Late Autumn: when the air turns crisp and the leaves turn from soft greens into sharp reds and fall from limbs to land. After the first frost hits, I move through the world with far more tenderness, more tears, more depth. Despite having grown up in Florida, this time of year feels like a homecoming. And a graduation. As if all of the efforts propelling forward with the first buds of spring and blooming in the full glory of summer can finally start to slow down.
I know for many people this time of year is particularly hectic and chaotic. All the shopping and celebrating and events can turn the last three months of the year into a blur of consumerism and obligatory cheer. Still, it’s hard to resist the many markets with local artisans sharing their beautiful delights.
Going slowly and enjoying the art and beauty of the different offerings can be part of the slowing down and shift as well, though. Shopping with intention and attention can turn the experience into a delightful day of discovery and wonder.
Late Autumn is, in the words of Maia Toll, a “time between endings and new beginnings, the liminal space within our own heart is most easily accessed.” Toll encourages us: “Give yourself room to dream into this deeply mystical season.”
This year, I’m centering Toll’s advice as we move into the week before Thanksgiving and the calendar fills with shopping events, travel, and tree lightings. The past two weekends have been delightful days of vintage stores and artists’ collectives. They have also been a time to listen to who I am again. What am I drawn to? What brings me joy? Peace? I’ve learned to make room for the giddiness that comes from finding an unexpected connection with a stone or a book or a work of art.
It helps that I’m shopping for myself and my wife, for us and our home. What do we want more of in our lives? What will remind us of that desire and support us in our journey into the new year?
Our children are two cats who already have our hearts and only ask for food and catnip to go with our undivided attention to their needs. They are easy to shop for and have no interest in this year’s must-have toy.
And while we do enjoy the artisan shows and antiquing, we also changed our approach to the holidays several years ago and spend most of our time and money on wishes hung on giving trees from the local no-kill cat rescue organization and whatever organization my company focuses on.
True giving from a place of meaning and intention rather than a place of obligation and tradition has changed the holidays for us. It’s allowed us to listen to our more accessible hearts and to feed them the type of compassion and generosity that allows them to feel heard.
Some years, bonuses and unexpected windfalls have allowed us to grab many tags and experience the joy of giving on a larger scale. Other years, we pick two tags and are grateful to be able to do that. To paraphrase Rockefeller, giving is a privilege, not a duty.
If I were a different person, I’d give of my time where it might be needed. I am not that person, however. I’m grateful for those who find interactions with other people to be their way of giving. And when we can, our support goes to helping those organizations continue to do the work that they do as well.
On Solstice, we celebrate Yule quietly. A day of games, reading, eating. Weather permitting, we honor the turning of the wheel of the year and the journey of the light returning by going on an easy hike or simply putting some chairs by a river. Our new year has begun and the sense of the liminal will begin to fade over the next few weeks. Especially once the secular New Year’s comes and goes.
These rituals, this approach, have not happened overnight. And some years we are more attentive than others. Both of us grew up in Christian households and the transition from Christmas to Yule has not always been a smooth one. We have a mixture of traditions at this point and it continues to change every year. We did not wish to simply swap one set of traditions with another prepackaged system. Questioning why we do certain things, say certain things, eat certain things has made the creation of our own meaningful season possible.
Even if you do not find yourself changing belief systems, I do hope you at least question your own traditions. Not to overturn them but because in the questioning we reconnect to what is important to who we are now, what matters now, and what we need to flourish with the turning of the wheel.