September 30, 2013
Categories: Home, Self

fishing the mangrove

It’s happening again. Everywhere I turn (online, anyway) someone’s talking sweater weather or apple picking or root vegetable stew. A native Wisconsinite (never mind the 16 years I’ve been away), I immediately wax nostalgic at the very mention of a pie pumpkin, half-expect to see sugar maples instead of coconut palms every time I look out my window and have even tried to will our cedro into blushing, glowing crimson, then lightening her load. (It hasn’t happened…yet.)

Last year this time, fresh in Tulum and totally green to the tropics, I really struggled with the idea of year-round summer. I tried to make the most of it — stuffing squash and sewing pumpkins and imagining the clearly weeks-old, would-be-rotten-if-not-for-their-genetically-confused-lifespan imported apples at our local grocery being hand-picked for me by a kind-eyed farmer who loves his family second only to his orchard – but I wasn’t satisfied. I still wanted Autumn as I knew she could be.

But this year’s been different. Something shifted. Whether I realized the impermanence of this crazy-beautiful (and just plain crazy) time in our lives, had never before thought to seek the seasons in the turn of the tide, or simply needed a year’s worth of familiar to soften the exotic, I was able to catch my story, recognize the way it drained me and choose another one.

It goes something like this:

The autumns of my youth were amazing, no doubt, but no more potentially amazing than the autumn of my 36th year. And if I truly believe that; if the gifts of this season really are as abundant and immediate as any other, then a pursuit of pumpkins where they aren’t meant to be would actually distract me from the joy I am seeking and detract from the riches most readily available.

And as so often happens when I tell a truer story, I was then able to see other truths wrapped up in the same package:

Like how bombarded we are by images of autumn and suggested seasonal sensations and the promise of pleasure through a pumpkin-y purchase.

Like how marketers are nostalgia experts, often more in tune with our rhythm than we are and “satiating” our need for nature’s pulse with sale-priced knock-offs.

Like that for every experience of a season we’re being sold, there are a million more being given that require no more investment than increased awareness.

And of course, once you open those gates, good luck containing the rest of the confusion clouding consumer culture:

We are sold the concept of beauty through youth, sex appeal and “perfected” appearances. But beauty is also available free of charge, independent of age and because of our “imperfections.”

We are sold the notion of progress through domination, speed and efficiency. Progress is also available every time we decide to allow an experience to expand our consciousness.

We are sold the notion of “home” as a thing requiring constant improvement. Home is also independent of place and no more in need of renovation than the hearts dwelling within it.

It’s a pretty new phenomenon, if you think about it. Not nostalgia, nor the longing for time or place, nor the concepts of betterment and achievement. But the overgeneralization of what a season should look like or how a holiday should feel, or how beauty ought to be defined.

You know what, though? I buy it less and less. And every time I choose the freebies: the gift of now, the sensations of this season, the beauty right beside me, I never think, “Man, I need a pumpkin.” Because the truth is, I never do.

And to think, Autumn was just as generous last year…

bananas

bee

purple

seeds

vine

alive

dead

wasps

nidos

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14 Comments

  1. Thanks for saying what I’ve been feeling!

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  2. Thanks for putting into words the uneasiness I’ve been feeling every time I see a Starbucks ad for the 10th anniversary of the pumpkin spice latte. I love this blog and am so encouraged by it. I’m in Texas and just last Friday took my kids to a park where they played in the water. Fall is slow coming and short lived here and I don’t quite know where I got the notion that I should spend it slaving over pumpkin baked goods in the kitchen I order to feel more “autumn-y” when id be enjoying myself more outside in our 85 degree weather that feels so refreshing after a hot hot summer. Thanks. Thanks. Thanks.

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  3. AAAAAAAAAAwwwwwwwwwhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…………….
    This is always my first response to your blog posts –
    Tied up in this deep sigh are many thoughts and feelings:
    -Beth, you nailed it – again
    -thank you for reminding me of the things I forgot
    -you have so much wisdom for such a short life (gotcha by 20 years)
    -you always present a gentle challenge which is impossible to walk away from
    -you are grounded in joy, because of your intention to notice it and live in it
    -my gratitude for you, your family, your stories and your interest in sharing all of them here
    -I am so very proud of your work/words/way of being a human being
    -OXO

    Reply

  4. Deanna love

    You are wise beyond your years! Your words make me stop and realize my joys in the “now.” Thank you!

