Autumn is a long, drawn out season. My heart feels heavy and sad at the first turning of the leaves because I know the routine—a flash of radiant orange, then a harsh wind, a plummet in temperatures, an early snowstorm—suddenly we know the harvest is over. Whatever was going to grow has grown, whatever fruit, whatever vegetable, whatever lovely flower, whatever family vacation or special camping trip—they’ve had their chance.
And then way at the end of November, dangling between seasons, sometimes washed white in a fresh snow, but usually just sapped of color and life, we celebrate Thanksgiving.
Why do we celebrate and give thanks for the bounty so long after the final harvest? I’ve never lived on the East Coast; perhaps where these traditions first started, the seasons fall along different calendar lines.
But maybe not. Maybe they wait, just as we do, until weeks after the garden has been put to bed, all the canning supplies stowed away in cupboards, winter coats pulled out of closets, kids’ winter wear inventoried (who can hold off until Christmas for what), waiting and waiting to celebrate and give thanks for the bounty of a summer that, by the time we sit down for the feast, seems like a faded memory.
Is there something important in the waiting? I hate to suggest it because waiting has never been my strong suit (when I cook dinner, I’m usually full by the time I sit down with the family). But maybe this pause is important. Maybe the Thanksgiving holiday anchors us and keeps us from sliding toward despair in a season when life becomes a bit of a grind and the change of light and temperature steals our outside time, when we find ourselves watching screens more and connecting with each other less. Maybe Thanksgiving pulls us forward, pulls us outward, gives us a reason to call extended family, buy tickets, make plans and menus, search for new recipes, get out decorations. It fills our time and hearts with appreciation for what we have. Maybe, conversely, it fills us with stress and anxiety as we anticipate difficult family dynamics and strive to be flexible in our planning, especially this year, wondering what will be the safest way to celebrate during the pandemic.
Perhaps like so many things it comes down to intention, finding a way to focus on the positive and accept the challenges with equal parts strength and grace. Just the other day, I was telling my son to stop complaining, reminding him that life is only as fun as we make it (“...just look at Grammy”), and not ten minutes later, my kids reminded me of my own advice when I complained about a slump in my mood.
We will not always do it perfectly, but we must make an effort to set our intentions. It’s okay to feel all the dry, crispness of the season, even down into our brittle spirits, but take a moment—or many moments throughout each day—to focus on gratitude, and let that pull you through this season.
Holly Freeman is a Denver area lifestyle photographer with a passion for families and a belief that those bonds are strengthened by images that reflect their love and affection. Reach out to schedule a session or subscribe to the blog for little bits of encouragement in your journey as a family.