A Guide to the Changing of Seasons
Fall is one of my favorite seasons because it's so outrageously poetic, metaphorical, and figurative. While I suppose each season offers the fruits of its labor, autumn is particularly moving for many people I know because it allows fellow tender hearts to enter into preparation for shutting down, closing in, or embracing the cold. Contrary to the blooming and budding of spring, we are invited into beautiful isolation and introspection of moving from gathering to hibernation. The height of this season calls us to look inward to see what we still need in order to feel safe, comfortable, and supported. By taking a moment to think through what this season of our lives may be whispering to us, we are able to prepare ourselves for whatever hardships may be around the corner.
In the many crunchy walks and crips morning coffee breaks, I've thought through some of the small tools or resources I've used to ease me into accepting change that, maybe right now, feels like it's for the worst, but is probably (and ultimately) for the best.
1. Thanking the trees
All crunchiness aside, how can you pass by a fiery orange oak or a blazing red maple and not gawk in amazement? If you live in an region where the trees take on a new personality for a few weeks out of the year, it feels almost disrespectful to not thank the earth providing the much-needed reminder that color and vibrance are an integral part of the human experience.
2. Allowing the wind to speak to me
The wind can be a very magical thing if you listen to it howl. I tend to imagine it as the universe, or God, or the Holy Spirit, or an ancestor, attempting to renew everything it touches. The wind (especially if you live in a windy city) can be equal parts harmful and equal parts nurturing. When I listen, I hear the world's natural meditation mantra swaying through the trees.
3. Creating an alternative "liturgy"
All religion aside, creating a small ritual that you value can be helpful in moving through periods of uncertainty. This can include activities like regular collaging or lighting candles before bed. It could be as simple as committing to reading small bits of a book in the morning or repeating a mantra while you brush your teeth. Anything can become sacred if you re-frame its intention.
4. Trying a small new thing, and then coming back to it
On a less spiritual level, I recently learned how to use face highlighter (you know, the makeup) and I was surprised by how fun it can be. After buying a drug-store trial palette, I've committed to coming back and trying new things every now and then when I want to add a perk in my day. As someone who doesn't wear makeup, it's been an exciting, small thing to experiment with. Just like the trees, I allow myself to take on a new image, if only for a little bit, as a way to tell my body that change is OKAY.
5. Bring back an old (but good) habit
For me, this was (and is) going to the gym. I don't do it every day and I sure don't follow any "rules", but I've introduced this old high school/early college habit back into my life as a way to thank my body for all of the work it does for me. The least I can do is let it swim around and blow off some steam before winter.
6. Read past love letters/cards/photographs
Yikes. But necessary. You know that box of letters you have under your bed? Or maybe it's a stack of birthday cards from over the years sitting on your desk? Or maybe even a drawer of photographs that you wanted to put in a scrapbook but never got around to? This season calls for a recollection of memories. Maybe take a small pile for a spin, allowing yourself to feel loved, appreciated, and connected. Fall gives you the permission to be nostalgic and emotional, but it also urges you to kindly disregard unnecessary sentiments that don't align with who you've grown into. Think about what you would like to hold on to as you grow into winter.
7. Clean out your room and donate some stuff (appropriately)
Like a cozy bear or a nesting squirrel, it's time to gather the things we need and get rid of the stuff we don't. Spring cleaning allows for us to have clear lenses, but fall cleaning invites us to assess how much we are living with and how much of that we actually need. Autumn is a time for living simply. Furthermore, by sorting our clothes, papers, old stuffed animals, kitchen utensils, etc. into "keep", "throw away", and "donate" piles, we are giving ourselves the time and space to make ecological decisions about what we actually want to do with our things. Instead of bombarding a donation center with things they may not want, I would encourage you to do a little research on where your items may be needed the most, like a local community garage sale or the town library.
8. Read and reflect on poetry
'Tis the season for poetry and reading outside before it gets too cold! Yes! In keeping with the reflective spirit, I would like to share some pieces that touch on the concept of change and transition, ya know, to help you embrace that space a little more.
Love, Death, and the Changing of Seasons by Marilyn Hacker
-A whole book of sonnets about the beginning, middle, and end of a hot & cold relationship. It resembles the cutting crisp chill of November mornings.
Hold Your Own by Kate Tempest
-A conceptual book of spoken word that faces body changes, gender, and sexuality head on, told from the mythical perspective of Tiresias. It takes you through life's seasons, sometimes with a gentle wind and sometimes with a sudden snow storm.
"October" by Robert Frost
-"Slow, slow!" the speaker urges. I completely agree.
This simple verse by Robert Louis Stevenson:
“The rain is falling all around,
It falls on field and tree,
It rains on the umbrellas here,
And on the ships at sea.”
"On a night of the full moon" by Audre Lorde (from Cables to Rage)
-This poem is honestly a little drunk off of summer, but it harnesses the vital attention to sensuality that autumn nights bring. While it's a little sunny, it's deeply nostalgic and lunar, resting in the crux of a seasonal shift.
9. Allow yourself a break from electronic/pop/rock
The other day it occurred to me that I sometimes listen to upbeat music to distract from the slower rhythms of my soul. Instead of drowning my head with summer's new age pop, I made an effort to slow things down, to let music settle in and make a nest in my brain.
Here are some tracks that have hit me particularly hard over the past two autumn cycles:
"Grow" by MUNA
-Y'all know I love them, but this one is a bit of a hard pill to swallow.
"Could it be Another Change" by The Samples
-I will admit that I first heard this song on the soundtrack for The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but it's a more cheerful slow autumn tune -- just in case you're feeling a little too sad .
"My Silver Lining" by First Aid Kit
-This song straddles the border between summer road trip and quiet cabin fever, so I suppose it lands between September-November. Perfect.
"Gold Parade" by Tow'rs
-Have you caught on that all of these songs are about the hardships of change? This one hits hard and slow.
"I Guess I Just Feel Like" by John Mayer
-Despite the drama with John, I've always has a soft spot for his music. The long guitar interludes remind me of driving through chilly cornfields and thinking about what the world might be calling me to do next.
"Great One" by Jessie Reyez
-Again, I will admit, I discovered this song from the film Someone Great, but it 100% deserves a shoutout. It's raw, confessional, and confronts its own vulnerability.
Alternatively, you could look at my heart/////break playlist and join me in a 3 month hangover post-cancer season.
10. Let go of the baggage!!!
Truly, I have no real advice on how to do this. For me, letting go of big feelings like guilt, shame, and worthlessness feel extremely complicated and nearly impossible. However, here are some mantras I've been working with that really resonate with me.
"Feelings, not facts"
"This is just a season"
"One minute, one hour, one day at a time"
"exhale. EXHALE." (with aggression)
"You're doing the best you can"
"Everyone is grieving, so be kind"
Again, fall calls us to recognize our changing minds and bodies. In moving towards winter, I hope you can offer yourself the space and time to be tender, gentle, and honest in the face in instability.