Falling into Autumn

Well, it’s officially here: Autumn, the next cycle in the seasons.

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In my neck of the woods, it is cloudy and damp and chilly – not the most conducive weather for painting watercolors outside, although my sister Maxfield keeps trying, while I do some lettering to go along. We just can’t get ourselves to stop behaving like it’s summer, not yet.

Yesterday was one of those astonishing days we get here in Northeast Ohio: buckets of rain in the early hours, everything extremely soggy (which is a good thing; we needed the rain) and then by mid-afternoon, the sun came streaming out.

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As long as I stayed in the direct sun, it was comfortable shirt-sleeve weather, and I hauled art supplies outside, as well as the ever-present mug of tea (vanilla almond). Heaven! Everything looked bright and sparkly and clean and the smell was more Spring than Autumn, and I happily painted for a couple of hours until the Earth had moved just enough on its daily journey to put me in shade, and then it felt chilly. That’s ok; I was ready to take my dog and two of her canine cousins for a walk. All three had given me dirty looks when I’d dragged them out in the morning monsoon, but now they skipped along merrily, sniffing and rolling and generally living it up.

Once back, I noticed that the front porch was in full sunlight, so I grabbed one of the books I’m currently reading and settled in with another mug of tea (this time, Earl Grey).

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The warmth had me nodding and yawning and I thought how blessed I was to be doing exactly what I felt like: napping and reading and sipping tea, on a glorious late afternoon.

I thought how rarely I let myself just sit and gaze about with nothing in particular in mind.

I felt rich and expansive and very, very content.

pretty tea cup

I love this beautiful tea cup!

This morning as Maxfield and I set up to work again, we both commented that yesterday was productive. It seems that slowing down really does do something to help one focus and do better work. I’ve heard this for years, and even believed it in my heart, yet still found myself succumbing to the cultural “push-push-push-nosetothegrindstone-faster,faster,timeismoney” syndrome. How often my wheels spin, I feel quite busy, and yet I’m getting little accomplished, and end my day exhausted. Yuck!

OK, today we are challenging each other to take breaks, offer ourselves lovely moments of serenity, and just plain goof off.

Martha Beck writes about this beautifully in her book Finding Your Way In A Wild New World. In fact, she insists that the way to stay in your groove in this wild new world is to alternate between rest and play, rest and play, in an infinity loop. Does she mean we never have to work again? No, but rather that when we rest and play a lot, everything we do starts to become more playful and we feel better rested. We’ve all done work that felt exhausting and like we were hitting our heads against a really hard wall. We’ve also done work that left us exhausted with a smile on our faces, eager to rest up and start all over again.

Obviously, part of that depends on the kind of work, and how well it suits us.

But even if we’re doing something we adore, it won’t feel as wonderful to us if we’re tired. Being perpetually tired leaves all our systems – physical, mental, and emotional- without reserves. Great opportunities appear, and we’re too tired to notice or take advantage of them. Wonderful ideas float across our mental screen, and it all seems too hard. And emotionally, well, it’s well nigh impossible to feel happy and content when you’re perpetually exhausted. Our mothers were right: everything looks better after a good night’s sleep.

So this weekend Maxfield and I wrote and painted and painted and wrote, and took long leisurely walks, sipped tea (don’t forget the oolong and the rooibos), read a mystery and dozed in the sunlight while gazing at the season’s changing colors. We remembered once again that rest and play, and an acceptance of and pleasure in the changing seasons, go a long way toward real joy.

Watercolor paints.

These make Maxfield so happy.

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