Slowing Down.

Autumn light from the vegetable garden

The trees have just begun to turn here in Massachusetts – we are at the moment just before everything bursts into color – and everywhere all the eye sees in this moment is the promise and potential of autumn in New England.

It’s nothing short of magical.

My squash are the weeks-long prelude to this and I’ve put lettuce and radish in (weeks ago, actually) since the nights have become cooler. Now, an outdoor fire actually feels good against the mild chill that’s settling in at night.

And the raspberries–a giant, out of control tangle of bushes in our west field– are starting a smaller-than-summertime fall fruiting. I got a small handful from the bushes the other day. Sweet and yummy.

raspberries fruiting in September

The late summer blooms are fading. Our hydrangea are a muted violet, the black-eyed susans and echinacea are done, and our hold-out beauties are the zinnia, which remain brilliant and colorful. The hummingbirds love them. I put them by the window to enjoy them when I work, but this year I’ll be installing a traditional herb garden next to the kitchen…

zinnia still blooming at the end of September

… so I will have to find them a new spot for next year.

This autumn has a different feeling than others — I know I’m in good company with that feeling–the world feels a little (or maybe a lot) crazy. Fewer flights have provided a welcome relief from the continual noise and criss-cross of commercial planes in the sky and somehow I’m finally conceding that it’s okay to slow down. Years of working, commuting, and raising kids has turned me into a whizzing, whirling dervish of activity. Tightly wound, always in motion, barely fending off the anxiety that has threatened to swallow me.

Yesterday my daughter had soccer try-outs. I’m so grateful she has soccer this year, after months of being in her room and on social media. It’s not great for 15 year olds to be isolated. After dropping her at the high school I went out to do some work in the yard and lost track of time. When I thought to check, I saw that her tryouts had ended 10 minutes earlier — I saw she’d tried to call, and my phone had been in the kitchen. My heart sank and the familiar anxiety rose in me and took hold. We exchanged texts; but by then she had secured a ride home with one of her team mates and arrived angry, stalking past me, eyes stony. She was embarrassed at having been left at the field. I felt awful. Apologizing, I promised to do better, to set a timer on my phone. I’ve always been diligent, maintained a constant juggling act between meetings at work and the kids’ activities. But COVID has thrown me off.

Medicating my anxiety every night with a glass (or 3) of wine after a long day at work and a commute while I made dinner has stopped – there’s no commute and I recently left my job (more on that another time). Which means that in the pause I’m forced to see the patterns–no, the ruts– I created over years of going so fast and pushing so hard.

And today, standing in the vegetable garden and looking at the light on the trees I’m asking myself if it’s okay to just slow down now. Can I just pick the ripe peppers and beans, cook them, and sweep the floor? Set a timer to remember appointments rather than go from one task to another in a planned sequence all day long? Allow myself some focus and flow? Can I give myself permission to do that? The answer I’m hearing: It’s not just okay to slow down– it’s time to slow down. The planet is demanding it.

So with that thought anchoring everything else, I’m working on slowing down. On noticing the feeling of the weather changing, the colors emerging. Setting a timer for soccer pickups.

2020 is a turning point. Not accidentally, the whole world is at a turning point because we got ourselves into this mess together.

Now we have an opportunity to slow down long enough to see ourselves, each other, and the planet, to stop whirling around like crazy, out of control tops. And to take care of ourselves, each other, and the planet. It’s not just okay to slow down. It’s time.

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