The Dark Time is The Ideal Time to Rest

The trees outside my window have lost most of their leaves. Some few still cling to their branches as a result of the late warm weather, however not many. The leaves are being released from their branches. The tree has sealed off the part where the stem contacts the twig and the leaves are subject to the whims of the wind. Thus the trees move from active participation in growth and expansion to rest and restoration, solidifying what has been gained. Nature is sensible that way, bringing opportunities for alternative modes of being. Most animals as well as insects are in their burrows or nests, resting from the work of gathering and consuming food as well as maintaining the dwelling.

Once there was no electricity to keep us humming along 24/7. In many cases native peoples in the North went into quasi hibernation mode in the winter. Later, although torches and candlelight provided evening illumination, early bed times were likely. Judging from how I feel, the human body seems to be inclined toward seasonal rest. I always seem to sleep longer and even more soundly during the darker hours between November and February. I find that my body is happy with the additional rest. However I am fortunate that I do not have to answer to a time clock at work or an alarm clock at home that tells me I must rise and get moving regardless whether or not my body would prefer to stay under the covers.

We humans do love the light. Throughout history various cultures have provided and still do provide their own opportunities to invoke it during the dark hours. In our Western European culture, our holidays devoted to light in one form or another commonly include Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. Hanukah comes to us from another part of the world, as does Kwanzaa, a recent addition. The Internet can provide information concerning the many other celebrations of light that are not as common now because they have faded or been forgotten. These include interesting customs—some of which have come down to us, that include all kinds of symbolism as well as special dances and other activities. All these opportunities help counter the inevitable lethargy brought on by the dark hours.

Although I do not count the years, I still celebrate my birthdays. Now I have another celebration coming up, and I am reminded that as a result of the numerous autumns I have lived through, the leaves of my days are indeed falling. Little by little they flutter down, gathering on the ground in colorful heaps. I have also noticed that as the days of my life increase, I am slowing down. I do not get as much done; I need to rest more. Sometimes this is frustrating. These days are precious and the daylight needs to be made use of. Still I need to be kind enough to myself to allow for the rest I need to keep up my strength, most especially as the days of autumn dwindle and the dark hours grow longer.

Keeping My Eyes On theRoad

There is something about New England that is very special to me, and a large part of it has to do with the fall here. I grew up in a town (now) called Manchester by the Sea. Every year I anticipated the joy of the fall leaves and the crisp air that made me feel so good. A brief seven year stay in Virginia only confirmed my love of New England. I thought the weather there was much too bland. Happy to return, I have found this area to be a special place to live.

These days as I drive along Grafton’s scenic roads my eyes are drawn to the brilliant changes in the foliage. The green of summer has faded and grayed the leaves. Now the cool nights and days transform the landscape as the dusty pallor of early fall gives way to fresh reds and yellows. I can’t help ooing and ahing while I work to keep my focus on the road. I am grateful for the speed limit. It is easy to maintain it because I simply cannot drive faster and also gaze at the enthralling color.

I have loved the autumn ever since I was a young child. The smell of burning leaves–no longer common in these days of pollution control, as well as the sharp, damp smell of the brown, fallen leaves after a rain have always warmed my heart. I even enjoyed going back to school because it meant a change from being bored at home. Fall meant new things to learn and new books to read.

There are many reasons fall is my favorite season. I am grateful for the bountiful harvest of fruits and vegetables that it provides. I also enjoy the crisp air, the opportunity to wear a cozy sweater and scarf. Most of all, I love it for its rich palette of color. In some mysterious fashion each fall seems the most beautiful. It seems to me that every year the previous autumn pales in comparison to the one I am entranced by now. In addition as the days grow cooler, my mind grows sharper.

This increase in mental acuity helps me to be more mindful. Being mindful is vitally important, especially at this season, because it helps keep me focused. It is all too easy to be distracted when I am driving along past the colorful autumn vistas as they unfold before me. My attention could be caught and held–dangerous when I am driving a car.

The years Stephen and I have spent meditating have had many benefits, but most especially I value the beneficial impact meditation has had on our minds. Meditation as we practice it is a way of doing exercises for the mind. The time we spend working to stay focused is like lifting weights or doing sit ups, only for mental rather than physical strength. As I drive through the autumnal glory I am grateful not only for the beauty that fills my eyes, but also for the ability I have to keep my eyes on the road.Light Through Leaves

The Permanence of Impermanence

Stones and leaves, fallThe Permanence of Impermanence by Tasha Halpert


Stephen and I were strolling along on Thayer Street in Providence on our way to meet my granddaughter who is a freshman at Brown. My daughter and her fiancé were with us, and Stephen was pointing out various landmarks from his years living in that city. We were almost to the place we were to meet my granddaughter. Stephen turned to point out a building of special significance to him, stopped still and gasped.

