November 1, 2021

Today is the first day of November; 2021 is drawing to a close and my favorite time of year is rushing by far too quickly.

The last three months of any year means different things to different people. It can be the season when summer is finally over; the financial fourth quarter and time to focus on ending the business year successfully; or in years like 2020, relief that the end is in sight.

I fall firmly in the first camp. Houston summers are legendary and true fall weather doesn’t usually arrive until the end of October and even then it is fleeting. But, I embrace whatever we receive and rejoice in the cool dry temperatures. I feel energized and optimistic.

This year I have stopped to ponder and analyze what these three months represent in relationship to the big picture of life. Each month is significant and represents some very powerful life lessons. For now we will look at October and November. December will come in due time.

October

The month known for brilliant colored leaves, pumpkins, and Halloween is my favorite month of the year. It is a month of anticipation…when will the weather change, the leaves turn, and how much longer before we can wear scarves, hats and sweaters without looking ridiculous? There is so much about October to love.

We have made four trips to New England in October. We are overdue; it is time to go leaf peeping again. The fall sky is a particular shade of blue. Brilliantly blue without the harsh glare of the summer sun. The gold, red, and orange leaves stand in stark contrast to this blue sky and the affect is almost three dimensional. It is beyond breathtaking and should be experienced at least once in your life. Vermont is the most gorgeous place for fall leaf peeping. It is an idyllic place that must be experienced in person.

Once the brilliance of the leaves burns out, they wither and fall to the ground. In the perfect cycle of life, they must die so that the tree can rest during the harsh winter months. Those leaves, in turn, decay and nourish the ground which feeds the tree. What a beautiful metaphor for so many areas of life.

I am in the October of my life. I hope this season lasts for a very long time. I have completed most of my early and mid life tasks. The final one is in the home stretch right now, so maybe I’m still in the last days of September…but either way the best is on the way.

November

And this brings us to November. In our house November ushers in hunting season. The preparation for this season actually begins in August. By November the rut is underway and the time comes to go sit in a stand for hours waiting on just the right buck to cross into the right-of-way. I am not a hunter. I am a deer hunting widow for the better part of November and December.

Early in our marriage I resented him getting to go out into the woods with his friends and have a grand time while I was ‘stuck’ at home. I’m over it. I now relish this time as I view it as the gift that it is. With age comes wisdom.

I used to book a weekend to myself for the first full weekend of November. Then we had a beach house for a while and I went there for opening weekend. For several years I have just stayed home enjoying the peace and quiet. But I am still home. There are still things to be done – or ignored only to have to face them later. This year I decided to do something for myself again. I am simultaneously excited and nervous.

Image from http://www.journal.getawayhouse.com

I have booked a tiny house in the woods for two nights. There is no WiFi, but all the other conveniences are available. I plan on reading, writing, knitting on my sock project, walking in the woods and taking a few pictures. Mostly I want to spend time in nature. I feel the presence of God most deeply when I am surrounded by trees and the expanse of His creation. I find myself in awe and so very grateful to Him for the beauty and serenity.

And that brings me to the significance of November. Yes, we in the United States celebrate Thanksgiving, but I think the entirety of November is a time for thankfulness.

Thankful for time to prepare for winter’s rest.

Thankful for life, breath, and each new day.

Thankful for pain because it is a necessary part of life.

Thankful for the people in our lives.

Thankful for….

The list could and should go on and on. In the world of mindfulness we are instructed to write down the things we are grateful for so that we take nothing for granted. I have never subscribed to this practice as I would likely only express gratitude for the good stuff, get frustrated because I couldn’t think of something new every day and ultimately feel like a failure and give up. Instead, I thank God each morning for a new day and all that it brings. I am constantly thankful to Him for every aspect of life, the good and the not so good as it all serves a purpose.

Just like the leaves letting go of their hold on the tree and falling to death below, the heart breaks and disappointments in life serve as a foundation for new growth. I embrace them and know that only good will come from the experience as long as I am connected to the One who makes all things right.

May your November be filled with thanksgiving.

What’s Your Season?

Words like seasons, cycles and circle are often used to describe the life we lead and the never ending nature of life. Last weekend our family celebrated together as we witnessed a marriage and the beginning of a new season in all our lives.

