Colours, cooler temperatures and lots of leaves to crunch underfoot — these are some of my favourite things about autumn. I don’t do well in the hot and humid summers we typically get, although this year’s wasn’t bad at all, to my great relief. When the thermometer’s hitting 32 degrees Celsius or 90 Fahrenheit, and the humidity’s also that high, summer can be like walking around in a steam bath. A lot of people become ill in those summers, and I’m invariably hiding inside to avoid throbbing migraines brought on by the blazing sunshine and heat. I start to relax when Autumn sets in.
There’s something so cozy about our Autumns, snuggling into a toasty sweater or hoodie and strolling along hiking trails or through farm markets. As soon as pumpkins show up, I’m bringing home four or five in different colours to decorate our front porch, and I start cooking hearty stews and baking cakes to have with a cup of hot tea.
Southern Ontario has been blessed with glorious fall colours this year. That isn’t always the case; what’s needed are
cold snaps (without frost, according to experts) to tell the trees that winter’s coming and it’s time to stop producing the green chlorophyll pigment which produces energy from sunlight and settle into their dormant winter state, and
enough rainfall to nourish the trees so that they keep their leaves long enough for the other pigments to shine once the chlorophyll disappears.
Normally we southerners have to go farther north in our province to see such vivid colours, and in many years the leaves are all on the ground by Halloween, which is fun to walk around in but a little depressing. We’re not guaranteed such splendour, and when I was out taking these photos, a lot of other people were out making the most of the beauty as well.
This October, Mother Nature had her entire palette out.
Moving into November, the trees were about half-bare, creating a fabulous carpet of crisp fallen leaves to walk around on. It’s a simple pleasure, but a profound one, and the first few leaves on the ground every year are a harbinger of autumn pleasures.
Once the leaves start to fall, we get to appreciate the sculptural art of the plants themselves. The mottled bark of some trees…
…the colours and shapes of giant leaves as they pack up for the winter…
…ripened berries offering food for birds and animals that winter here…
…the mellower autumn sun highlighting the shapes of plants getting ready for sleep…
So for those of you who don’t have the magic of Autumn on your doorstep, I hope these images will give you a little virtual taste of it.
All photos are by me and all rights are reserved. A selection of my best photos are available for purchase in a number of formats on my site at Fine Art America.
“I live in the space of thankfulness – and for that, I have been rewarded a million times over. I started out giving thanks for small things, and the more thankful I became, the more my bounty increased. That’s because – for sure – what you focus on expands. When you focus on the goodness in life, you create more of it.” Oprah
How many days have you had in the past couple of years where you don’t want to look at the news?
I read it online most mornings just to keep an eye on the state of the world, and mostly my little corner of it. When it becomes overwhelming, I’ll take a news-free day (or two) to decompress.
The pandemic has turned our world upside down, but we have so many things to be grateful for. This past Tuesday, September 21 was World Gratitude Day, and this week’s post is dedicated to the healing power of acknowledging and appreciating the good things in our lives, even the tiny ones.
You may already practice gratitude, but if you’ve only heard of it and thought it was bogus, I can tell you from personal experience that it works.
For the last few years in which I was working at a Monday-to-Friday job, it became harder and harder to get up in the mornings, achy and tired from the fibromyalgia, and push myself into a functional state. One particularly dreary morning I decided to try saying aloud five things that I was grateful for – anything I could think of off the top of my head. I was grateful for having a decent job with a pension, for a great hubby, for a car that was running well…I don’t remember them all, but by the end of my little recital I did actually feel better.
I’ve done this many times over the years, and my impression is that it’s like a reset button, breaking you out of a mental loop that keeps replaying everything that’s bugging you – which, if you think about it, is both non-productive and depressing. If you pay attention to how you’re feeling when you’re in one of these loops, you’ll notice that your dissatisfaction keeps building until it poisons the entire day. How much better to snap yourself out of it and keep moving forward?
Studies have shown that practicing gratitude will lower your stress level, which benefits your immune system. it will improve your self-esteem (tell that severe inner critic which exists in all of us to just shove it!), improve your sociability (which your boss will appreciate), and help you sleep better (now that you’re not grumbling and beating yourself up). Concrete physical benefits include greater cardiovascular health and lower rates of inflammation. Life serves up both good and bad, but understanding how to mentally balance them will improve your resilience.
