Embracing the Season of Now

My mother, daughter, and I stand next to one another in front of a sunny window. The trees outside my mom’s bedroom are bare on this crisp winter day. “The trees will be so pretty in a couple of months,” I say, instantly regretting my words.

I’m learning to accept and appreciate the unmatched beauty of the moment.

It’s easy to spend our time dreaming of the next season or reminiscing about past ones. The ages of the three women in that room span more than fifty years. Each feels a certain amount of discomfort about the season in which she finds herself.

At thirty, my daughter is in full bloom. She faces the daily excitement and anxiety of a demanding profession in a bustling city. She is a newlywed looking forward to becoming a homeowner and wondering if she will also become a mother. If not unaware, she is indifferent to her skin so soft and supple, her body so long and lithe, her mind so sharp and strong.

In the window is a hazy reflection of me between my daughter and my mom. I’m part of the sandwich generation, those of us firmly in the middle of grown children we still worry about and aging parents who need our care. I’m retired now, leaving me no real identity outside of my relationships. I look a little tired and no longer young, but I am still growing.

My mother is the most deeply rooted of us. She is a towhead little girl, a beautiful bride, a young mother, a devoted grandmother, and a grieving widow. She says she never expected to live so long and that she doesn’t want to be a burden. How I wish she understood she’s no more a burden than a stately tree that’s provided solace and shade for generations.

As if my daughter and mother can read my mind, we are silent. The significance of the three of us coming together for just a moment to look out the same window is palpable.

The trees’ myriad of branches are strong, bold, and intentional against the bright blue sky. They hold both the memory and promise of fresh blossoms and green leaves, but on this cold and clear winter day they are living fully in the season of now. §

‘Merry Autumn’ – a seasonal poem and art project

I had so much fun making this wax paper, crayon, and leaf collage. Make your own to relax, flex your creativity, and celebrate fall!

While we were preoccupied with our collective concerns during this difficult year, spring and summer came and went and autumn faithfully arrived in all its golden glory. Immersing ourselves in a seasonal poem and simple art project can bring calm, creativity, and celebration of a new season.

For some reason, many classic poems about autumn are a bit depressing. Shakespeare referred to this time of year “As the deathbed when it must expire.” Robert Frost penned, “Then leaf subsides to leaf, so Eden sank to grief.” Emily Bronte wrote of fall, “I shall sing when night’s decay ushers in a drearier day.”

As beautiful as those poems may be, they don’t exactly inspire cheer. Thankfully, Paul Lawrence Dunbar favors a merry autumn over a solemn one. I especially love the lines, “The earth is just so full of fun, it really can’t contain it.”

Merry Autumn by Paul Lawrence Dunbar

It’s a farce, – these tales they tell
About the breezes sighing.
And moans astir o’er field and dell,
Because the year is dying.

Such principles are most absurd –
I care not who first taught ’em;
There’s nothing known to beast or bird
To make a solemn autumn.

In times, when grief holds sway
With countenance distressing,
You’ll note the more of black and gray
Will then be used in dressing.

Now purple tints are all around;
The sky is blue and mellow:
And e’ven the grasses turn the ground
From modest green to yellow.

The seed burrs all with laughter crack
On featherweed and jimson;
And leaves that should be dressed in black
Are all decked out in crimson.

A butterfly goes winging by
A singing bird comes after;
And Nature, all from earth to sky,
Is bubbling o’er with laughter.

The ripples wimple on the rills,
Like sparkling little lasses;
The sunlight runs along the hills
And laughs among the grasses.

The earth is just so full of fun
It really can’t contain it;
And streams of mirth so freely run
The heavens seem to rain it.

Don’t talk to me of solemn days
In autumn’s time of splendor,
Because the sun shows fewer rays,
And these grow slant and slender.

Why, it’s the climax of the year, –
The highest time of living! –
Till naturally its bursting cheer
Just melts into thanksgiving.

Paul Lawrence Dunbar, born in 1872, was one of the first African American poets to gain national recognition. His heartwarming short story ‘The Finish of Patsy Barnes’ is one of my favorites.

Reading and thinking about Dunbar’s Merry Autumn, may put you in the mood to do this art project. No matter how grown-up we get, throwing ourselves into something fun and creative can do wonders for our mental health.

Fall Art ProjectWax Paper Leaf Collage:

Supplies: wax paper, leaves, crayons, dull knife, piece of cloth, iron
Basic Instructions:
1. Go outside and collect a few colorful leaves.
2. Arrange leaves on a piece of wax paper.
3. Using a dull knife, cut a few crayons into small pieces. (I made mine about the size of peppercorns.)
4. Scatter crayon pieces around leaves on wax paper.
5. Lay another piece of wax paper on top of leaves and crayon pieces.
6. Place a piece of cloth over wax paper. (A cloth napkin works well.)
7. Press heated iron onto cloth until crayons melt and wax paper is fused together. Do not let iron directly touch wax paper. Lift and press iron to keep colors from running together too much.
7. Display your fall art project in a window or wherever makes you happy.

