Autumn: Harvest the Happiness

Today it occurred to me as perhaps ironic that my “Mom in Bloom” blogging journey, with spring-like themes and flourishing undertones, has in fact been born in the full swing of Autumn — a season in which most living things begin to turn brown, shrivel up and die.

I know that Autumn is archetypally a time of gathering the last vegetative yield, preparing for colder months, and adjusting to fewer hours of productive daylight. And yet, while everything around me suggests that new growth and fruitfulness is coming to a close, still I can’t help but feel inside an emergence of new budding life.

Maybe fall has just always incited this feeling of excitement for me. But then again, from the prolific autumnal explosion of all-things pumpkin spice — from coffee, to Cheerios, to shampoo — I suspect I’m not the only one who feels this way.

This prompted me to wonder then, why, in the face of dying leaves, barren trees, and fading color, do so many of us feel this kind of renewed energy and anticipation at this time of year? Why do we feel invigorated by falling temperatures and swirling leaves, sweeping out with them the vivacious promises of spring and summer? Why are so many of us revitalized by that first fall frost, which actually just predicts the imminent onset of an ecological (and for some, spiritual) winter?

My ponderings (and professional training) suggest to me that this phenomenon probably occurs because, like any experience in life, how we interpret something depends on the meaning we have attached to it. Much of this meaning also lies in the emotions we attribute to the experience — hence fond memories often usher in that very same powerful feeling when they’re recalled in our minds or re-encountered in our environment.

Thus I guess it makes total sense for me that fall incites an excitement for growth and change, as I nostalgically remember going back to school this time every year, feeling enthusiastic to reunite with old friends and tackle new scholarly challenges (yes, I may be a little bit of a geek).

And maybe for others, it’s safe to say that Autumn means a delicious frothy latte, a warm and cozy sweatshirt, the electrifying percussion of marching bands and clashing football pads, or the scrumptious flaky crust and gooey center of a freshly baked apple pie.

There are so many sensationally appealing things that come to mind when we think about fall, maybe our sensory centers are just too overloaded in delicious goodness to notice the copious decay otherwise all around us.

So what does all this say about Autumn — or maybe even about life?

I think Autumn teaches us to celebrate all that is wonderful at a time of year when otherwise we might pessimistically obsess about the impending gloom of the winter ahead. Even as the days start to get more dreary and vibrant colors fade to an early darkness, Autumn still inspires us to delight in simple joys like clean crisp morning air, the warm cinnamon aroma of a spiced candle, or the creamy glorified amazingness of a Starbucks PSL (when we can afford one). Therein Autumn actually enables us to fill our spiritual cup, one simple sensory delight at a time, no matter who we are or how short on emotional change we may be.

So with that, I believe Autumn bestows a much larger gift — and lesson — if I’m really willing to lean into it.

If I can become more mindful in my intention to stop and notice the simpler joys of daily life — not just the fortuitous gifts of the autumn season — I might actually be able to harvest a little more happiness out of every life experience, no matter when, where or how small.

And when this becomes the practice I intentionally set for myself and begin to live inside of every single day, well, it is then that perhaps I begin to cultivate a richer and deeper meaning for my life and that of my family, no matter the size of our harvest or climate of our season.

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