Ways to enjoy Autumn
The seasons have changed, and the days are growing shorter. It is a special time of the year, when we begin to feel a little wistful and nostalgic. It’s a time of the year when the weather begins changing, and we are already into the busy activities of work and school Time too to find ways to enjoy the natural wonders and the pleasure of each moment. Here are some ways to enjoy the Autumn with your grandchildren and children.
Star Gazing. One of my favorite sites on the internet is EarthSky. Each day Earthsky puts you in touch with the night sky, helping you pinpoint and identify the constellations and the movement of the Sun, Moon, and Earth. Most of us are fascinated by the night sky, and in the Autumn we have some of the clearest views of the sky, as well as some of the most spectacular displays of the heavens. Tonight, for example, the waxing Crescent Moon can be seen while looking toward the southwest. It is sitting between the planets Mars and Saturn. Saturn is the bright, star-like object nearest the Moon, and Mars is farther out and to the left near the star, Antares—two bright objects near one another. Earthsky reminds us that the dark side of the waxing moon (the moon as it is growing to fullness) is always pointed eastward. Each night learn something new about the night sky and our place in the Universe. Share this with your grandchildren, and help them learn (or learn from them) how the night sky changes each night. This is also a wonderful time of the year to see the Big Dipper hanging low in the early evening sky. Head out to one of our local planetariums for an adventure to remember.
Organizing and Planning. It is time to store seasonal gear and apparel. Share the experience with your grandchildren and children, as part of the ritual of the changing seasons. Pack a bag to keep in the car for traveling during Autumn (rain clothes, change of clothes, umbrella, disposable camera for photographing colorful leaves, migrating birds, and other sights of fall). Keep some water and dried foods, a first aid kit, blankets, matches, transistor radio and batteries, and a compass. All these items can come in handy for taking a spur of the moment hike along the beach or up a hillside. Pick out new rainwear or boots together.
Make plans with your grandchildren and children. Be a team. Make some plans to reorganize and sort through shelves and closets, with the express purpose of providing some assistance to someone in need. Packing up a box of books for a friend’s younger sister, or loading a bag with coloring books you have not used to take to the local homeless shelter, are examples of how to use your organizing for meeting a purpose. Young children want to help other people, and will learn how to think of others by learning that their direct actions can have a consequence on someone else’s life. Working together, and following through on projects together, goes a long way to instilling a sense of responsibility.
Get Involved. Motivate your grandchildren and children; don’t nag them. Set a good example yourself, and give suggestions, ask them questions about what they want to do, what they think needs to be done, fixed, or what problems they would like to help solve. All summer my Granddaughter talked about wanting to do good for other people. This is desire that needs to be nourished and supported. Children do not always know how to help, and sometimes they know just the right thing to do. Just like us. We sometimes want to help, but can’t see how we can. Then we come up with an idea that might seem small, but turns out to be an important one. And we never know what our good deeds and positive energy might net. We do not always see the outcome, but part of being a good person, is doing good even when we don’t get a reward or notice for our actions. While we want to affirm our children and grandchildren for what they do, we also want to help them understand that sometimes we just have to do what is right for the sake of doing the right thing. For example, we might drop off a bag of coloring books for a homeless shelter, and never know anyone who receives them. The reward and affirmation comes from us, from grandparents and parents, who let our children know how much we think of their efforts and consideration.
This is a great time of the year to do some good deeds. Make some soup and share it with a neighbor, or make a batch of cookies or a loaf of bread or two, and share with the local soup kitchen. Take a little bit of time each week to get out and do something for someone who needs help. That might even mean, helping a neighbor carry a shopping bag home from the market, or finding out what Mother or Father need, without being asked. Sometimes our job as grandparents is to guide our grandchildren into understanding some of the subtleties of communication and love. At other times it is to see how gifted our grandchildren are at showing their love and consideration to others naturally.
