Let’s sit down. Let’s bask in the glow of the autumn light and the warmth of our hands near each other and near our drinks. No, really, I just want to be at home in sweats near my plants and my art with soft lady voices singing to me and can I just make you a cuppa somethin’ off of my stove?
I am so thankful for change. It is fall, and I am in love. I am in love with the burning reds and yellows and oranges of the leaves and their cascade to the earth. I am in love with the sunrises and sunsets and eyes waking up from restful sleep. I am in love with presses of coffee made in the dark morning hours. I am in love with sweaters wrapped on balconies late into the night.
As we sit and take our first sips, I ask you what November means to you. Here we are on its first day, in its first moments. Is there something in this month that calls to you, or calls you away? Do the cooling breezes wash over you and cleanse the sweat of the summer months, or do they harken your anger at winter to will them away? Does the eve month of the calendar year crawl slowly or fly by? Does November, and this first day, feel like a start over, a countdown, or a conclusion?
Like any absolute, such as a start-over at the first of the month, the other end of the spectrum exists and must be recognized. This spectrum runs from initiation to conclusion, with the middle-ground resting in the countdown period. I find this truest of myself at the beginning of November: concluding a lot of outdoor summer/early fall adventures and travel during conference season, counting down to a holiday of friends and family, counting down to my (and my parents’) birthdays in December, the build-up to a celebration of a new year, and thus about a million reasons to “start over” if they’re needed. Over and over again.
As our drinks cool and we take bigger gulps, I wonder, are you feeling refreshed in a start-over, or are you in countdown mode? Do you feel renewed already, or are you working toward being ready for moments of renewal in the coming weeks? How does the first of the month, your first breath, your first sip of caffeine, your first human interaction either refresh you or energize you? What is it about your morning or your evening that feels like an initiation or an impending conclusion?
I’ll admit I’m in both start-over and countdown mode. I’m freshly returned from a three week vacation of camping in the National Parks, which feels like a conclusion of sorts, but the majority of my experience is in feeling renewed and new in endless ways. I also realized last night that it’s been almost a year since I moved away from my life of over a decade and started over, so I’m counting down to that day of acknowledgement and seeking to feel renewed again by that choice (which I already do every day). I turn 32 this year, and even though my camping trip was my birthday celebration for myself, there’s something about the counting down to the true birthday that I love to reflect and revel in. (I’m big into birthdays, not a huge surprise for a midwife.) Also, a bestie and I are doing a knit-a-long cardigan together this season, so the newness of getting back into knitting after a long time away feels fun and familiar.
I also feel like I’m starting anew into my work life, as my schedule changes this month to be three clinic days and much less hospital time. As a midwife who loves birth work (being with students in the challenges of birth and the beauty of normalcy and the skill of emergency and the learned connection of “meeting people where they are when shit gets real”), I am incredibly saddened by this forced change. I am trying to embrace it by realizing that a more predictable life can have its upsides, but it’s a hard change for me. A period of conclusion and mourning of so much hospital time. I am looking forward to having a more stable morning practice to set the tone for my days, getting back into some regular writing, and taking some meta views at my life and figuring out what’s next. (That feels like a big, but important and honest and intentional, statement. It’s happening.)
Ordering more drinks / brewing another pot, I’ll reflect, again, that I am freshly returned from vacation. I won’t mince words: it was fucking amazing, and I could gush about it for hours. Golden aspens, bear butts bounding across roads and down in valleys, moose grunting in the campground, elk bugling in community at the bottom of mountains, toes dipped in glacial lakes, sore feet roasting by the fire, life conversations with strangers on the trail… In the first few days “I realized three fundamental truths at the exact same time” (Hamilton, anyone?): 1) I don’t feel alone when I’m by myself, I found that I like myself and the company I keep within my own heart and mind, which felt immediately freeing and I then proceeded to build community within my own spirit; 2) Last year I did the hardest thing I had ever done, ever, in leaving my ex, so the endless swift elevation climbs and the fear of the unknown in wildlife and the uncertainties of hiking for hours in water felt like a liberation and a body and spirit challenge rather than “hard,” and 3) My heart soars in the mountains and lakes and trees. How lucky am I to have had that time for those moments? A few pics to perhaps let you see the peace in my face and the beauty of the wild.
Have there been moments, or days, or weeks, or months, where suddenly deep or light or foundation-shaking or heart-freeing truths have hit you? How are you acknowledging those? How can you make more space to do so, and ask people around you to support your work in that? In what ways has your life changed since those truths came to you?
Getting down to the last dredges of our coffee and our conversations, we take a break from the heavy stuff. Here’s what I’ve been into lately:
- Books: On my trip I read like a fiend, finishing “This Is How You Lose Her,” the third in the Junot Diaz series; the fourth and final Elena Ferrante, “The Story of the Lost Child,”; Maggie Nelson’s “The Argonauts” (now in my top five books of all time); Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English’s “Witches, Midwives, and Nurses“; Ross Gay’s poetry book “Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude“; and I read pieces from Terry Tempest Williams’ “The Hour of Land.” Long ago, Edward Abbey’s “The Monkey Wrench Gang” existed at a hard and awesome time in my life, and I’m re-reading it and not only re-living my recent trip out West but also my first global health work in Malawi back in 2005 (which is what my left foot tattoo, umoyo (which means health in Chichewa) references).
- Art: Sophia Wallace (also huge girl crush, obvi) and Laura Berger. I’m also shopping around for a Banksy print as my next home art purchase – any suggestions on good places to buy such a thing?
- Podcasts/Headphone listening: Audio of the Supreme Court Oral Arguments (y’all, you can listen back as far as Roe v. Wade), 2 Dope Queens, Ask Me Another, Hamilton.
- Magazines: Adventure Journal, Backpacker
- TV (cough>really just watching shows obsessively on my computer<cough): Finished the third season of Transparent (did y’all see her reading Spiritual Midwifery?!?!?!?) and New Girl in a flash; trying to balance my serious crushes on Gillian Anderson and Idris Alba by catching up on The Fall and Luther in slow succession. And, Black Mirror is back and I am always up for talking about that / obsessing about our dystopian future.
In conclusion, tell me your favorite things about fall. Your favorite things about starting over and counting down and concluding. Your deepest and hardest truths. Your latest adventure and what you’re planning next. And then tell me the easier stuff, like what you read recently and who you’re crushing on in celebrity land and what books are piled up in the corner of your mind. Tell me about you, ’cause let me tell you, me talking about me in this space feels vulnerable enough, and even moreso if I feel like no one’s reading.
Warmly and until next month,