On days when gratitude is hard to summon, find other ways to break the cycle. My favourite method is to go out into nature and let the trees, the wind, the birds all wash away my frustration and resentment. I’m so grateful to live on such an amazing planet, with so much beauty to look at:
World Gratitude Day was developed in 1965, out of a conversation at a Thanksgiving Day dinner in the meditation room of the United Nations building. A spiritual leader named Sri Chinmoy suggested a day of thanks that the entire world could celebrate.
If you’re uncertain on how to start, you may want to check out Gratefulness.org, a wonderful and thoughtful place to learn more and even participate in a global community. I particularly recommend watching the 5-minute “A Grateful Day” video on their World Gratitude Day page. It’s a beautiful and profound statement on why we should be grateful to be alive.
All photos are by me and all rights are reserved. E Jurus
“The wind outside nested in each tree, prowled the sidewalks in invisible treads like unseen cats… Anyone could see that the wind was a special wind this night, and the darkness took on a special feel because it was All Hallows’ Eve.”Ray Bradbury, The Halloween Tree
Finally, October! The month I spend the rest of the year waiting for. I love the moody weather, tinged with a slight chill. Today as I baked some cranberry and walnut pumpkin bread I watched the winds snatch leaves from our linden tree and fling them through the air.
Of course, my hubby was more acerbic about all the leaves on the ground when he was outside grilling sausages for dinner (despite the fact that he hires our next door neighbours’ son to rake them up).
Our leaves are all changing colour early this year, despite a very hot summer, and the scenery is so gorgeous. There are a number of reasons why I chose to retire from a full-time job this year, but one of them was an intense desire to stop living for weekends – to be able to really enjoy each day, and each season. By a certain age you begin to realize that the number of Autumns (or whichever season you love best) you have left to experience is smaller than the number that have gone so quickly by already, and you want to stop wasting time.
This week I celebrated my new freedom by visiting our Royal Botanic Gardens on an autumn weekday, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Although the colours weren’t as intense there, a little surprisingly, there was enough to keep me and several other keen photographers who I ran into occupied for hours, and we had the gardens largely to ourselves, without the crowds that have often made it really challenging to have a flower or vista to yourself long enough to be able to try out different angles and groupings.
I was really pleased with a lot of the photos, and since people have been commenting on my flower photos for years, I think I’m going to start offering a garden photography service now that I have the time.
My house is completely decorated for Halloween, even our bedroom with some chic black velvet skull pillows and a cute satin pumpkin. The framed image over the bed is a fairly new addition. We redid our bedroom last year to accommodate a new king-sized adjustable bed – the walls are a foggy fawn colour that’s very relaxing, but the bedspread I’d ordered from Amazon turned out to be more eggnog than cream. Luckily, while we were in Belfast at the Titanic Museum, there was a print from an artist who paints only images about the famous doomed ship that I fell in love with, and the gold tones of the smokestacks in this image of the Titanic leaving Belfast, where it was built, pulled in the pale yellows of the bedspread perfectly. So every day I get to relive having been able to stand in that very shipyard while I admire how well the print ties in the room colours and now my Halloween accessories.
I’ve been bingeing on Halloween-themed television shows (Halloween Wars, Outrageous Pumpkins and the Halloween Baking Championship) and waiting to find out whether trick-or-treating will be allowed this year. I hope so – another bit of normalcy in our wacky year, and I will diligently make up treat bags with gloved hands. We plan to hand them out with tongs from a Mad Scientist’s Lab table that we’ll set up on our front porch – I promise photos if that all falls into place!
In Canada we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving next weekend, carefully within our family/friend bubbles – ours will be outside on our patio with sweaters on, mugs of hot chocolate, lots of orange pumpkins and potted bronze chrysanthemums, and a little buffet set up with warming pans and crock pots.
Take whatever time you can to enjoy all the sights, scents and delightful shivers of this most engaging of months – October always goes by far too quickly!
Next week, ideas for an Autumn Mystery Lover’s Tea 😊
As always, all photos are by me unless otherwise specified, and all rights are reserved.
