Tuesday, September 17, 2019

THE RISE OF FALL – Cures For Autumn-itis

This time of year has always proven a bit depressing for me. It’s like that mix of low-grade depression and dread one experiences on a Sunday afternoon when a nice weekend’s winding down and another work week looms. I call it Sunday-itis.

Multiply that melancholy and stretch it out over a couple of months, and that’s what I feel each time another summer winds down and five or six months of cold, dark, colorless days descend on our spirits here in the Northland.

But hey, when you get lemons don’t get all sour, right? Make lemonade.

         These are the bluest skies of the year.

So here, without much effort at all, are a few of the wonders of fall which, if I put my mind to it, might help me ease the transition:

LEAVES - As you may know, fallen autumn leaves have recently become the medium of my irrepressible creative bent. (See my work at Shades of Autumn) I look forward to getting out there during those precious few days between when the most desirable leaves drop and when they begin to deteriorate, and collecting those amazing little splashes of color, form and texture.

ACORNS - I love walking through the piles of them that accumulate on the sidewalks around our oak-filled neighborhood. The drier the better. I go out of my way to step along the edges of the sidewalk where the thickest piles provide the most satisfying crunch.

HORSE CHESTNUTS - Popped from their prickly casings, the nuts litter the grass. If you get to them before the squirrels do, pick one up. They’re one of the most aesthetically pleasing objects in Nature. The rich, reddish-brown color—yes, that color is actually called “chestnut”—the silky-smooth texture of the surface; the rounded shapes; even the pleasant heft of one in the hand make them ideal worry stones.

FUNGI - Autumn, especially one following a very wet summer like the one we’ve had here in east-central Minnesota, is prime time for various kinds of fungus. Most of the annual flowers may be history, but these fascinating growths have their own elfin charm and earthy aroma. (I have not hunted for morels, but I should.)


GEESE - On late fall nights, I keep my ears open for what may sound like a crowd of people chattering in the distance. If I look up, I might see the hundred-strong "V" of migrating geese, two thousand feet up, dimly lit against the blackness by ambient earthlight.

WOOD SMOKE - In summer, smoke means a campfire, or someone’s roasting wienies or browning marshmallows for s'mores. In fall, whiffs of smoke smell different somehow. These cooler nights, fire’s heat is for more than cooking. Soon it moves indoors, convening folks round hearth and stove.

THE AIR - Summer air, especially during the dog days of July and August, can feel like a damp blanket. It wraps around you, encloses you—along with a cloud of mosquitoes. Come Fall, though, the blanket lifts, the mozzies expire, and the cooler, drier air does nice things to smells, sounds, and even one’s point of view. These are the bluest skies of the year.

APPLES - The difference between a fresh-picked fall apple and one bought any other time of year is like the difference between rich, freshly-extracted espresso and instant. The balance of sweet and tart, the crisp texture, even the weight of the fruit tells you it’s fresh, bursting with juice. Thank goodness I only have to wait a couple of months after the decline of my other seasonal favorite: nectarines.

SMELLS - In fall the bright, impetuous scents of summer give way to more muted, thoughtful smells: dry leaves, decaying vegetation, fungi and molds, perhaps a savory stew or apple pie steaming in the kitchen.

Which of autumn’s wonders help ease the loss of summer’s long, luxuriant days for you?

Saturday, September 7, 2019

DREAMS IN HINDSIGHT – Magic of Imagining

This morning I was standing in our kitchen, pouring cereal into a bowl. Light streamed in through the generous windows at either end of our modest townhouse, highlighting our decor’s vibrant colors.

I picked up the remote and, from across the house, tuned the stereo to my favorite jazz station.

     There would be music, HD music, not just
     in one room, but filling the entire first level.

As I’m wont to do occasionally, I stepped back mentally, lifting my attention from the fruit I was about to peel to a more universal perspective. And it suddenly became quite clear: in that moment I was living out a very specific dream I’d had some 13 years ago.
Back then, we lived a fine little two-bedroom home in a fine little St. Paul neighborhood. Of course, it had windows on every side, but, typically for the period, the layout was broken up into distinct rooms, limiting one’s sight lines and the flow of light through the interior.

In that house, at that time, someone working in the kitchen might have turned on a table radio, or maybe an iPod, but the stereo was like two rooms away. So, without decent, space-filling music, without a real color concept for the decorating, with all the surfaces kind of old and grimy, that kitchen seemed all but lifeless.

But I could dream…and I did. I remember standing in front of that old kitchen sink one day and imagining the home I’d someday find. I pictured a bright, open space with one living area flowing seamlessly into the next; walls painted the kinds of colors Mexicans use to such delicious effect; art enlivening every unhindered vista.

There would be music, of course, HD music, not just in one room, but filling the entire first level. I wouldn’t have to walk into a different room to turn it on; it would be right there at my fingertips.

Believe it or not, I could even smell the clean, herbal scent of the liquid hand soap I’d have in the kitchen in that ideal place.

        It’s easy to take for granted that whatever
        we want we won’t want for long.

Well, here I was, this erstwhile feast of imagination now spread out for real right in front of me. I love it! Not just that I’d had that moment of envisioning all those years ago, but that I remembered it now so clearly.

It’s too easy—especially for those of us fortunate enough never to have experienced much need—to simply take for granted that whatever we want we won’t want for long. Somehow, it usually just shows up.

But we should acknowledge the power of a universal consciousness—we might call it God, Creator, Great Spirit, Jehovah, Allah, Brahama…whatever—to make that happen. Privileged or not, when we earnestly put our hopes, our intentions, out there and entrust them to the Universe—and are sufficiently open to actually noticing its response—they are indeed most often fulfilled.