“Anyone who thinks fallen leaves are dead has never watched them dancing on a windy day”
– Shira Tamir
The season for thanks is here, and what a wonderful time it can be. Truly, I can’t say that autumn is my favorite time of year. The arrival of the lower temperatures and the settling of powder on the mountains can make me feel a bit morose. That termination dust brings a tear to my eye and, for the hundredth time, I ask myself, “why, oh why, did I ever leave my beloved South?” And on the first morning that I walk outside and see my breath curling around my face in that indignant coil, my shoulders slump and I start grumbling. The departure of the wonderful, bright, and happy sun turns me into the most wretched malcontent.
Contradictory to my grudge against the frosty months, the more comfort-driven, Gemini half of me begins to awaken, stretching out like a cat after a nap. Finally, the time for tucking into cozy comfort is here! Months of rest and recovery with a big fluffy blanket are in order. Curling up by a crackling fire with a book and a hot cup of apple cider certainly promises to warm the coldest of fingers, and it reminds me to send a big thank you to Mother Nature for this season of quiet contemplation.
Doesn’t the change in weather seem to create a noticeable shift in our human attitude? It’s a wondrous experience that I look forward to the entire year. Something about the colder months brings out our warmer hearts. Laughter and smiles and joyful greetings become more common, and the world just seems a bit more friendly. Indeed, these are the days to count your blessings.
Since I am solo on this Alaskan adventure, what I am thankful for tends to start with the aesthetic. The disappearance of the fireweed blossoms and the emergence of crimson berries hanging heavily on the lingonberry bushes somehow causes my senses to perk up. The end of the blueberry season and the beginning of the cranberry harvest is both tart and sweet. Crisp, juicy apples fattening and darkening on the trees and leaves beginning to fall, all herald an awakening that can’t be denied. Then the ominous fog begins to float eerily into the valley, and transforms the landscape into a mystical wonderland. Who doesn’t think of creature comforts when it looks like you live in the misty mountains of a grand Tolkien saga? I revel in the ever-growing swathes of burnished copper, vibrant orange, and hues of red ranging from scarlet to merlot. Even the elusive purples and pinks of the season repaint the state like a moving canvas. I never seem to get enough of the day by day changes in our landscape.
Cozy sweaters and boots come out of hiding, along with knitted scarves, woolen socks, and all things soft and toasty. The smell of baking fills the air. People begin making snickerdoodles, apple pies, and every number of delicacy with sweet potatoes and pumpkins. Hot chocolate and caramel lattes warm our hands while we begin thinking about the holidays.
Grateful memories resurface as we begin to make holiday plans with family and friends. What can be more heartwarming and good for the soul than revisiting traditions and spending time with loved ones? Gathering for feasting and laughter is the best thing. Right around this time some of my favorite traditions are quickly approaching. Since I don’t have family here, I celebrate Friendsgiving with my ragtag crew. I love this tradition, and it has saved me from many more years of being alone for the holidays. Now the planning of the menu, shopping, hours of cooking, gorging, and storytelling fill a few days, and I feel satisfied to be part of such merrymaking. I have even imparted to my friends my own personal tradition of watching the movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles after every Thanksgiving dinner. Some of them had never seen it before I came along- such a tragedy.
I could go on and on about all there is to be thankful for and how many things we take for granted, but we all know what our hearts hold dearest. We all have those people, those pets, those places, and those things that bring a smile to our faces. My biggest smiles come from the memories I have of my mother when I was young. I didn’t have her for long, but she fit a lifetime of wisdom and unconditional love into those years. I’m also grateful for the entirety of the time that I had with my wonderful husband. We never thought that our time was finite, but if we had, I doubt we would have done much differently. We loved, we laughed, we supported, and we built. That’s something I’m proud of.
So in closing, I would like to say, I am thankful for this life.
For every moment: the highs and the lows. I’m grateful for the people who came into my life for a reason, a season or a lifetime – regardless of whether the experience was good or bad. I have grown from it all. And for all of this- the beauty, the comforts, the traditions, the people and the memories- I have had a full life. What better reason is there to hold a grateful heart during this season of thanks?