By Mary Petersen
Signal Staff Writer
My two year old grandson and his dad planted a garden this summer. His dad built wooden boxes to house the herbs and veggies on their balcony. My little guy’s eyes light up every time he sees a bell pepper or a zucchini bud emerge. He wants to pick the green strawberries, but his mother instructs him that they’re still growing like he is. When they planted potatoes (he calls them spuds) and blanketed the segments with a thick layer of soil, he said, “The spuds are sleeping.”
The thought occurred to me that his observation is a great metaphor for how we’re all feeling right now. Can we just go to sleep and wake up as vibrant green seedlings enthusiastically bursting into life, ready to grow vigorously and confidently into our destiny? As we leave a scorching summer behind, we are weather-
worn, our leaves wilted or crisped to brown. When we ventured into the sun it was masked with smoke and ash so we retreated inside. Many of us are ready for the transition that fall brings but still face autumn with uncertainty and fatigue.
Fall provides the opportunity, if not to sleep metaphorically, to slow down. As perennial plants take advantage of a much-needed period of rest, we also need rest from the fatigue we have been experiencing. In fall, the cooler, milder weather encourages rejuvenating stillness and introspection. The slower pace of nature with shorter days and earlier dusk provides more time for quiet solitude.
Paradoxically, fall is the start of the harried holiday season, a time of hectic activity at a frenzied pace. Once upon a time, this meant planning dinner menus, buying gifts and throwing parties. For some it meant Christmas caroling, photo ops with Santa, and walking through decorated malls.
This year it’s hard to predict what we will be doing. Holiday arrangements that we once eased into routinely are now layered with anxiety, and plans require intentional scrutiny. Preparations will no doubt include modifying traditions to stay safe while celebrating family. Each holiday presents us with problems to solve, considerations to deliberate, and loved one’s needs to bear in mind.
Although it might seem appealing to close our eyes, drift through fall and winter, and wake up in spring, we don’t want to slumber through these unprecedented times. The adaptations we make now are the stories we tell in years to come. We are faced with the challenge to be flexible and adapt to change with ease, to maintain emotional equilibrium at a time when we sometimes feel frantic, unfocused and vulnerable. But monitoring our health and the health of others doesn’t mean foregoing important holiday traditions. It just means creatively rethinking them. This season I hope to balance the need for rest with the need to honor traditional celebrations, albeit the 2020 version. We can slow down, enjoy the fall and winter holidays with gratitude, and (fingers crossed) return to life in spring refreshed and invigorated.
Mary Petersen is a retired COC English instructor, a 30-year SCV resident and two-time breast cancer survivor.