November: darkness embraces us. Falling leaves begin to give way to bare branches as Autumn edges ever closer to Winter. Warm breath meets cold air. The first frosts grace the ground, transforming our surroundings – a temporary frozen world. Gradually first, then all at once Winter makes its arrival felt; a sudden storm, howling winds. It’s time to hunker down, to slow, to savour the darkness.
Wrap up warm and head to the hills – or at least your nearest viewpoint. There is something so magical about seeing your surroundings from above, and the colours at this time of year are particularly spectacular at a distance. The reward of a rich view at the end certainly helps reluctant climbers! What’s more, such views offer a vital sense of perspective and can ground us. Seeing our small stature in relation to the universe is humbling and might just help diminish the day’s worries, at least for a little while.
Embrace the last Autumn Days
Autumn is all the more beautiful for its fleeting nature, and suddenly Winter can descend upon us with seemingly little notice and with so much more on our Autumn bucket list than we’ve managed to complete. It can feel a little overwhelming, or even be the source of ‘FOMO’ when everyone was busy posting pictures of the pumpkin patch. Take it back to basics with a simple, mindful nature or photo walk – why not join in with my #myodetoautumn hashtag project for some photography prompts? – and remember that the best things about this time of year are free. Plus, there’s always next year. Be kind to yourself.
Although now strongly associated with a certain dark day of the week and impossible deals in the run-up to Christmas, the principle of Thanksgiving is a simple one at its heart: a day of giving thanks for the harvest blessings of the year. Although most strongly associated with America and Canada – a development from English protestant harvest celebrations – other countries from Germany to Japan have variations on this theme around the last week of November each year. Get back to the original meaning of the holiday and embrace the true Thanksgiving with a seasonal feast: good food, good company and gratitude. Identify the things you’re grateful for – big or small – to ground you at this busy time of year.
‘Stir-up’ Sunday is the term for the last Sunday before Advent and dates back to Victorian times. Traditioanlly, families would gather to make their Christmas pudding to allow a proper boozy soaking and sufficient ripening before Christmas consumption. The ritual ought to involve the stirring of the pudding from East to West (a reminder of the Three Kings) by each family member, the addition of a lucky coin and wish making. Regardless of whether you follow these traditions to the letter, a little planning can go a long way – particularly in terms of culinary preparations. Although I have a strictly-no-decorations-up-until-December rule in our house, I still enjoy this first seasonal ritual – even if it’s just making mincemeat!
It is a cliché to say that you can’t fill up anyone else’s cup if your own is empty, but clichés do have a vital element of truth; you simply can’t look after others if you are out of energy for anything. It’s particularly important to take time for yourself at this time of year before the busy December diary fills up, perhaps bringing with it an onslaught of obligations or mandatory socialising. In my experience, actually scheduling this self-care in your diary – whether that’s an afternoon or evening where you simply put your phone away or the simple yet powerful act of buying yourself a coffee – means it’s more likely to actually happen.