The warm, sunny days of early autumn lasted well into October. Birch, aspen and cottonwood trees seemed unhurried to shed their golden leaves. Each day, the weather could be described as, “It doesn’t get better than this.” During a two-and-a-half-hour forest bathing session on October 19th, we savored the sunshine and warmth until 6PM when the walk ended. By the next evening, however, wet weather and cooling temperatures began to set in.
The first big storm of the season arrived on Wednesday, November 2nd. Snowflakes the size of dimes glommed onto each other and quickly plastered every available surface including tree limbs and leaves. The “crack” of breaking branches could be heard in all directions followed by a “whump” as heavy, wet snow – flung from branches – resettled on the white, wintry ground.
Before the end of the day, we received at least eight inches of snow. I forgot to mention that the power went out at six o’clock that morning and it would be another 40 hours before it came back on.
Only a few days after the storm blew in, most of the snow at our place melted. Cleaning up mounds of broken branches kept us busy. While taking a breather from picking up willow limbs, pastel colors caught my attention. The recently fallen leaves of a large cherry tree blanketed a patch of ground. Their pink, peach, and yellow hues brightened up the scene despite substantial damage to the tree. It was like discovering beauty after the beast of the storm.
Storms never come at a convenient time. Still, I’m grateful for many things. I’m grateful that there was no damage to buildings and fences at our place. I’m grateful the Rural Electric Co-op sent out crews as quickly as they did to cut branches off the powerlines and restore electricity. I’m grateful that we stayed warm, had food and water, and that our health allowed us to deal with the aftermath of the storm. I’m also grateful for little things – colorful leaves, the calls of chickadees, the smell of pine needles, a patch of blue sky and sunshine, a wooly bear caterpillar walking on snow – that reminded me that that life goes on.
Ways To Embrace The Changing Season
Autumn is the season of change. Don’t be afraid to bundle up and get some fresh air. You don’t need to go on an expedition. Only stay out for as long as you feel comfortable. A brief walk to greet a tree or shrubs in the yard can brighten your day. It can be as simple as saying, “Hi neighbor,” or “Hi friend,” to the plants. Greet the birds or other beings you hear or see. Once you begin to pay attention to the sights, sounds, smells, textures, and perhaps the tastes of the cool autumn air, you may surprise yourself by spending more time outdoors than you anticipated.
There are other ways to deepen your relationships with the-more-than-human world on these cold, gray-sky days if you choose to stay indoors. It’s called “virtual forest bathing.” Start by choosing a place where you can sit by a window with a view of nature. Consider having a house plant (or a vase of flowers) nearby to notice small details, scents or textures.
Whether you’re forest bathing (or nature bathing) in-person or virtually, you might like to begin by closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths to help your mind quiet down and to become aware of the present moment. When you feel ready, slowly open your eyes as if it’s the first time you’re seeing. . . There’s no rush. . . Take your time looking out . . .
- Look all around. . . look up. . . look down. . . (Notice what you’re noticing. . .)
- I wonder how many colors you see?
- I wonder what small details you observe?
- I wonder what motion(s) you detect? (This might include the sway of leaves or tree branches, the flight of birds and clouds, among other things)
- What else are you noticing?
Consider writing or sketching your observations in a journal.
Let nature be your muse.