, even, in the dark (synthetically lit) days. I’m not a cynic. I love festival and celebration as much as the next guy- but we have a few precious days hanging in the balance before the societal bull-dozer dozes over our peace.
So, let’s take it. Let’s take these precious few days of a glorious Wisconsin autumn and let ourselves adjust to the pace change. Walk in the woods. Take note of what the natural world would suggest; Naps. Stripping Back. Deep Breaths. The wind is coming, – let it strengthen your root system. Make plans now for how many things are allowed to go on the calendar, how much money you will spend on decorations or ornaments or gifts. Decide, really decide, how to gather with the people you love and want to deepen your connection over meals. Intentionality is the key here. Because even if you are a hobby-lobby junkie (like me) running the pace that “distributors of goods” want you to run in during a season of rest for the natural world is just, … unnatural. And certainly will have the kind of side effects that we aim to numb with uppers, downers, all-arounders. What if we just sat for a minute? And gave thought to our ways?
A few things to consider for those wanting to engage in the season of simplicity during this beautiful intermission:
- chuck the obscene amount of flyers that are about to hit your mailbox into the “burn pile” without even looking at them. A warm fire at night is better than the fire of discontent and American wanting.
- Consult your partner, and make a loose budget. Anticipate what you want to do, spend money on, gifts for the kids. Make a date of it. Grab your pumpkin-spiced lattes, cozy up in a corner and get ahead of the monster.
- Get outside. Silence and Solitude and simple observance do far more for the soul than we give credence to.
- Get a paper calendar (even if it’s just for the next 3 months) There’s something helpful about having a full visual of the things we commit to and it’s so easy to say “yes” in the spirit of whatever month it is, often leading to over spending and over-booking ourselves- the primary cause of emotional and physical burn-out. When you can see it, you have power to avoid it. If it all exists somewhere in an invisible icloud somewhere we are just pulsing along according to alarms set and to do lists. (this is particularly important if you have kids who will inevitably be playing a role in a holiday performance of some kind. Multiply that by the number of kids you have, and you’re already at risk of the “too-much-ism-ness” of it all
- Take care of your body: this is a season for soup, deep and flavorful broths, roasted root vegetables, hot tea, ciders. When we’re overbooked with our time, it’s easier to snag convenient (non)food full of empty calories and delicious sugars. I’m not a calorie-counter, but read that the beloved pumpkin-spiced-lattes average a 380 caloric value. Guys, … c’mon. Drinking this stuff everyday is going to make you slow, cranky, dehydrated, and fat. Get an entire tin of pumpkin spiced tea for the same price of a venti drink. This way, you’ll be more emotionally present for your family, have more stamina and energy and contribute to the health of the immune system (which undergoes major pressure during the holiday season)
- Create a morning ritual that does not involve your devices. We’ve been “device free” for the first sacred hours of the morning for over a year now. I am confident that it contributes to my overall health and well being. I intentionally reject the morning scroll, and replace it with a morning stroll as often as I can. In the very least, I tell myself that these hours of the morning are for output and intentional input. It’s a time to write, to praise, to thank, to pray- and a time to receive comfort, encouragement, hope, instruction. It is most fully NOT for comparing, consuming, or commercialism. It takes work to keep the soul roomy and uncluttered. Be vigilant and you’ll find that mornings are the delight of your life in the slow and curious way they make you feel truly awake.
There’s more. So much more. But we are individuals and our lives have different tempos and speed. I felt remiss in these final days of October to not make mention of some of the most splendid ways that our city creates space for us to pause for thought:River Bend Nature Center, Island Park, Johnson Dog Park, Bushnell County Park have been places of great reprieve during the seasonal transition. Skip your hour, wandering through the aisles of Target this week, and instead plan a walk through one of Racine’s parks.
The affects of a slow hour-long meditative (observant) walk in nature are 30 fold; lowering blood pressure for up to 30 days. Understand that the opposite is also true, spend an hour wandering in aisles of products, juggling coupons, hitting sales racks and even though the dopamine hit of buying something new feels good- it only lasts (get this!!) 43 seconds before discontent starts to set in again.
My hope for myself, my family and my community, during fall of 2019 is that we would engage with peace. Seek it out, pursuit it and hold fast to it. It’s worth all the effort that would be spent combatting emotional unhealth or physical unwellness.