Decorate and Adorn. Autumn is the time when we don more clothes, dress for the weather, and begin dressing up ourselves and our homes for the seasons and the approaching holidays. I talked to my sister yesterday, who has been decorating her house for Halloween for at least a week. She has no little children around, but treasures the tradition that she got in childhood. I pull out my Autumn leafed table cloth, and set a pumpkin out. We collect leaves and make arrangements, and enjoy celebrating the seasons in simple ways at our home. What are some of the ways you decorate or change the decor of your house for Autumn?
We are also in the middle of the celebrations of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Religious and spiritual celebrations go on year round, and are often associated with the seasonal changes. Whatever rituals, traditions, or celebrations you share as a family, enjoy sharing this with your children and grandchildren, and include them in on the preparations and choices for decorating and getting ready.
Autumn is also another good time of the year to take care of ourselves. Maybe time to change hair styles or start an new activity or exercise program. This Autumn, I am going to take Tai Chi class, and invite my Granddaughter to come along with me. We have been doing yoga and meditation, as well as sharing long talks about God and religion. We help one another feed each other’s souls, and there is nothing more precious or treasured than these kinds of simple acts, beautiful conversations, and willingness to share ideas and ask questions that allow us all to grow, develop, and become more connected.
Go Outside. As the weather changes, our activities and habits change as well. Keep finding ways to get outside to enjoy the fresh air and keep active. From the time we walked the streets at night with my grandchild in her stroller, to the time we now spend heading to the park to take in the last few minutes of daylight, getting outside has been something we have learned to build into our lives. Living in San Francisco can be overwhelming sometimes, but there are so many wonderful ways to enjoy the City. The parks, public walkways, and access to beaches, mountains, the marine sanctuaries all provide ways of keeping in touch with nature. Planting a backyard or porch garden is another way. Sitting outside on a deck or porch at night, can be a great place to watch the stars. Going to the Planetarium is also a treat for everyone. Bring the outdoors inside by having house plants and opening the windows to air things out regularly.
Go Inward. Take time and set aside time to be quiet and reflective. Learn how to meditate, and then do it for 5- 10 minutes a day. Include your children and grandchildren in on this. You may have made time for reflection with your children as they grew up. Do the same with your grandchildren when you have the chance. Spend time in prayer, alone and together. Visit a religious sanctuary together, and learn about other traditions. Take time to be alone and to allow your children and grandchildren to do the same. Learning to have free, unstructured, and unscheduled time is key to everyone’s well being. It is also good for children to learn to use their time. Children that have been allowed free, unstructured time, are more adept at being self motivated and capable of focusing on a task on their own. It is not neglect to allow a child to spend time in their own room or home figuring out what to do. Our lives are so full of activities and obligations that we need to build in opportunities to learn and grow. Share your hobbies and skills (knitting, origami, crocheting, chess) and enjoy exploring art together (sketching, painting, sculpting, drawing). Write and recite poetry together, and read your favorite books and poems with one another.
Story Time. Tell stories. Tell the family stories, and make time for imaginary story telling. Develop the art of telling a good tale. Learn about ancestors, and write and tell stories to keep their memories alive. Read before going to sleep at night, and have a special time to read a story together. One of my favorite memories and things to do with my granddaughter is nightly reading of a novel. My Mother would read Treasure Island, A Tale of Two Cities, or some other classic, and each night we would hear one more chapter until the book was finished. It is a great habit to develop.
Cooking, Canning, Baking. Autumn is harvest time, and a wonderful time to reap the fruits of summer. It is apple and pear season, and time to learn how to make applesauce and can some pears for winter. Perhaps it is time to bake a loaf of bread, or bake pie for someone’s birthday. Spending time together learning these skills is great fun and also a good skill to develop. It makes us all more aware of what goes into providing food for our tables. If possible, head out to the countryside or down the coast, and get fresh fruit and vegetables fresh from the field. Visit Elkus Environmental Education Center and Ranch, if you can. That is always an eye opener for children to learn how food is grown and arrives at their table.
Whatever you do with your grandchildren and children this Autumn, enjoy being mindful, present, and happy with one another. As Albert Camus noted, “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” Make this Autumn a memorable time. Show your grandchild how to press a leaf or make leaf print paintings. Make book marks with leaves or table arrangements for an afternoon tea or shared cup of cocoa on one fine fall day soon.