Life works better when you’re willing to lose control every once in a while. Not as in getting angry. As in letting what’s going on around you decide what you are going to do with your time. Too often, we let what we had planned to do prevail. The result can be efficient but pretty mundane as a lifestyle.
The fall of the year provides some wonderful reminders of this. This week, the fall color at Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park (which, for lucky me, is an easy drive and one of my favorite playgrounds) has reached a level of indescribable intensity. The area also experienced its first snow of the coming winter season. Two hiking friends and I were blessed to be on the trail when the two phenomena were playing out together. You cannot plan that kind of high.
The hike took about twice as long as it may have on a summer day, but not because of the trail conditions. We just kept stopping to take pictures. And more pictures. Of course none of them did the beauty justice (which is just as well for this post. I promise I will figure out how to get photos into these one of these days).
But the point here is not about how lucky I was to get to see such beauty. The point is that if I wanted to see it, it had to be on Mother Nature’s terms. We weren’t sure what we were going to see until we got there. We weren’t even sure we wouldn’t get rained out. But we let go of our commitment to being “right” and being “dry” and just gave it a go. The “go” involved driving a one lane mountain road on ice, too. but something told us it was going to be worth all the “concessions.” Oh, boy, was it!
You can put some punch in your days if you go with what the day offers sometimes, especially in autumn. It may be a trip to a pumpkin farm. It may be a drive to your local fall color mecca. It may be taking the time to stay home on Halloween to answer the door and give out treats to the little goblins in your neighborhood. It may be taking your grandkids to jump in the leaves at a local park. None of these things will wait until you finish the quilt you are working on or the shelves you are putting up in the garage. The leaves are not going to hang on the trees forever and Halloween is one night a year.
Once you retire, it’s tempting to insist that everything be done when you want to do it. You can make your own schedule, that’s for sure. But you lose a lot of the richness in life if you don’t allow room for spontaneity.
This is particularly true if you live in a climate that’s got some “iffy” months. I live in the Pacific Northwest. We definitely have “iffy” months. From the middle of October to about the middle of July, our sunshine most often comes as “sunbreaks” that don’t last all day–and sometimes don’t last more than fifteen minutes. Those of us who are smart about it, see the sun and get outside to do whatever we were hoping to do in the fresh air right then. Those of us who want control expect that “sunbreak” to still be there when we finish reading the paper or washing the windows. Ha!
It’s the same deal if you’re in Omaha in January. If the weather gets nice, get out there!
As a kid, my family made a point of going on picnics all year long. I grew up in Wisconsin. Yes, some of them were in the snow and some of them were in the mud. But they were all adventures that incorporated what was happening at the moment. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but my childhood was rich indeed. I’m thinking I would be better off if I put more of that “now-sensitive” activity into what I am doing at this stage of the game.
Once we no longer work, we’re the best resource as an example for everyone. Notice what’s going on and take advantage of what you can savor right now. Let Ma Nature have her way. (Or let a grandchild have hers and let her play at the park for as long as she wants.) You only get to live this moment. The times you let go of what you thought you were going to do to take advantage of what’s unfolding that’s better are going to be what you remember and cherish.
Life is much richer if you don’t follow the script. Autumn reminds us of that.