words to live by: less and more
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october: a reminder to live slowly


live slowly
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"Bittersweet October.

The mellow, messy, leaf-kicking perfect pause between
the opposing miseries of summer and winter."

Carol Bishop Hipps 

 

There's something magical about October. It is a month in which everything begins to change. The heat of the summer is finally fading and the crispness in the air lets you know that winter is not far off. It is the in-between time where we are caught between the heat and life of summer and the cold and barrenness of winter. Though I've experienced the month many times before (27 to be exact!), the magic of this pause between the brimming liveliness of spring and summer and the draining harshness of winter never seems to escape me. Every year I fall in love with this pause in extremes -- this month in which the world around me is changing so drastically -- all over again.


I could spend hours, days, writing about how much I love the brief break between the summer and winter. I could spend a lifetime in the month of October, basking warm days, shivering in the cool nights, pulling on sweaters and boots. I could spend much longer than thirty days in the month of October, smiling at the thought that Halloween (my favorite day of the year -- made even more special this year by the upcoming celebration of my one year anniversary with the love of my life!) is less than a month away.


Despite my love for all four seasons and the unique elements of each, if given the chance, I would probably spend a lifetime in October, watching the colors change, and inhaling the crisp smells of the fall season. For me, the sky is a brighter blue in October. The air is denser, more meaningful, and the colors of the world around me are so much more vibrant, turning the end of summer into the promise of a new and exciting season to come. 


For as long as I can remember, I've always been this way -- in love with October, with the pause between summer and winter. Like a great passage in a good book, October stands out among the dozen of months written in a year. In my mind, all year long I come back to reread October's words again and again, mesmerized by the way they jump of the calendar's page. The very thought of October fills my mind with happiness, and, though every year I write about my love for October, this year was the first year I decided to look into what others have written about the month. Oddly enough, this year was the first time I came across Robert Frost's "October," written in 1913. Not surprisingly, fell in love with his words: 

 

"O hushed October morning mild, 

Thy leaves have ripened to the fall; 

Tomorrow's wind, if it be wild,

Should waste them all. 

The crows above the forest call; 

Tomorrow they may form and go. 

O hushed October morning mild, 

Begin the hours of this day slow. 

Make the day seem to us less brief. 

Hearts not averse to being beguiled,

Beguile us in the way you know. 

Release one leaf at break of day; 

At noon release another leaf; 

One from our trees, one far away.

Retard the sun with gentle mist; 

Enchant the land with amethyst. 

Slow, slow! 

For the grapes' sake, if they were all, 

Whose leaves already are burnt with frost, 

Whose clustered fruit must else be lost -- 

For the grapes' sake along the wall."

 

Personally, I've always found Frost's words beautifully, heartbreakingly depressing. Many times in my life I've turned to them and reveled in them, lapping up their sadness to mirror my own. At first, when I read this, I felt the longing in Frost's words, the desire to remain a bright, colorful tree, in full bloom and teeming with life. But the more I thought about the poem, the more I read them as as plea for the world to slow down, to take each day and let it die -- as it inevitably will -- slowly. 


On a grander scale, I read Frost's words as a petition to live not only our days, but our lives, slowly. The leaves on our trees are surely going to fall. Our winter will come and we will no longer be filled with life. Someday we will all be shadows of ourselves -- our thin, spiney branches clinging to hollowed out trees, our bright colors stripped away. It might sound like Positively Present is taking a turn for the negative here, but I must use the reality of life to highlight the idea Frost's words inspired: Thoughts of death, of our leaves resting on the ground beneath the bare skeletons of our branches, should inspire us to live slowly, meaningfully. 


Perhaps this is ultimately what I love so much about October. It is a reminder that the brightness of our lives will someday fade, just like the rainbowed leaves must drop from the branches of trees. October, and all of the changes it brings to the world around us, serves as a reminder that we, too, are changing. We are, like it or not, fading, our colors often transforming without warning. Maybe that is why I love October so much -- it is the annual reminder of my own mortality, a reminder that, instead of depressing me, inspires me to live each day more fully, more purposefully. 


Frost's poetic musings remind me that, yes, death is inevitable, but it is Frost's positive twist on this timeless sentiment which energizes life-affirming belief that we each have the power to make the most of each day. Frost reminds us that, though our branches will ultimately be left bare, for now we can only ask that our leaves fall less quickly. Though we cannot control everything -- in our lives we will face strong gusts of wind, leaf-soaking rain, and white-hot sun beating down on us, and we must cope with the location in which our trees have grown -- we have some power over the speed in which our leaves will fall. 


Frost asks the October morning to begin slowly, to make the day seem longer. Though each of our days will always be the same length, we have the ability, to some extent, to choose what we do with those days. We can do what we can to fill our days with purpose, with meaning, so that each day feels long and full. Frost notes that humans are not opposed to the idea of being fooled and, perhaps, should allow themselves to be fooled into living days that seem longer than they really are. Of course, the best way to fool yourself into living longer days is to live them slowly, with purpose. 


