This year I’ve become more introspective than ever about the passing of time. We’ve had time to watch the bluebird build its second and even third springtime nest, and we’ve had time to witness the leaves go from a top-tint ombre of gold and ochre in October to a full falling during November’s hard rain.
There are some things I’ve learned by just paying attention in these short days of autumn. And in no particular order, I’ve listed them here:
1.Children can survive long car trips.
This fall, we threw caution to the wind, picked up our homeschooling notebooks and work laptops and drove to mid-coast Maine. Did you catch that? We drove; a feat I’ve always been too terrified to consider with four children. But we made it with the help of surprise snack bags every three hours, a good set of headphones for each of the kids, and podcasts galore for the drivers.
2. Buy Trader Joe’s Mini Dark Chocolate Mint Stars in bulk.
You won’t regret this decision. Throw a box in the freezer (because, duh), and keep the others high up in the cupboard. Toss a few to the children for attentiveness with their schoolwork. They’ll think you hung the moon and you won’t have to keep making trips to the grocery. Hide a final box in your closet just for you.
3. If you ask for the revelation, be prepared for whatever you hear.
When we pray for discernment on a matter of importance, we must be open to the clarifying answer, even if it turns out to be the most difficult option. The losses this year have been impossible. We endure.
4. Bittersweet vine is better than any flower on your Thanksgiving table.
Foraging for bittersweet, naturally growing in much of the United States, is like bringing home the $20 bouquet. The berries are yellow and orange and do a good job of drying right on the vine. Don’t have woods for hunting? Take a clippers to a nearby park or walking trail. You’ll be surprised what you might find.
5. We are a divided country.
Nobody is winning at this thing. No one. As long as our social media accounts are filled with charged pejoratives, as long as we can’t even touch the topic of politics with our parents, as long as we are hearing our own voices sounding back at us from the echo chambers of one-sided media outlets, we won’t soon find unity.
6. The sunrises in Maine are just better.
I don’t know how to explain this. Maybe it’s because close by Cadillac Mountain sees America’s first light of day. Maybe it’s the north-end latitude or the morning colors reflecting on the Atlantic Ocean, but whatever it is, the sunrises in Maine are just better. No question.
7. Learning is lifelong.
The petite scholars in my home aren’t the only ones gaining knowledge this year. Their learning has inspired me to remember the order of scientific notation, the role of the endocrine system, the error of a dangling preposition and the fullness of early American history as told by the indiginous and the African as well as the British colonizer.
8. Hope is always present.
And even more so when the way forward is unclear. Uncertainty shines a spotlight on hope in a way nothing else can.
9. The bigger the love, the harder the loss.
Our 11-year-old golden retriever died in October. She’d been with my parents on their farms for the last several years, but her passing hit me much harder than I had expected. Our animals represent chapters of our lives—Lucy will always be a symbol of the births and early childhoods of my babies. This kind of loss stings.
10. Send the children into the woods and see what happens.
Hand them the walkie talkies, ask them to pack a snack and stay in touch. See you in a few hours. Don’t offer suggestions or activity ideas. It’s amazing what happens to the imagination when there are no props. See what they do. It’ll surprise you.
Want to try this exercise? Take the next five minutes and jot down what you remember doing this September–November. What did you learn in the process?