Gratitude and such

The turn from October to November has always felt like a kind of tightening to me, a turning of the calendar screws. Tonight darkness will fall an hour earlier than last night, the days that have already been feeling too short now feeling even shorter still–right at the time they seem to fill with more demands. Every year I tell myself to savor October, the last days when I come home to sunny daylight, the calm before the holiday storm, and every year it flies by as swiftly as the leaves fall. Last week, yet another in which I didn’t finish the laundry by Sunday night and it is still lingering in the basket this morning, a full week’s worth of days later…

…Damn, I got up to let the dog out, and then remembered I needed to unload the dishwasher, and then I responded to a Snap from my daughter, and then I let the dog in, and now I can’t remember what I was even going to say in this sentence.

Which is fitting, no? Back in January, I thought I might be able to change my experience of time–make it feel as if it were moving more slowly–if I slowed down and took more notice of things. If I savored it, I guess. Savoring, though, doesn’t look the way I tend to fantasize it looking. It isn’t long, sunny afternoons on the couch with a good book, or hours working on a crafty project, or slow dinners with a group of close friends, or hours to linger in a coffee shop with a decadent pastry and a beautiful beverage. Not for me, most of the time, anyway.

Although, there was a leisurely lunch with this one day in October.

More often, savoring is something that happens in the moments between: When I see the spider web illuminated by sun on my way to the car in the morning, or when I notice how pretty the herbs from the garden look when I toss them into the pot with a roast, or when, on my way to let the dogs out for the morning, I feel grateful for the twinkle lights I never took off the ficus after the holidays last year, and the way they softly light the early morning darkness.

Sometimes, it’s just the smallest of comforts: the delightful surprise that is grilled cheese on focaccia on a night I get home too tired to really cook; the tiny thrill I feel every morning when I open the door to the flowers still blooming that I planted in June; the warm feeling I get seeing my tired old dogs curled up on a blanket my great-grandmother crocheted that I keep in a basket I once used to carry my tiny preemie babies from room to room.

The best I have been able to do, when it comes to savoring, is to stop for 30 seconds and take a quick photo when I see something for which I feel grateful. When I take the time to notice everyday things, and then spend a few minutes at the end of the month looking at them, I realize that the days and weeks that have passed so quickly were actually full of small wonders. I realize that although it might feel as if I somehow missed the month, I didn’t. Not really. And it changes the story I might otherwise tell myself about what the month (or season or year) has been.

Sometimes I tell others that I really do love my new house, but I wish it didn’t have so much yard. I have said that I spend so much time working in it I never really get to enjoy it the way I’d like to. (See: fantasies, a few paragraphs back.) But when I scrolled through my October photos and saw the nest I found when pruning back the rose bushes, I didn’t remember how sore my body felt at the end of that day, or how frustrated I was when I ran out of time to finish the job and had to leave it–like so many things–hanging. Instead, I remembered the thrill of seeing the nest, feeling like I’d found buried treasure; how carefully I extracted it from the brambly tangle; the cawing and swooping of nearby crows when I pulled it free and sensed that everything is more connected than I know; the minutes I spent marveling at how tiny its bed was.

Right now, writing these words, I realize how much my joy and wonder and savoring happens not in spite of all the tasks filling my days, but in many cases because of them. If not for the overgrown roses, I’d never have seen the nest. On a different Sunday afternoon, I mowed the lawn for what I am sure will be the last time of the season, pleased with how tidy and green it once again looked, only to wake after a windy night to find it, as I rushed out the door to work, covered with leaves. It startled me, the change, and delighted me for some reason I still don’t really understand. Maybe it was in the contrast between what had been and what was that I found something to savor, or the way the leaves looked like tossed confetti. It doesn’t matter; what matters is that the moment was a gift that would not have been possible without the chore that felt like it was keeping me from life’s gifts.

Three days into November, I am still a little sad to see October go, and still feeling a little trepidation about the holiday season now upon us. There’s a line to walk in these musings, some place between too much and not enough. I wish I could figure out some trick to both make time move a little more slowly AND still fill it with good things. I suspect, though, that it doesn’t work that way, and that the only way time is going to move slowly again is for there to be too much of it, which will mean that my life is empty of the things I now love–family, friends, meaningful work, and good enough health to have all those things filling my days.

6 thoughts on “Gratitude and such

  1. Marian says:

    I love how warm and cozy your living room looks, Rita. (And I have a particular fondness for spider webs too, but perhaps that’s not a rare thing among stitchers and crafters.)

    I was walking to the grocery store a couple of days ago and the sidewalk ahead of me was covered with leaves—which is always a lovely thing—but what made it especially beautiful was the gradient in the colour: closest to me was yellow, then farther down it was yellow mixed in with red, and then in the distance it was only red. I nearly pulled out my phone to snap a picture—to capture the sidewalk and the trees hovering above—but for some reason didn’t. I’ll take a photo on my way back, I thought, but then felt too loaded with groceries to actually take the time to do it. This morning, though, I snapped a photo of light and shadow playing on our staircase wall, and as I did I thought of those leaves and those trees. I think we can’t always manage to capture (with a photo) all those moments we want to savour, but when we can at least remember to slow down and really take note—to actually see them—it’s sometimes just as good. The older I get, the more convinced I am that it’s the small things that matter most in life. And that those small things often come, just as you say, in the midst of the everyday chores and tasks that we don’t (initially) want to do. I’m so glad you have so much in your life that you love, Rita.

    • Rita says:

      Yes, I do love spiderwebs. It’s probably more because of E. B. White than any stitching I’ve done, though. 🙂 I love the way you’ve described those leaves; felt like I could see them myself. I do hope you’ll write again. Maybe give yourself permission to write about those small things that matter. I would love to read more of your words.

  2. TD says:

    I often hear people’s struggle with the concept of time. The concept of time is as mysterious as the universe!

    I’m trying to imagine the concept of time moving more slowly. Where you landed in your thoughts at the end of your post, it seems to me that you fulfilled your own wish, “I wish I could figure out some trick to both make time move a little more slowly AND still fill it with good things.”

    You are love and are so loved, Rita.

    P.S. That birds nest is nature’s art!

    • Rita says:

      Time is a total mystery to me. I know it’s both nothing and everything. I am continually astonished at how quickly my life has passed, at how things can seem both long in the past and as if they happened just a short time ago. And I agree with you about the bird’s nest–there is something so beautiful in it. And artful. I’d never seen one up close before now.

  3. Kate says:

    Oh Rita, you know I LOVE this post. Your pictures are perfect savory slices of life – my very favorite kind of photographs!! And that picture of herbs and veggies on the roast is probably my favorite of them all. Or the spiderweb, because I agree with Marian that those of us who stitch and craft have a special fondness for spiderwebs – such a useful, beautiful thing.

    Your post makes me want to get back into a habit. Maybe there’s a 2020 project in there somewhere? I hardly feel as if 2019 was here at all and know we’re in November!!

    • Rita says:

      I will admit that as I was putting the photos into this post, I wished they could be as lovely as yours. They are just quick snaps with my phone. You are the queen of slice of life images.

      Maybe we should really be old school bloggers and have a monthly feature with some kind of photo something attached to it. Maybe a different theme for each month–something we want to pay attention to. I wonder if I’d really do it? I do feel as if I were more present in my life this past year. It’s still gone whizzing by, but I think setting an intention to be in it in a different way is helping me feel less as if it’s all just flown by. I was better at it some months than others. I’m going to have to think on this idea you’ve planted.

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