Cynthia Rylant has a beautiful book titled In November that I discovered last year while I was rounding up “fall books” for my youngest. (Sadly, I didn’t know it existed when my big kids were little.) At one point she talks about the trees:
In November, the trees are standing all sticks and bones. Without their leaves, how lovely they are, spreading their arms like dancers. They know it is time to be still.
Do we know it’s time to be still? I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about how separated we are from the seasons. We live our insulated lives, with our A/C and our furnaces, and let the weather go on as it may. I’m incredibly thankful for the blessings of air conditioning on a hundred degree Kansas day, but we’ve become very removed from the gradual shift of the seasons.
Is it possible to recapture the sense that November is a time for quieting life? For slowing down; for preparing for sleep? The cynic in me is clawing to get out right now, full of snide remarks about how dark and gray it is and of course we’re ready to sleep. But is it possible to actually mimic nature, to set aside all the crazy of go-go-go and do-do-do and be still?
To be at peace, in quiet, as the world fades into the muted grays and browns of late autumn?
I’m considering a few ideas:
Nothing new. No new appointments this month. In an effort to slow and quiet our schedule, purposefully saying “no” to any new or last-minute obligations that crop up. If it’s a regular class, appointment, or event, it stays. If not, it must fight to earn its way onto the calendar. The default answer should be “no.”
Afternoon walks. The time for after-dinner walking is officially over; it’s pitch-black by 5:30 where we live. But our family’s schedule offers up the freedom to take a walk in the late afternoon, before dinner prep starts. I don’t look at this as a “gotta get a workout in” walk. I’m intending this to be a “go outside and enjoy the amazing trees before they fade” walk.
Evenings in. It’s cold out there. I want to spend evenings inside, with family, with warm drinks and books (or maybe cards and games). Especially as the shopping season ramps up, I’m hoping to be content at home instead of jumping into the holiday frenzy. I absolutely understand this is not possible every night (even our very scaled-back calendar includes youth events at church on Wednesday nights), but any baby steps in this direction will help.
Winter prep. I’ve been taking care of the outside “stuff” over the past few weeks. It’s never looked like “We spent our entire Saturday dealing with yard work.” It’s been a quiet, small, gradual process of putting away the plant pots one day, unhooking and storing the hoses the next afternoon, taking down and washing the hammock another….a simple, “still” way of preparing for the winter ahead; putting the yard and garden to bed for the year.
Cleaning out. As we prepare for the Christmas season, I’m taking decluttering the same gradual way: small, baby steps; with weekly stops at our thrift store that’s on the way to preschool (and next door to the library–does it get any better than that?). I’m planning our Christmas in the quiet spaces I’ve found in my days, and am making room for the influx that is bound to happen come December 25th (still, thankfully, a ways off).
Apparently rules are made to be broken, because I’ve disregarded each of these more than once over the past few weeks. Birthday party invites arrive; math tutors must be included in the schedule as needed, and afternoon walks? That’s a fairly large schedule (read: habit) change for me to just start, out of the blue. But my intention, knowing it’s time to be still, stays the same.
What would you want to give up? What would you need to include? How else could we appreciate more fully this particular season, when things grow quiet and still?