Time to Breathe

I hadn’t much time, so I had to choose which chore to do before we needed to leave for Kiddo’s next appointment. I chose watering the planters mainly from guilt. The mums were new, but already neglected. It’s been dry here (not California-dry, but dry enough that even the trees are stressed). Being outside usually makes me feel better about life (cleaning toilets is far less therapeutic), and since this month has been particularly stressful, I hoped that those good vibes would carry me through the day.

While I was rolling up the hose, I tuned in for a moment to the thoughts that had been swirling around my mind. There’s a constant stream of chatter that I sometimes get lost in, but other times manage to ignore. It’s almost as though there are two channels broadcasting at the same time. On one, I was thinking about the plants, noticing what needed pruning, what looked stressed, what was dying back. On the other, I was feeling relieved that a new year was starting.

That’s the thought that startled me, making me tune into that stream. What on earth did I mean? Everything in the yard is dying. The grass gave up weeks ago from lack of rain. Most of the perennials have passed, and the trees are starting to drop their leaves. The leaves that have fallen are small and brownish, not the vibrant colors we’ve had other years. Nothing about this yard says new beginning. It’s a winding down to winter. Fall. Everyone knows that. So why am I taking deep breaths and feeling relieved that summer is over? Why am I connecting Fall with a fresh start?

The obvious answer, of course, is that this is a new school year. My granddaughter is home-schooled. In my home. And several people I know, both family and friends, are either teachers or students. I’m neither, but I still bought myself a few new notebooks (Confession: I bought myself a ton of new notebooks. They’re in a bag under my bed. The new pens and markers are in the drawer in the family room, if anyone needs any. There might be a fresh pack of crayons there too. You know—just in case). So, yes, I do equate September with the new school year.

That wasn’t what I was thinking about, though. I was noticing the falling leaves, the dying plants. I was feeling the relief that comes with letting go, with finishing a cycle, with coming in from the sun. The air felt cool and crisp, and even though the sun was bright, it didn’t glare at me. It wasn’t the hot August sun demanding I reach my full potential, finish the race, grab every moment of life I can. It was a softer sun that said it’s okay to take your time. There’s still warmth, but the breezes are cooler. It’s time to breathe deeply and feel the energy build.

Maybe my cycle runs from Fall through Summer. August feels like the last push for the summit. September feels like renewal. There’s still a lot of life this time of year. It’s harvest. My spiritual birth is now when the apples are ripe and pumpkins fill the fields. This is a time of abundance and celebration. This is birth and childhood, right through the holidays. The magic of Halloween, the feast of Thanksgiving, the color and music of Christmas. It’s a time to be aware of family, whatever that means to you. There’s stress, there’s sorrow. But that’s life.

Passing into winter is like entering adolescence. It’s time to bundle up. You wear so many layers it’s hard to tell what you really look like. It can feel endless and dreary and depressing. You’re in a cocoon, just itching to break free. Then spring finally comes: you’re an adult, still young enough to enjoy it and put in the hard work. You prepare the ground for new crops. You mate and smell the flowers. Then summer— exciting and bright until the heat and humidity get you. Until everything starts to wilt. Until you’ve set your fruit for someone else to harvest.

Spring isn’t birth, it’s the prime of life, hit-the-ground-running after a long winter. Shed some of those layers. And summer, well, that’s when you’re stripped bare. Exposed. There’s no escaping the glare of the sun. You can’t hide who you’ve become. The layers are gone. It’s just you in the stark white light of day. So Fall is it for me, the time of year I come alive. This is when I feel hopeful and abundant and thankful for a new day. I decorated the house with pumpkins and leaf garlands and orange lights. I hung friendly, gauzy ghosts from the ceiling beams and hung a bright orange wreath on the door. The yard is full of scarecrows and mums and more pumpkins. It’s a celebration.

This is the time to plant those bulbs and perennials you want to see flourish in the spring. They need time under ground, time to get rooted, before you ever get to see them bloom. There’s life everywhere, like the daisy’s new growth, close to the ground, visible when you cut back the old. This is the beginning of life, all red and orange, smelling of apples and cinnamon. But beginnings aren’t showy, and sometimes aren’t pretty. The old needs to fall away, be cut back, or just allowed to wither and die. Don’t be fooled by what you don’t see. Take a deep breath and welcome a new year, another chance at life.

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