Fall has hit the Pacific Northwest with a cold, wet slap. This is the thing that I maintain a love-hate relationship with up here – our summers have become relatively hot and definitely dry, and so that change over into autumn at first feels like a welcome relief. Rain! Oh, glorious rain! After three or four months of drought, those showers release a sigh across the region and we can hear the earth gorging on the rain, plumping up grass, leaves, and moss.
But a few weeks into it, I’m done with the endless grey skies and enveloping dampness and darkness. Because the thing is: we don’t really have autumn. A handful of crisp mornings and then everything becomes sodden. Trees drop their foliage overnight, with wet, molding mounds of brown leaves clogging our gutters and storm drains. We don’t have the glorious heaps of crisp leaves to jump in; we have six inches of slimy grossness that makes you fall down when you step on it. And it’s just so grey grey grey everywhere you look. I have heard it referred to as Seattle’s Big Grey Hat (and they aren’t talking about a sports team hat).
(apocalyptic view from my commute this morning)
To be fair, in recent years our cities have begun planting what must be non-native trees along streets and in parks, trees that actually have fall foliage in colors other than brown. These provide the rare spots of color in our monotone world. I have actively sought out ‘fall color’ plantings for our yard to try and alleviate some of the winter doldrums.
Overall, this time of year has me wanting to do nothing more than curl up in my flannel sheets and sip my tea and read for hours (man, that sounds amazing right now!). I eat too much comfort food, and exercise falls off my radar as the thought of jogging in 50-degree rain saps my will to live.
And so this year, as winter sets in I’m trying a new approach. I started taking a few vitamins, including a D3/K2 combo. Rather than trying to get excited about pounding the pavement and dodging puddles in my damp tennis shoes, I’ve started a video exercise routine that I can do from the comfort of my (warm and dry) living room.
Perhaps the most impactful change I’m implementing, however, is some self-reflection, focus on meditative activities, and just plain ‘analog’ time. Our lives are so noisy – constantly bombarded by emails, texts, targeted advertisements, social media posts, click-bait headlines, fake news, and political nonsense – it’s easy to be overwhelmed and fall into a frantic mode of ‘always on’.
I am going to be making conscious decisions to be ‘off’ now and then, to avoid the Netflix binge in lieu of an hour of sketching, to leave the emails for Monday, and even to turn off the podcast so that I can listen to the sound of the rain.
I challenge you to do the same. Maybe for just an hour a week, disconnect from all things electronic and make something with your hands (without YouTube!), turn the pages of an actual book, leave the cell phone at home and take a walk around the block, learn to draw cartoon characters, donate a couple hours at a food pantry helping people in need, write a hand-written letter to someone at a nursing home, sweep the wet leaves from your neighbor’s front walk. Your Pinterest board may suffer a little from the absence, but your heart will be full and your mind more rested.