What fall teaches me

The blue jays arrived last week. First one. Then another, and another. Visiting our bird feeder, landing like fighter jets onto an aircraft carrier to fill their crop with black sunflower seeds.

Their blue feathers brilliant against October's golden hue.

In the mornings I go for a walk along the river that rushes through the mountain valley where we live.

Each walk for the past couple weeks I have photographed this particular constellation of leaves as they have turned first red, then orange-tinged-red, and finally tawny brown. One lone leaf is all that remains now, still clutching the slender branch.

The ephemeral bright beauty of fall reminds me again of what autumn always teaches me:

This too shall pass; both the good and the bad.

In this case it's the beauty that will pass, has already passed. By the time we are home, after celebrating with my parents this week, my morning walks will be in a different landscape. One of stark tree trunks and crunchy forest floors.

What this means to me is that I need to make the most of this present moment. The things that really matter to me (which will be different than what really matters to you) I must do. Now.

This is not about "doing it all". I have no illusions about that. And this is not about being super woman or super anything. This is about not delaying the actions and decisions I must make to squeeze the very most from what Mary Oliver calls my, "one wild and precious life".

Squeezing the very most from my one. precious. life. does not mean do.do.do. I can't operate that way.

I want to read every day, preferably in the afternoon sunshine. I want time to sit and drink tea. Time to think and write. (I used to want time to craft but now I pour those energies into writing). I want time to casually hang out with people, usually my family.

The kids often join me for my daily walk. In spite of the beauty awaiting me just outside the door I have force myself to leave the house.

It is tempting for me to organize, do blog maintenance, micro-manage my "online presence", clean the kitchen, etc. I have found those those things will get done (or not) but I have to guard my outdoor exercise like a jealous lover to make sure I honor this need of mine.

I didn't used to be so mindful of this but a bout of SAD last winter helped shift my priorities into place.

What do you need to start guarding like a jealous lover? What priorities do you need to shift?

Don't put aside the needful things in your life for the surface maintenance stuff.

I know that the maintenance must be done. My preferred method of managing this is to be continually evaluating practices in my life that needlessly complicate living. The things I buy, how I spend my time, etc. (Some would call this simplifying or intentional living). This practice helps me to minimize the maintenance but of course maintenance is simply part of life. It will always be there.

And because it will always be there give yourself the permission to enjoy the things that won't.

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A week of rest »
  • Jess

    Jess on Oct. 14, 2013, 1:09 p.m.

    ". . . constellation of leaves. . ." Such perfect words. We have one tree in our yard that is always first to turn. When we see the leaves at the top change to a burnt orange, we know fall is on its way. 


  • Jill Foley

    Jill Foley on Oct. 14, 2013, 6:32 p.m.

    Your photos are BEAUTIFUL!!! especially the first and fifth.

    What do I need to guard like a jealous lover? Probably my time with God - intentionally setting aside time throughout my day to listen, pray and learn. 

    And also the time outside....we have a gorgeous week of fall weather and I want to take advantage of it before the rain sets in.


  • jacinda

    jacinda on Oct. 14, 2013, 7:04 p.m.


    The answer that fell into my lap is that I want time to write again. Hmm, time to go back to the drawing board. This year I have a few new things in my life which has meant my writing time has fallen away. How do I wrestle some time to write each day without feeling that each moment is scheduled - even if it is with the good stuff?


  • Jeanne

    Jeanne on Oct. 14, 2013, 8:17 p.m.

    I enjoy reading your posts and today's resonated particularly well with me. I find I spend too much time looking for work, or insights about work, online and not enough on getting outdoors or on creative activities. My husband and I sold our house, purged our belongings, and started traveling full-time in a 40' bus about 6 months ago. He works for people in different locations on a contract basis and I have been getting business consulting projects on a freelance basis. Mostly I've been trying to figure out a way to keep myself physically and intellectually stimulated while we travel (we don't always have the luxury of traveling to places with the best weather or to communities with unique activities or history). 

    Thank you for the reminder to get outdoors each day and to "guard" my time for what is most precious. 


  • Jenny

    Jenny on Oct. 15, 2013, 2:07 p.m.

    Thank you for such a beautiful and thought provoking post. I need to guard my time for personal study. We have just started homeschooling and I am pouring an unbalanced amount of energy into the kids' learning opportunities. I need to keep myself fed too...I've been down the road of the empty, bleak mother before and I don't want to go there again!  Thank you for the reminder to guard my own education and interests!


  • Alaina

    Alaina on Oct. 16, 2013, 5:30 p.m.

    This is what I did this weekend. We had gorgeous fall weather.  Totally uncharacteristic for this time of year.  Warm, sunny, just simply beautiful.  We spent most of it outside.  Two bike trail (forest trails) trips and one picnic and hike.  It was amazingly wonderful.  I left the laundry, piled the dishes until later in the day, and guess what?  The weekend is over, it's cold out, rainy and the weather system has changed.  NOW I am catching up on laundry and the other household needs.  So thankful that I waited on those things.


  • Laura

    Laura on Oct. 17, 2013, 11:53 a.m.

    Renee, I love this post. I have read and re-read it this week and pondered it often when I was away from my computer. Thank you for such reminders. I seem to need them often.



    • renee

      renee on Oct. 17, 2013, 11:59 a.m.

      thank you Laura. I too need reminders and I write these posts as much for me as for other people, to remind myself. Stop. Slow down. Notice. (smile).


  • Renee Newell-Boucher

    Renee Newell-Boucher on Oct. 18, 2013, 3:32 p.m.

    Renee, I see from your next post that you were in my area. I would have loved to have gone out to meet you all, just for a second. To me its kind of like a celebrity sighting! I read you regularly, so yeah it would be neat to meet you in person. Maybe one day?


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