    Reply

  5. Oh Beth, this is just what I needed. I have passed the autumn of my life and am entering the winter which means downsizing big time along with a letting go of 50 years of stuff,(20 in this house), much of my life as an artist, a yard with flowers, squirrels and hummingbirds. I must learn to find joy in the freedom from all this trappings and memories and learn to love a smaller space where hubby with Alzheimer’s will be comfortable. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. How do the elderly fare in Mexico?

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  6. amen. i’m now in the throes of my 3rd tropical autumn. i now relish how quietly she creeps in here…with more rain, cooler breezes and seed pods galore!

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  7. Well, I do love autumn. I love the return of rain on the roof. I love making warm food that we haven’t tasted since early spring. I love taking a long soak in a warm bath with a good book. I love working on a puzzle by lamplight. I love going back to school. Of course, none of those things require pumpkins, new earth-toned kitchen towels, fall mantel decor, or new clothing.

    I appreciate the way you’ve (once again) articulated for me why I feel itchy and grumpy when I walk through a store or hop on Pinterest. Not because I want what others are selling, but because I’m increasingly impatient with the noise our culture (continental US) makes in order to sell stuff we don’t need.

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  8. This caught my eye today and I will think about this post and how not all people see autumn the same way. This year my box of fall decorations is sitting in the hallway waiting to unpack for weeks now. not sure it’s worth doing this year. Physical crisis with my 17 yo dd has seen me giving up lots these past 7 mo. Parts of me resist needing to give up the change of seasons and the normal things I enjoy, that have been theraputic to me over the years…like NOT planting any flower boxes or containers this spring and now not decorating the house for fall. I wonder what will happen with Christmas. Learning to look with new perspectives on these changes. Read a church sign the other week…”Resisting change? Take a look at Autumn again!” True, change can be beautiful…if we choose to see it. Okay, I’m really rambling on here. Enjoy your Autumn season and I’m trying best to enjoy mine without some of the usual “trimmings”.

    Reply

  9. I have lived in Fla. Ca, Va, Mich., Maine, PA and Puerto Rico. Each place offered me a new reality of weather, gardening abilities and scenery. I am thankful to have had the many opportunities to see all the different places and all the different realities. I admit to prefering cooler weather in the winter months and don’t really like HOT weather. Thankfully I now can live where I choose, not where a job sends us. But am thankful for all those experiences I had in those other places.
    Thank you for your blog.

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  10. Great post! Thank you for sharing your thoughts

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  11. Well said! So proud of you!

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  12. Mexico is wonderful about teaching us to “live in the now” and to be grateful for things we never hardly paid attention to……..
    I must tell you a funny story about my first year here in San Miguel, 12 years ago. I and a friend heard that a village outside of town had “calabazas”. Off we went, down a river bed, over a wood bridge (I’m not making this up) and to the village of Huertas, a teeny tiny village. Not a calabaza in sight. I asked and someone pointed up the hill to a house. I trudged up to ask and saw a bunch of pumpkins in an enclosure as feed for livestock! Just as the man came out of the house, I was besieged by a herd of goats zooming down the hill. It was all I could do not to lose my balance. By the end of that, I just really, really didn’t care about the calabazas and stood laughing at the silliness of it all. Yes, I did take one weird looking calabaza home. Never have since then……….and now they have them in the grocery stores here!

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  13. I’m reading this in a country where autumn means the start of half a year of cold and near-darkness. And would give just about anything for a year-round warmth. And yet, reading your thoughts, it’s again easier to accept the here and now. You are an inspiration, thank you!

    Reply

  14. Hello! I just discovered your website and I have been fascinated by your writing. Thank you so so much for sharing your thoughts, and life, and well laughter and tears, with such eloquence. I relate to some as a mother (only one little four year old), as someone who worked for 10 years with the International Committee of the Red Cross (it was war zones though… even if sometime there was a beautiful beach like in Sierra Leone) and well the fact that I live a little bit north from where you are (San Miguel de Allende). I will continue reading you with joy. Thank you again. Mil gracias de todo corazón. Kenza.

    Reply

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