Golden hour stroll

Endings

Though life itself is continuous, there are endings and beginnings within the natural cycle. Just as the deciduous trees drop their leaves each year to prepare themselves for the long winter, so we too must let go of certain things so that we may be ready to move forward when a new season arrives.

The leaves do not go to waste. They are not forgotten. They return to the soil to provide what the earth needs for new growth. And so it is with people. A life well lived doesn’t stop when life on earth has ended. Whether genetically or through relationships and nurture, that life will continue to impact and nourish all who follow. This is a particularly comforting thought for someone who has no biological heirs.

Thus, one phase of the bride and groom’s life ended as this new one began. So, too do the lives of their parents and siblings, aunts, cousins and friends. Parents are now free to relax knowing they have completed this task and the future holds something new and exciting for them.

Beginnings

As the young couple begins their journey they do so taking all that has been given them both in nature and nurture. Who they are biologically, spiritually, intellectually and socially is all a product of their family and experiences; and now they will begin a new life and family passing along their unique qualities to their children.

Career choices, children, first home, where to live, and what kind of life do they wish to create…both parents and children are now free to make these choices. This should be a glorious time for all.

Letting Go To Grow

Every culture has their family and social norms and these tend to modify and evolve over time. My maternal grandparents never left the immediate area where they lived most of their lives. As coal miners and farmers there was no expectation that they would do anything besides stay where their families had been for generations. My father’s mother was born in Hawaii to Chinese immigrants. She was the first generation born somewhere other than China and most of her siblings stayed in Honolulu. My paternal grandfather’s family came from England and settled on the east coast and then Indiana.

The leaving home to begin a new life has been recorded nearly as long as humans have been on earth. It is a natural and normal evolution. My great grandparents and great great grandparents all did it; they left family behind in search of something new and hopefully better. I am so thankful for people with such intrepid spirits as they are the reason I am here today.

My Dream For This Season

I want to be like them. I would love to live a nomadic life for a short period of time. I don’t think I could do it forever, but the lure of the open road and living in a way that is completely different from my suburban Texas existence is very exciting…and romantic.

I believe there are certain physical locations where we connect on a spiritual level with the land, the people, and the way of life. I don’t believe I have found mine. And, at this juncture in my life, I may never find it. But I would love to try. I thought I felt it the first time I visited Vermont. Vermont is possibly the most beautiful state I have visited; mountains, lakes, streams and waterfalls visible from the side of the road…no billboards or other visual pollution…it is simply magical. But I don’t fit. My values and beliefs are not the same as the people there. So, I will be content with visiting but I could never live there.

I am, however, convinced that there is a place somewhere in the United States (I have to clarify as my dream would be England or Scotland) where I would feel at home in all the ways that are important to me. Or…I could discover, that I am indeed in just the right place – Texas – I just need to get out of the suburbs and away from the coast.

Just as the leaves must release their hold and drop from the life giving tree, what must die in my life to live this dream?

What Must I Let Go Of?

1. Putting Others First: I have a destructive habit of basing my decisions on what pleases others. While thoughtfulness is an admirable quality, when it moves into a way of life that denies ones own truth and purpose, it becomes a cancer that must be removed. These thought processes are created throughout a lifetime of small decisions until one day one wakes up not knowing how to make even a simple decision for their own pleasure. This in turn leads to a sense of powerlessness and ultimately anger and bitterness.

2. False Identities: I am not always sure who I am apart from created identities. I am nearly sixty four years old, I think it is way beyond time to figure this out. I know who I am as a wife, stepmother, grandmother, daughter, sister, and friend; but who am I? I create social media identities, business names, and creative pursuits, all in an effort to forge something that says to the world, “This is Sheryl Means.” I explore my ancestry to gain an insight into the genetic code that might reveal a hidden key to unlock this door. Thanks to the book “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron, I am working on unlocking many of these questions. I finally feel as though I am beginning to find my path.

3. Expectations Of Others: This is tightly connected to the first point. I perceive a certain level of expectation that others have of me and believe I am powerless to do anything except be the “good girl” and do as expected. This is a deeply rooted and difficult mindset to change. To disappoint someone I love is my ultimate fear. It seems selfish and wrong. Yet, living to the expectations of others is another denial of self; thus I live in a constant state of being disappointed in myself resulting in bitterness and frustration.

