This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before. – Maya Angelou
A day in November caused me to wonder about my ability to embrace change.
The first snow of the season crunched under my feet while walking through a trail of autumn leaves. We’d just come home from seeing the Christopher Nolan film Interstellar. I needed to walk after the nearly three-hour galactic experience.
The movie is all about change. It brings up the possibility of having to let go on a big scale – leaving the planet. The climate is in chaos here on earth, challenging the food supply. In my mind, the drought out west this summer loomed during the film’s dust storm scenes.
Then that day happened to be the onset of the first polar vortex for this autumn-winter season of 2014-15, abruptly shoving us into January-type temperatures. As I walked I could picture myself on that frozen, uninhabitable planet that one explorer found.
The movie, I’d say, inspires us to contemplate gratitude…gratitude for the cycles of life here on earth, and the fact that we’re able to navigate these earth changes, so far.
At the November point in the cycle of seasons, in late autumn, we feel a greater sense of urgency regarding our relationship with change. At least, I think so. After all, we know there’s no turning back. We must go through.
The dual nature of autumn comes into play. Do we embrace autumn with gusto, as writer George Eliot suggests? Here she declares, in 1841:
Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.
On a day in early November, blackbirds billowed and swooped up and over my car on a country road, as the anticipation of winter hovered with them. On succeeding days wild geese crisscrossed at dusk above the rooftops. Were they planning a departure?
The delicious autumn day that George Eliot envisions surely was the day before the polar vortex arrived, the day I saw the blackbirds gathering. Eliot would follow them if she could.
Just the still melancholy that I love – that makes life and nature harmonise. The birds are consulting about their migrations, the trees are putting on the hectic or the pallid hues of decay, and begin to strew the ground, that one’s very footsteps may not disturb the repose of earth and air, while they give us a scent that is a perfect anodyne to the restless spirit.
Change is in the air; we feel it with our own restless spirits. But what we don’t want to hear is what the blackbirds and the geese know. We might sense it, but for us it’s The Weather Channel that summons up that word again: polar vortex. Winter is coming, the forecasters advise; and you’d better get used to it.
Autumn – November, in particular – confronts us to embrace change more than any other season. There is always its portent: a yearly reminder of cycles ending and letting go.
Again this year, the polar vortex, the arctic blast from the north, cascades down over our delicious autumn days. No more leafy scent will lure us or lull us into resisting.
The landscape can transform overnight to a stark beauty in November. Barren without snowcover, a sudden change of temperatures sends us scurrying for winter woolens, even though something doesn’t seem right about this. The first snow tunes us in somehow, alerting us to full reflective mode: to endure the deep darkness and long nights of winter that we know we must embrace, if we’re to survive gracefully.
While walking in the crunchy leaves, I recalled the frozen, inhospitable-to-life planet in the movie.The polar vortex from last winter, and the new one that seems to have gotten a toe-hold on us this autumn, gives us a feeling for the impossibility of life in such a place. There, where would be the grace?
Here in the northern hemisphere, we experience four seasons. What if all we had was one? What if there was no escaping perpetual night or day? What if there were no solstices? No starry nights or sunny days? What if we couldn’t breathe without space suits, or grow crops without greenhouses? What if water supplies were scarce?
November days draw us deep into the winding down phase of the year. The growing season has ended. We celebrate the harvest. We wait for the Winter Solstice and the beginning of the new light cycle and the new growth that we trust will come.
We instinctively wind down at this time (or at least we know we should be doing that, despite the tempting frenzy of the holidays.) Often we resist, though. Often we resist this time of turning inward– when we can allow ourselves some space for reflection on what is over, what we are releasing, what we are replacing, what is our intention.
Surrendering to the cycle, we do stop for a day to rest and give thanks for the harvest, however bountiful. So autumn becomes ‘delicious’ in unexpected ways. It can be called delicious at Thanksgiving, not only because of the food we enjoy and the celebration of time with friends and family, but for calling us back to the simplicity of slowing down and putting our hearts into appreciating what we have, moving on… embracing change.
Some of us like to hold on to the comfort of predictability, even though we know our intentions for the new year must grow within the change. Thankfully, we don’t face imminent confrontation with an uninhabitable earth. The movie Interstellar projects this onto our imagination, though, inviting us to go there to confront such enormous change for humanity.
On a day in November, I think about the vast changes over time in my own life. For our hearts these can sometimes feel monumental, as if our entire universe is slipping out from under us. What we face, of course, is the exploration of our inner world. The challenge is to keep that place hospitable.
With patience we wait, we walk, we wonder. We wonder about change ahead, the coming attractions in this movie that is our life. Can we maneuver the scenes? Can we direct this movie so we can truly embrace the changes coming with grace and gusto?
With grace, gusto and lots of prayer, we can affirm that each new day is wonderful. We can be glad that we haven’t seen this one before.
In that sense, we can appreciate that it truly is a wonderful day. We can embrace the changes it brings, knowing we can trust that a new one will arrive with its own wonder.
Guiding families through life changes