At the end of the poem, Frost urges the mist to slow the sun's setting, to color the sky purple, and to slow the coming of the cold frost that will certainly kill what is still alive. When I take these words and apply them to my own life, I see that I must concentrate on living slowly. I must become the mist that will slow the sunset, the mist that will beautify the sky and, if even for a short time, slow the coming of the night's frost. 


Personally, I find it incredibly difficult to live slowly. I am always in a hurry -- rushing from task to task, checking off my to-do list with purpose. Living slowly, acting slowly, is one of the hardest things for me to do. However, I cannot help but be immensely inspired by Frost's words. They have moved me, as so many October-related things do, and I plan to take them to heart.


I plan to make this October a month of living slowly, of truly paying attention to the world around me and being present in my own life. This month, it will be my goal to truly experience and enjoy each day and to live each day with purpose. Though I haven't experienced it personally, I know that to reach the end of your life, your leaves surrounding the base of your trunk, and to feel as if you missed out on all of the beautiful colors must be the most tragic feeling of all. So, though slowing down this month won't be easy, I know it's what I must do to make the most of the colorful days of this life. 



Are you living your life slowly, or are you rushing through your days? 

What advice do you have for someone (like me) who has a hard time
slowing down
 and living in the present moment?  

Comments

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This is such a nice post! My days just seem to disappear, I need to slow down a bit and appreciate everything around me!

During the day, I follow my flow, fast or slow, without regret, but make silence a priority in the morning after I wake.

October is one of my favorite months and Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I like the crispness in the air, the turn of the season, and I enjoy wearing sweatshirts to celebrate it.

I love this post! I was just thinking this weekend about how much I love October. This time of year always makes me feel renewed!
And I like to take things slow. I figure out what it is about this time of the year that I love the most, and then I try to immerse myself in it. I take walks to appreciate the foliage, and I bake A LOT of goodies so that I bring them to friends and spend time with people that I love. It helps me to slow down and realize what's important.

Great post. Sometimes I find my mind just racing, trying to catch up on everything. I get flustered and frustrated. One thing that helps is to remind myself that nothing has to be perfect. I don't want Oct. to pass me by. If I want the autumn to linger, then I need to linger as well.

Nic - Thank you! I also find that my days seem to fall away and disappear without having really lived them, which is why I'm really going to strive to slow down this month and make the most of my favorite time of year.

Christopher - What a great routine you have! Taking a little time for silence is a great way to start off the day and, having already had that quiet, slow time, you allow yourself to live your day as it comes, without regretting the loss of time.

J.D. - Sweatshirts are the best! They are one of the best signs that fall has truly arrived and I'm very happy to say I'm wearing one right now (and loving it!) as I type this.

Molly - Thanks so much! I loved writing it. It sounds like you have some really great practices in place to help you slow down and appreciate your life. Walks to enjoy the fall leaves and baking delicious treats sound like great ways to make the most of the season!

Reflective Self - Thanks! I too find that my mind is often racing and, as a result, I find myself frustrated and anxious. I love what you wrote in your comment about needing to linger. If we want the fall season to last as long as possible, we have to do what we can to make sure that happens!

This is lovely post with so much beauty and depth. I appreciate how you sincerely speak about it being difficult for you to live slowly. I am inspired by your inspiration to do so in the coming month. Halloween is also an anniversary for me!

I really needed to hear this. I hate winter and have recently been moaning about the coldness, rain, and particularly, the darkness. I have been pulling myself up, looking for positives to focus on, as it is most unlike me to be like this. This has helped immensley, thank-you!

Sandra - Thank you so much! I really enjoyed writing this post and, yes, it can be hard for me to open up about how fast-paced my life is (when all I really want is the ability to be able to live in the moment!). I'm happy this post inspired you because writing it inspired me! Happy Halloween anniversary to you!

Kate - I'm so glad this post spoke to you. In spite of all that I've written here, I too have been moaning about the cold and rain and darkness. There are certainly some unpleasant things about this time of year that I'm less-than-thrilled about. It's tempting to focus on those, but I'm really trying to be positive and enjoy the moments before it gets REALLY cold. :)

Thank you for this beautiful post! I've always loved Robert Frost, but this prompted me to order a book with his poems. I can't wait to dive into this world again.

About living slower, all I can say is that stopping to watch the rain droplets on a window, or making a cup of tea on chilly evenings, or painting my nails dark red - these help, even if not for long, at least to take the moment in.

Maria - You're welcome! I'm so glad this post inspired you to read more Frost. He was a brilliant poet. I agree with what you've said about living slowly... In order to make it a reality in our lives, we have to do it one small thing at a time.

i just opened your website today and already i am blown away by how much i can relate with your writings,its so nice to not be the only one feeling that way, you have no idea how inspired i am right now :)
Cant wait for your future posts
greetings from Indonesia!

Manda - Thank you for your comment! (How exciting that it comes all the way from Indonesia!) It's so great to know that someone on the other side of the world is able to relate to what I'm writing. Sometimes I feel like the internet takes over my life, but it's times like these when I realize just how powerful a tool it truly is. I'm so happy you found Positively Present and I hope you keep reading! :)

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