I was reading a Facebook post that enumerated things someone liked or blessings they could count. I liked the list, and it got me to thinking about how we can really be influenced by our surroundings for the good or the bad. Of course we are probably most aware of how some things in our environment or surroundings bring about negativity – stress, anger, illness. The constant blare from a car alarm. The smell of burning rubber. A traffic jam. The drone of an unstoppable machine. I had industrial fans running in my home to dry out floors, carpets and cabinetry. They ran for almost a week after the flood water was “replenished” part way through the drying process. My grandson came to visit and unplugged them for awhile just for some peace. While I was grateful to have them doing their job, the silence when they were finally pulled out was absolutely, astonishingly restful.
I started thinking about the positives we are rewarded with through our senses. If we take the moment to notice and focus on the sounds, smells, sights, tastes, and physical sensations of touching, we can benefit from them. I thought about what this kind of attention to my surroundings does for me. What are the sensory elements that bring me calm, joy, and release? Are there things I can make a point of finding and making the effort to pay attention to that will relieve stress and anxiety? Can my environment lift me up? As I’m doing some redecorating in my home are there ways to make my surroundings envelope me in positive sensory ways? What things should I be more mindful of?
This seems to be the time of the year when I can easily list the things that refresh, renew, and reinvigorate me. I take in every single thing I love about fall that calms and de-stresses such as:
- Cool, crisp air without the humidity that summer carried – I can walk outside and breathe. It makes me feel like taking a walk around the block or driving to a scenic area near water or woods to wander. I have the joy of throwing open the windows and allowing the cool air to blow in lifting the curtains and refreshing a house that has been closed up to the elements while the air-conditioner spared me from them. I cozy up under blankets pulled up and tucked under my chin and drift off into a comfortable slumber. And I awake in the morning and try to snuggle down even further into the warmth.
- Fall leaves – In no other season does Mother Nature put on such a show of the variety and splendor of nature. The trees become radiant in their mottled beauty showing off the continued green that blends into the golds, oranges, reds and eventually even the browns that offer the watercolor effect of seeing the trees in the distance. By taking a leaf making its color passage into my hand and seeing all the variegated loveliness close up I take in its detailed richness. And finally there is the sensory explosion felt as those leaves begin their fall to the ground offering up the scent and the crunch as I walk along fulling experiencing their beauty.
- Fireside – Evenings in the fall offer the abundant pleasures of sitting around a campfire, a fire pit, or a fireplace outdoors. It evokes for me having friends and family gathered telling stories, singing a few old favorites, roasting some marshmallows. Just closing my eyes and imagining the scene conjures up all of my sensory memories. I hear the laughter, the crackle of the fire, the logs shifting. I see the flames leaping, the smiles, and the darkened star sprinkled sky. I taste the bitter char on the marshmallow that I allowed to catch fire for just an instant followed by the rich, sticky, gooey inside serving as the counterpoint. I feel the warmth of the fire on my body and the coolness of the fall air to my back. I smell the smoke and the food – both hot dogs and marshmallows roasting. And I know sitting there with friends taking in the details, appreciating them one by one, that there is a time and place where things are good and right, where I can relax, take a deep breath, and just feel the good.
- Being outdoors – I’m not much of an outdoorsy person. My greatest pleasures in being outside include walking along the edge of the water on a beach, wading in a lake, or finding a comfy place to sit and read. But this is the time of year when nature beckons me outdoors. Even my back patio is much more welcoming at this time than at any other. I can curl up on a rocker in my jeans and sweatshirt, bring along a steaming cup of apple cider, maybe even a blanket as we go deep into the season, and lose myself in another world, someone’s story or thoughts, and be content for hours.
- Food – No reflection on the good things any season has to offer would be complete without the local foods. I’m fortunate enough to live very close to farms and orchards so the abundance of the harvest season are there for me to overindulge. Those of you who have never gone to the orchard to pick your own apples – or at least to the farm stand – may have no idea of the plethora of varieties from which to choose. I often stand there among the macintosh, fuji, crimson crisp, jonathans, galas, romes, and honey crisps with my mouth watering at the mere thought of the various flavors, the crunch, the aromas of them all in applesauce or pie. I buy a mixture knowing that each offers its own goodness and that together they will provide the complex flavors I love in my pies and sauce. I pick up some Kimes or Clair’s apple cider from local orchard families I know, whose children I taught in school. When I get home I pour a cold, sweet glass right away, but the real pleasure comes later. Whether I’m sitting outside with my book or around the fire or even if I’m inside the house with the windows wide open allowing the cool in, nothing speaks of fall like a cup of apple cider heated with a cinnamon stick. Sorry all you pumpkin spice people, but the taste and smell of cider are fall to me.
For many years my home has been decorated in the colors of fall. Those colors envelope me and evoke the coziness I associate with the season. My home felt like me and like the season I so love. There was a welcoming feel that welcomed me home each day and invited people to come in, take their shoes off, put up their feet, and get comfortable.
But I got restless and ready for change so I’ve been redecorating. I took away the gold walls and the deep red wall in the kitchen. I lightened up the background to a soft, light tan. The deep greens gave way to navy blue. Only the deep harvest gold in the furniture remained. And as I looked at it, I missed that hug of color that it seemed to give me before. The warmth seemed gone from the room. That’s also part of what got me to thinking about the way our surroundings speak to us. I was wondering what the house said about me, to me. Could it still welcome others with a sense of home and feeling like a giant hug?
I love what I have done, but there was something missing that I have to find again. I’m working on it. It has gotten closer with the personal touches that have come back in, with the throw blankets and pillows that make the room comfy and homey, with rugs yielding up their softness to my wiggling toes, and with days I can enjoy the fireplace. I have autumn decor out right now that makes me smile, and it will be followed by an explosion of Christmas decorations. (I swear each year I am not putting so much out. But they are things I love, and they seem to creep up the stairs from their corner of the basement.)
With January and February will come the challenge. During those cold months with their long, dark nights I will be really focusing on the things in my home that bring me the sensory details, the feelings, the coziness that I crave. I need for my home to feel welcoming and to wrap me in its warmth and peace. I rely on that for my peace of mind and well-being. Time to start reading up on Hygee and Lykke.
Drop me a line and let me know what things in your home or in nature give you that kind of feeling. I’d love hearing from all of you and maybe getting a few ideas!