Question of the Week: What is your favorite thing about autumn? Leave your answer and any other reaction to today’s post in the comment section. I’d love to see a photo of your fall art project! Please email it to me at Alicia@thesimpleswan.com. Wishing you a week spent enjoying “autumn’s time of splendor.”

The Joy of New Year Resolutions – 2020 Vision

If ever a new year called for crystal clear vision, 2020 is it! Like many people, I adopt a special word for the new year in lieu of making resolutions. The idea is to choose a word that provides focus and clarity to help us live more intentionally. Allow me to share my word, and then I’ll help you come up with yours.

My word for 2020 is seasons. This word works well for me for a few reasons. First, I feel fortunate to live in a part of the country that experiences four distinct seasons. This year, I will more consciously delight in the natural beauty and seasonal gifts offered by winter, spring, summer and fall.

Additionally, I will embrace my current season of life. As empty-nesters who are newly retired, my husband and I are finding a simple rhythm here in our cabin in the woods. Our days unfold sweetly from sunrise to sunset. Rather than living in the past or worrying about the future, I want to appreciate and enjoy this wonderful season of our lives.

Finally, I will be considerate of those who are in more challenging seasons. Our children and younger friends are in the throes of establishing careers, raising families and finding their place in the world. Our parents and older friends are facing the uncertain mysteries of growing old. Keeping this in mind, I hope to extend more understanding, empathy and compassion.

So what is your word for 2020? There aren’t any rules, but here are some questions you could ask yourself to help you find your perfect word for the new year.

  1. How do I want to feel when I wake up in the morning?
  2. What do I care most about right now?
  3. How do I want to make other people feel when they’re around me?
  4. What does my heart crave?
  5. What is no longer serving my life?
  6. What is (and isn’t) my responsibility right now?
  7. How do I want to feel when I go to sleep at night?

Here are some juicy words to get you thinking ~ explore, presence, simplicity, create, gratitude, fun, courage, family, empower, relax, cheerful, learn, strong, joy, balance, focus, grow, kindness, acceptance, romance, brave, refine, passion, generosity, peace, change, elegance, happy, organized, grace, confidence, quiet, home, relationships, calm, faith, motivation, wellness, energy, mindful, wisdom, love. Do any of those words resonate with you and your hopes for the new year?

Once you’ve chosen a word, think about specific ways it might positively affect your daily life. How could a clear focus on your word influence these areas?

❤ Your disposition and attitude

❤ Your relationships

❤ Your home and possessions

❤ Your personal style

❤ Your work

❤ Your physical, mental and spiritual health

❤ Your activities and interests

❤ Your time and money

❤ Your thoughts and words

❤ Your actions and deeds

❤ Your contribution to the world

With some soul-searching and foresight, 2020 holds 365 chances to live out our vision. I am inspired by Anne Frank, who wrote in her diary, “What a wonderful thought it is that some of the best days of our lives haven’t even happened yet!” §

Embracing Change

 

A tall birch tree hugs the right side of our cove. Throughout summer, its lush green foliage partially blocked our view of the lake. Since fall’s arrival, the tree’s leaves have disappeared, and we can now see through bare branches clear to the other side.

Our improved view of the lake is like a parting gift from summer. Warm sunny days spent boating and swimming have come to an end, but from inside our cozy home, we will watch the water’s golden mist turn to silver frost.

I am reminded of this evocative thought written by Mizuta Masahide, a 17th century Japanese poet and samurai ~ Barn burned down. Now I can see the moon!

Now that’s a glass-half-full perspective.

Nature’s seasons are an apt metaphor and teacher for embracing life’s big changes ~ graduations, jobs, relationships, moves, parenthood, empty-nest, retirement, and a myriad of unexpected transitions.

As we move in and out of life’s seasons, it’s not always easy to hold Mr. Masahide’s outlook. My heart aches for evenings when my children begged for one more bedtime story or lullaby. I dearly miss decorating my classroom and discussing poetry with my students. You know I would be fibbing if I said I welcomed every crease and ache that come with growing older.

Yet, I need only observe the weather, the moon, a caterpillar, or corn field to understand that change is a natural state. Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “There is nothing permanent except change.” Whether the change is expected or hits us out of the blue, we usually have no control over the situation, only over our response.

We can lament the barn, or celebrate the moon. The choice is up to us.

I’m inspired by people who bravely face devastating changes brought by illness, poverty, disaster, and injustice. I saw my father accept a cruel death with logic and reason. I saw my mother accept widowhood with courage and grace. They both allowed faith and optimism to guide them through.

The falling leaves encourage us to embrace change, let go of what was, and enjoy a new perspective. Though we may reminisce our summer, youth, and yesteryear, we can choose to see the beauty of our life exactly as it is at this very moment.