Here & there: ‘Tis the season to slow down

Mother and son playing with autumn tree leaves, location not known, Nov. 15, 2015 | Photo by Aslı Gönen on Scopio, St. George News

FEATURE — We all know the words. Whether from the Bible or the famous Byrds song. They are as familiar as a favorite pair of denim or the smell of a freshly cut pumpkin.

To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to reap; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.

These psalms play out in my head at the turn of every season, but especially autumn, as the gardens stop producing, the nights begin to crisp, and the light starts to dim.

There is something almost sacred to me about the turning of this particular season. The harvest. The winnowing down. The drawing in. The preparation for winter.

On the first day of fall this year, I found myself hiking up to the Stone Living Room in the foothills above Red Butte Canyon with my dog Albus. He and I can be found on that same trail a few times each week. The hour round trip and quick elevation gain make it a favorite.

Normally, I hike with my ears out. Listening to birds and grasshoppers chirp, the rustle of rabbits and for the rattle of a snake just off the trodden path in the low brush.

White and brown Jack Russell terrier on ground, location unknown, undated | Photo by Ekaterina Abramova on Scopio, St. George News

But this first day of fall, I listened to an episode of Emily P. Freeman’s “The Next Right Thing” podcast. This episode was “A Soul Minimalist’s Guide to Autumn.”

Freeman has several episodes devoted to the concept of being a soul minimalist in different applications, but what you really need to know are two things: 1) Her favorite definition of minimalism comes from Joshua Becker’s book Simplify wherein he says, “minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it,” and 2), building on that definition, Freeman says a soul minimalist is a person who looks inward and intentionally elevates what she most values and works to remove what distracts her from it.

She then walks the listener through 5 movements to help prepare for fall in these terms. Everything from looking at your current stance – where do you stand in your heart, mind and gut – to looking at what you can “skip,” such as mindsets, activities and calendar items.

I particularly resonated with the second movement she suggests: Space. Of space, Freeman asks: what practices, rhythms or routines will help you feel like a person in autumn?

Hmmm. A person in autumn.

Last night I met with one of my favorite high school seniors to help her with her college applications.

She sat in front of me with a color-coded spreadsheet with the names, average ACT scores, acceptance rates, tuition costs, and geographical locations of one hundred colleges and universities she is considering.

As she gesticulated and explained the “safety” schools, the “target” schools, the “hard target” schools and the “reach” schools, a small white acrylic nail missing from her pinky finger, one thing was clear: she was completely overwhelmed.

Two university students studying at home, location not known, Oct. 3, 2020 | Photo by Javier Sanchez Mingorance on Scopio, St. George News

“But it’s all OK,” she explained, “I’ll apply to most everywhere on Common App.”

I know that Common App. My son applied to a handful of colleges last year using it’s one-stop application features. It’s wonderful. And it’s also a little deceiving.

Applicants still bear a cost – beyond the application fee – for every school to which they apply. Each school they entertain will take management on their spreadsheet, and, more importantly in their hearts.

One hundred schools is a heavy cost to bear.

As I looked into this young woman’s expectant eyes, waiting for my help, I thought back to Emily P. Freeman and her question of what rhythms and spaces help a person be in the season of autumn.

My answer is found in nature itself. It is found in the rhythm of the slowing down all around me.

Slowing down for warm cinnamon tea on those crisp evenings. Slowing down for mornings in dappled sunlight reading. Slowing down to hike without the timer set on my phone. Slowing down to carve pumpkins with my two boys still at home or to watch an episode of their favorite new anime.

I sensed the high school senior in front of me needed to slow down, too.

I told her the first thing she needed to do was pare down her list. Way down. One hundred schools do not need her time, attention, or energy. Nor do fifty or even a dozen.

She needed no more research. She needed no more columns on her spreadsheet. She had all the information she needed. She simply must choose. Choose a handful of institutions where she can really see herself thriving.

She left forty-five minutes later with a smaller spreadsheet and more emotional space for the places that remained. And more space for herself – to breathe, to enjoy her last season of track and field, to spend time with her friends, and to experience her senior year.

For there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven. And this is the season of autumn.

Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News. Any opinions given are her own and not representative of St. George News staff or management.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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