“It’s gone!” he exclaimed. He stood looking across the street to where the house turned shop that he had known from his childhood had been. In its place was the gaping infrastructure of a soon to be Brown University dormitory. Stephen had grown up in Providence, and his family had once owned the now totally vanished building for all of his young years. In his childhood it had housed a shop that his mother and father had managed and in which he had spent many hours as a boy.

“It was such a lovely little house,” he said. There was another house on either side. My mother ran the Scotch Shop in it, and I think she was happy there. My grandmother used to say that one day the building would be mine, but they sold it after I got married. I suppose they thought I wouldn’t be interested. Why did they have to tear it down?”

He turned to me and the expression on his face was sad. I felt for him. When something special you have known from your childhood is gone it is as though you have lost an old friend. The experience brings to mind other losses as well. I know I was reminded of other vanished childhood places as well even as people who have disappeared from my life. As a wise person who had been one of my teachers was fond of saying, “The only constant is change.”

It seems important to be able to take this kind of experience in stride. While it is appropriate to mourn a passing of significance, it is also vital to move on from it and to accept the inevitability of change. Growth cannot take place without it. Brown University had outgrown its current ability to house students and needed to expand. To make way for that, buildings or houses of lesser importance to them had to be razed. In life, what we have left behind must be removed to make room for what is to come.

As a mystic, I see a potential for symbolic meaning in this experience. Perhaps something from Stephen’s past has been eliminated to make room for something new that is being built for him. I am always curious to see what develops when a major change has taken place. Our lives are subject to the currents of energy that take us where we need to go for our next adventure. Meanwhile, as another wise person has said, there is always the laundry and the grocery shopping.


Perspective Makes the Difference

It is always interesting to see how different things appear as well as feel when one’s perspective has changed. The way I saw things when I was younger in years and experience has altered a good deal in the intervening years. Once in a while I am reminded of this, as I was recently in a conversation I had with a friend of mine. She was lamenting the fact that while she was happy, her children wanted things to be different.

I thought how years ago I visited my late mom and dad in the new home they had bought in Florida. Compared with other places they had lived, it seemed small and somewhat dingy. They loved it. My mother raved about her grapefruit tree, my father proudly pointed out their small swimming pool, about two and a half to three feet deep and maybe eight or ten feet square. It was inside a screened in room with a roof. Of course I said “How nice, I’m so happy for you.”

It’s true that I was happy for them, yet I felt sad too. It seemed to me that they would be happier if they were in something bigger and more grand. Previously for a few years Daddy had owned a large home in Bermuda. It had lovely gardens, many rooms and a resident ghost. The house they had lived in while I was growing up, while not grand, was quite a bit bigger and more spacious than where they were now. Even their summer home in Maine was larger than this one. How could they be content in this smaller space?

That was many years ago. I now fully understand why my parents liked their simpler, more manageable home. I’ve reached an age that is some years older than they were then and I relish the simplicity of my life in an apartment as opposed to what it was like in our two previous houses. It is a joy not to have to clean two or three bathrooms every week. I adore my little kitchen and function much more efficiently in it than in the roomier ones I cooked in, in the homes we owned in the past.

To be sure there are downsides to smaller, simpler living quarters, there is less room for possessions and that means eliminating certain items I might prefer to keep. There are limitations on what I can acquire and how much. However, the downsides and limitations are more than compensated for by the blessings.

My friend, who recently moved into a nursing home tells me she is really happy in her little space. “I wish my children could feel as glad as I do for my being here,” she told me. “I have no worries, the staff take wonderful care of me here, and I am so very comfortable.” Perhaps her children feel guilty and believe they are supposed to be caring for her themselves. That is a truism in our society, yet it is not always true. From my friend’s perspective, everything is just wonderful. I know exactly what she means.





Photo by Tasha

Photo by Tasha

Ode To The Carrot


How wonderful the carrot, sturdy, sweet!
What would a cole slaw be without the bright
sweet orange gratings of this tasty root?
For salads carrot curls, and what beef stew
would be complete without it’s carrot chunks?
I cherish carrot soup on a winter’s day,
warming and nourishing to flesh and bone
and carrot juice for hunger and for thirst.

Descended from the lace of good Queen Ann,
the feathery fronds belie the sturdy root.
Who was it first discovered under ground
the part that nourishes juiced, cooked, or raw?
How glad I am that someone long ago
saw the potential in that pale white root
and turned a lovely flower growing wild
into a vegetable for daily fare.
From that pale slender small yet meaty pith
a patient gardener crafted over time
what we call carrots–orange, long and firm.

In summer Daucus Carrotis’ slender stalks
topped with a white umbrella-like bouquet,
nodding beside New England streets and roads,
delight the eye of many a passer by
whose gaze is for the flower, unaware
that they are seeing carrots true forbears.

Image and poem by Tasha Halpert