It’s straight out of my childhood. I always looked forward
to the return to school, Thanksgiving turkey, and, best of all, Halloween!
As an adult I only have Thanksgiving turkey and Halloween in
my life, but I have a great deal of nostalgia around all of them.
People seem to either love or despise nostalgia — I know people who feel it’s just indulging in sentimentality — but psychologists have done studies around it, and results have shown that there are benefits to spending some time in pleasant reminiscing:
The boost to your mood when recalling a positive
experience. My hubby and I often find ourselves laughing at something from our
travels that happens comes to mind from something that’s just occurred. It’s
really special to us that we’ve shared those experiences together, and those
memories have on occasion been a bulwark against something stressful that’s
happening in the present.
Researchers found a strong social component,
where people experiencing nostalgia were more motivated to connect with other
people. It may be for the often communal aspect of the shared memories.
When we’re reminiscing, it’s akin to reading or
watching a good story, but better because it’s from our own lives and
actually happened to us.
For the elderly, who can suffer from feelings of
isolation, it may inspire them to share their experiences and the wisdom
Autumn is my favourite season, and Halloween my favourite
‘holiday’, dating back to my childhood and a time when as kids we were
innocently and fully free to enjoy it. It was the one night where we were
allowed to prowl the streets without a parent in tow, and we made the most of
My neighbourhood was lined with trees, and as the air got cooler and the beautiful red and gold leaves began to drift to the ground, shuffling through them on the way to school every day, breathing in the earthy smell and crunching them underfoot, became an annual fall ritual. I would often pick up an especially ‘perfect’ leaf to press between book pages and keep in my room.
The scent of grapes would also fill the air – a lot of
people had grapevines in their yards at the time, so it’s an aroma that
instantly takes me back to childhood, although it’s increasingly rare.
Each grade at school always put on a Halloween party, and,
at least for me, weeks of planning went into my costume. My mom had a trunk
full of old clothes, which she readily helped me transform into a variety of
Anticipation on October 31st was intense – the
daylight hours couldn’t pass fast enough. We would put our costumes on and wait
feverishly for dusk to fall – it was an unwritten rule to not start
trick-or-treating before dark! – and for jack-o-lanterns to come to life on
front porches as the streetlights came on. As soon as that happened, our
parents would let us out the door for a night of adventure.
We always made a beeline to any places giving out candied
apples or popcorn balls, and then, in the mysterious darkness that could be
concealing who knew what unearthly creatures and the chill breezes that felt
like the tap of the grave on our shoulder, we would go up and down the streets,
deciding which houses looked welcoming.
There were always a few houses whose inhabitants were either
not kid-friendly, or (to us children) downright creepy. If the former, we
didn’t bother visiting them, but if the latter and there was a pumpkin out, we
would have a discussion as to whether we felt safe going up to the front door;
sometimes we did, with some trepidation, but sometimes the risk outweighed the
possibility of more loot.
Once we’d completed our circuit, and usually with a full
pillowcase of candy, we’d head toward our respective homes to dump out the
contents onto a table and see what goodies we’d accumulated. It was always a
great night, and I regret strongly that children now can’t have the same
My nostalgia for those experiences has been a strong
influence on creating a spooky effect for the kids that come to our door
trick-or-treating. They all seem to enjoy getting a little scared, and their
parents get a kick out of it as well. I didn’t realize how much the children
enjoyed the creepy contact lenses I’ve worn with certain costumes until a
parent commented once that his kids look forward to it every year.
My hubby helps me decorate our front entrance but allows me
to do the dressing-up and hand out the candies. He’s invariably lurking in the
background, though, to watch the kids react. We’ve put out a variety of
decorations, including some large stone gargoyles that we added glowing red
eyes to, and there’s usually fog swirling through the bushes and along the
ground. Our house has a split entryway, and the kids have even commented on the
interior Halloween décor that they can see behind me as I’m putting treats in
Halloween allows us to experience some chills in a safe way,
and allows both children and adults to step out of our normal lives and become
something entirely different for a night. It doesn’t have the emotional baggage
or responsibilities of Christmas, and it gives us an opportunity for some good,
The proliferation of Halloween-themed cooking contests on
the Food Network have instituted a new annual tradition for me, and I now have
a well-decorated Halloween tree on our dining-room buffet, but you might still sometimes
catch me romping through a pile of raked autumn leaves, to my hubby’s combined
dismay and amusement. Enjoy your autumn, and I hope you get as big a kick out
of Halloween next week as I do.