What Comes Next?

As grim as all that sounds, I am really in a good place. Now that the issues have been identified I must come up with specific and actionable steps to move forward from this place I currently inhabit. We have an obligation to our granddaughter to live life as it currently exists until the summer of 2022. Once she graduates from high school, our life as full time parents and grandparents will be over. My husband is self employed in sales and has the freedom to travel. Our time is coming.

We plan to move to the city where my mom lives. I had hoped we would be there by now but helping our granddaughter was a commitment we made eighteen years ago and we had to honor it in full. But once finished, that leaf from our tree will drop. It will be time for a new life to emerge. What will it look like? Where will we go? What will we do? Who will I be? It all remains to be seen but what I know for sure is that this season is just for us. As long as each of us is able we will travel, have fun, and I will be right here documenting the journey.

Where Are You?

No matter what season of life you are living there are things to learn; things to let go of; relationships to heal; and experiences just waiting for you to bravely step out and enjoy.

I highly recommend Julia Cameron’s book. When I am through with this one she has written several others I will read. However, and through whatever methods you choose, it is my sincerest wish that you are able to work through the old messages of your life so that they can fall, decay, and disappear so that new ideas and choices can take their place.

As Always…Sheryl

Inspired By Dandelions

Life is an ever evolving cycle of change. Nothing stays the same no matter how hard we try or how desperately we wish to freeze frame a moment in time. To fight against change is to miss the beauty of this naturally cyclical thing we call life.

A dandelion’s life purpose is to sow seeds to the wind so that new little seedlings can be brought to life. This is how I see myself. Like a dandelion with a head full of little seeds ready to be set free.

Seasons of Life

Each season of life has its own purpose, tasks to accomplish before moving forward. It is a rich and complex subject that deserves time to properly digest and dissect. I am finally coming to grips with the fact that I am entering a new season of my life. I have actually been traveling this road for the past four years; now at the door I have the choice to stand and knock or open it and walk through to what waits for me on the other side. Standing motionless is safe but does nothing to help me or anyone else. So, I really have only one option – open the door and boldly walk into whatever it is God has for me on the other side.

Gathering and Dispersing

In the past few months something has been happening in my heart and mind. I am suddenly seeing things in the world through a new lens; a softer and gentler lens. I won’t delve too deeply into this today but I will say that it has taken me by surprise. As I have been open to these thoughts and allowed them to penetrate any barriers that rise due to the discomfort of new things, I am feeling my way along a new path. A path I believe God is leading me one step at a time.

This morning I read an excerpt from a book called “Falling Upward” by Fr Richard Rohr. In this book, Fr Rohr discusses the spiritual and life purposes in the two halves of life. I believe that I am in preparation for my second phase of life: the giving away or dispersing of what I have learned in the first phase. This book will arrive at my door tomorrow. Just when I swear off the immediate gratification of Amazon, something like this crosses my path.

Seedlings

Whatever it is I am to do with the wisdom I have gained is unknown. I am less worried about the what than the preparation. My heart is softening. I am reading and growing in knowledge. I will be (at age 63) attending college beginning in January. I am practicing spiritual disciplines to connect more deeply with God to be sure I am traveling on the best path for his purpose in my life.

I choose to think of my writings here as seedlings. Little bits of information that I send out into the world to take hold if and when they are needed. That is my hope and prayer for every post. Since seedlings represent growth and new life what you will find here are just little nuggets of wisdom and goodness designed to lift up and never tear down. There is enough pain and suffering in the world. My passion is to apply a soothing balm on a hurting humanity. I trust God to guide and direct the writing and the reading of everything on this little blog.

There will be talk of books, dogs, family and all the normal stuff of life. I love to crochet and make art with my yarn and hooks; it is another way for me to express beauty of the world around me. My husband and I will be traveling more so I will take many photos and will share those as well. Whatever is good, and right, kind and beautiful will all find its way here. There is also pain in life…I won’t shy away from that either. It is only in the journey through the pain that we find light once again.

If you have made it this far, thank you. If what I have said has spoken to you, then I hope you will follow along. Either way, thank you for reading.

~Sheryl