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How I changed my perspective about autumn

Lynne Baab • Thursday October 24 2019

How I changed my perspective about autumn

It took me two or three decades of Seattle winters before I started hating them. That’s pretty good, I figure.

People think it rains all the time in Seattle, but actually our rain is concentrated in the winter. Seattle averages 38 inches of rain per year, and 21 of those inches come in four months, November through February. Early November, of course, is when we go off daylight savings time, so November is a double whammy. The rain suddenly increases and the days suddenly end much earlier. Seattle winters are dark and wet, not just wet.

When I started disliking winter, I found that the changing leaves of autumn had a voice: “Winter’s coming. The darkness and rain are descending. You’re going to hate it.”

September and October don’t have a lot of rain (1.6 and 3.2 inches respectively). These months usually have many days of sunshine to illuminate the beautiful leaves. But when I started disliking winter, I also stopped enjoying fall because of my dread of the arrival of winter.

All this changed in October 2013 and 2014 when we visited Seattle. We were living in New Zealand, where November is spring and December and January are summer. For those two Octobers, I could experience the beautiful fall leaves knowing I would leave right before Daylight Savings Time ended, to return to spring, then summer. I knew that for me, the red and yellow fall leaves of Seattle’s October would be followed by light pink flowering cherry trees, deep pink rhododendrons, red azaleas, yellow roses, warmth, and lots of light.

For those two Octobers, I experienced the beauty of fall without the overtones of winter. And I realized that October in Seattle is gorgeous. But I had missed it for many years because of my fear of how unhappy I would be in the winter that followed.

I found myself wondering how many other things I had missed because I was worried about something that’s coming.

About the same time, I was learning about mindfulness meditation, the practice that originated in Buddhism but which has lots to teach to Christians. I learned about the significance of being present in the moment. As a Christian, I know that this moment and this day are gifts from God and that when I receive them with joy and gratitude, I am honoring God. Plus, I’m a much happier person.  

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). I so often let my concerns about the future stop me from embracing the gifts of this day.

Mindfulness meditation encourages us to pay attention to the inner dialogue associated with our thoughts and feelings. For example, consider the difference between these three statements:

  • I should enjoy fall more.
  • By focusing on my fears of winter, I am missing out on the beauty of fall.
  • Fall leaves are so beautiful. I want to appreciate this gift from God.

The first statement makes enjoying fall leaves one more heavy burden in a world with enough pressures and “shoulds.”  The second statement is more helpful, because it begins the process of identifying my desire for this day. The third statement helps me name my desire to receive each day as a gift from God without criticizing myself.

As a result of my shift about autumn, here are the questions I often ponder: What fears about the future do I need to release into God’s presence so I can enjoy the gifts of this day? What could I notice today that would give me joy and enable me to thank God for this present moment?

     “Bless the Lord, O my soul,
     and all that is within me,
     bless his holy name.
     Bless the Lord, O my soul,
     and do not forget all his benefits.” (Psalm 103:1-2)

Next week: Grief AND thankfulness, one in each hand. Illustration by Dave Baab. I love to get new subscribers. Sign up below to receive an email when I post on this blog.

More about mindfulness – Creative prayer: learning from mindfulness meditation

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