Everyone has their favourite season, and you could drum up a lively debate about which one is best. For some people autumn represents only the impending return of winter, but to me it’s the most sensual season — if you take the time to appreciate it.
Forget the equinox date — to me autumn begins when kids return to school at the beginning of September, just as winter feels like it really begins at the beginning of December.
I loved starting school again each year, but it wasn’t just the return to classes and the schoolroom — it was picking out a new dress for the first day of school, buying new school supplies (I’ve always loved the smell of new notebook paper!), walking to school as the leaves began to drift down until every step became crunchy, the screech of blue jays on chilly mornings, eating a hot bowl of oatmeal with cream and lots of brown sugar, the scent of grapes growing in neighbours’ yards, Thanksgiving turkey with stuffing, and the building excitement as Halloween approached.
For a couple of years my family lived on a farm in northern Ontario, where autumn is extravagantly beautiful — great swathes of colour lining the winding dirt road that we walked to and from school, the tang of wood smoke in the crisp clear air, gold-tinged fields rolling away under a bright blue sky… Moving down to southern Ontario brought a gentler season but better opportunities for trick-or-treating in a more urban area. How I missed the wonderful autumns of the north, though!
I’ve taken my hubby Mike up to northern Ontario a couple of times over the years so that he could experience a bit of what I loved so much. Autumn has become our favourite time to travel almost anywhere (except parts of Africa) — to enjoy the milder weather and fewer crowds, to enjoy the outdoors, and quite a few times to enjoy Halloween events.
The first time we went to England was in early November, and we had a fantastic time. We bundled up in trench coats and toasty sweaters, had tea in cozy pubs by the fire. We visited Stonehenge on a cool, cloudy day, but besides us there were perhaps only about a half-dozen other people about. All the cities and towns had Christmas decorations out, so we had great fun in Oxford buying little university sweatshirts as gifts for all our tiny nieces and nephews. I remember driving down a country road to Bath in the dusk and watching autumn mist creep down the hillsides — if a Druid had come floating through the trees collecting mistletoe I wouldn’t have been at all surprised.
October in Paris is equally enticing. We had a chilly day on the Eiffel Tower, which gave us the perfect excuse to visit the café on the second level for a thick, dreamy Chocolat Chaud Viennois (rich hot chocolate with a generous helping of whipped cream on top).
Autumn is the perfect time for a road trip. One of our favourite places to go is the Hudson River Valley in New York State. There are magnificent old estates dotted along the river, lots of great hikes, delightful small towns to poke around, plenty of history, an abundance of farmer’s markets with fabulous artisanal food (can’t give you names, just stop in at any market you come across), and best of all for all Halloween buffs, this is Washington Irving country. The denizens of the Valley make the most of the whole Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle atmosphere — in fact, there’s a real town called Sleepy Hollow where you can walk across the Headless Horseman bridge and visit Irving’s grave in the very old cemetery (which you can catch glimpses of in the new TV series that just debuted this week). Irving based his tale of the Headless Horseman on a genuine old legend, and believe me, if you wander up into the Catskill Mountains you’ll get some eerie shivers when the wind moans through the forests. There are a ton of Halloween-themed things to do, including the Headless Horseman haunted farm, which is the top-rated haunted attraction in the U.S. and an absolute blast!
In our increasing urbanization, people are missing out on many of the sights and sounds of autumn. It’s not a season to be depressed about — it’s a season to celebrate as Nature puts on her finest show, but you may have to go looking for the best stuff. Go hike in the woods and breathe deeply of fallen leaves. Visit a fall fair and buy some good home-made sausages and apple butter to take home for dinner. Have a picnic on a plaid blanket spread out on the leaf-strewn grass, with a thermos of tea, some sumptuous sandwiches and crumbly pumpkin squares for dessert. Line your porch with pumpkins of all shapes and sizes, then enjoy chocolate eyeballs and some cheesy old sci-fi movies for Halloween. Life is too short not to make the most of this most glorious season.