Seasons of Life – October 2021

Monthly personal update. I write about autumn, an art challenge, household pests, and the joys of getting older.

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It’s interesting to me the way that our perception of time is so subject to change. Sometimes a month feels very long and sometimes a month feels extraordinarily short. October has felt very short to me, like entire days are missing, like a swiss cheese calendar.

Leaves and Rain

We’ve begun the time of year where I inevitably contemplate purchasing waterproof pants for my daily walks.

I love the way the air smells during this time of constant rain.

I even like the way the air feels, with the subtle damp forest chill.

But I don’t love having my clothes actually soaked.

The leaves seem bolder and brighter this year – is it just me?

One tree in my neighborhood turned first. It was the harbinger of autumn, with canary leaves so bright they seemed to glow. I walked under it every day, watching more and more of the leaves catch fire.

One day a few of the leaves had fallen and we collected a handful “for crafts” (which turned out to be simply watching them crisp into dust in a pile on the coffee table).

The next day there wasn’t a single leaf left on the tree! Just black twisted bark above a plush yellow carpet of leaves.

Nature’s rhythms are like that – sometimes gradual, sometimes sudden. Unpredictable and yet not always frighteningly so. Comfortable, taking its own time.

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.

Lao Tzu

I find myself wanting to rest this month and nature is a good reminder that everything rests. Nothing in nature powers full steam ahead all the time. Yet as members of society, as entrepreneurs or workers or artists or parents, etc, we expect ourselves to power through – day in, day out.

What would it be like to acknowledge our own inner rhythms of rest and productivity, of work and play?

Inktober Art Challenge

Eight out of the 31 drawings I made for Inktober this year

This year I’ve decided to take part in Inktober.

Inktober is an art challenge taking place every October where artists make an ink drawing every day. Many people follow a particular prompt list from the official Inktober creator, but many others follow other lists or their own inclinations. I write a little bit more about Inktober and my efforts to prepare in a past article here

For my project this year I chose to do the official prompt list, but also following my own personal theme.

Every day I drew a picture based on the prompt but it had to include or be about aliens, particularly my “original character” I made up when I was 10, Bob the alien.

It actually went a lot smoother than I thought it would, but I found myself struggling a little bit with the media, as I’m a lot more comfortable with digital paint. Which is fine, learning is definitely something I wanted to do, but it made comparing my drawings to the community just a little bit disappointing.

With over 5000 people completing just the official prompts and posting to the hashtag on instagram every day, the amount of truly amazing drawings was staggering!

It can be difficult to feel inspired versus discouraged.

I think having a personal theme helped me still feel good about my art because no matter how good or bad each drawing turned out to be technically, mine were still completely unique. No one else drew the same concept as I did, and it helped me feel creative versus just outclassed.

Practicing the technical skill of drawing and using ink pens isn’t the only thing the challenge helped me gain.

The discipline required to execute every day is like exercising a muscle. And I feel like my ability to start and finish pieces got a real workout.

It’s easier as an artist to only draw or paint “when you feel like it” (which can be never! Or very rarely!). It’s also very easy to only doodle or noodle around with supplies rather than going through all the stages of making complete works.

I have tons and tons of doodles that never turn into anything, but it’s so much more satisfying to actually complete things!

Another Birthday

Another birthday, another trip around the sun. Another excuse for cake! But another excuse for anxiety and moping as well, potentially. 

Does anything remind us of our own mortality more than birthdays? I’d say only serious illness or actual deaths – of family or celebrities – is more potent. 

I can’t help but do the math to find out my age (since I of course can never keep it straight anymore), and then do a little more math, wondering how much time I have left? Even being very optimistic with the guess, assuming I avoid accidents, cancer, plane crashes etc, just thinking about it is enough to make me sweat. Is there enough time to do all the things I thought I’d be able to do as a child? What will it be like at the end, looking back, will I be disappointed?

(I realize it’s somewhat contradictory to admit to these thoughts and feelings in the same blog as the Lao Tzu quote above!)

The age 36 is actually an interesting year, because it is 18 times 2. Meaning that exactly half of my life was as a child (before 18) and exactly half was an adult. In other words, I’ve now been an adult for as much time as I was ever a child.

It makes me think that maybe it’s the beginning of a new life phase, a wiser life phase. The end of being a “young adult” and now the beginning of just plain “adulthood.”

I’d like to avoid the word “middle-aged” however. Has that word ever been used kindly? Without a sneer and a scoff?

Ants

Right now we have the most annoying house guests. They run around all night and day, but to their credit they are exceptionally quiet and only eat what we’ve thrown away.

Still, they are uninvited and thus unwelcome. 

(Ants!)

This apartment has always had a major ant problem since we moved in – the back wall is essentially not sealed at all to the elements, meaning a constant incursion of tiny houseguests.

During our first spring here I woke up one morning to find them sharing my bed! What nerve!

We think they keep nesting in the wall itself, explaining the periodic tidal waves of them coming out of outlets.

I’ve had people look at me, baffled and accusingly asking, what do they keep coming in for? The implication being that clearly my housekeeping is not up to snuff.

And it’s true that I’m not the tidiest person, but if you have colonies of ants in your actual walls, they will FIND reasons to intrude, no matter how clean you think your house is. The scouts wander day and night, looking for crumbs, fallen cheerios, drops of water (!), and worst of all, the faintest, most invisible residues from the sticky hands of toddlers. 

They even squeezed into the supposedly-but-now-I-know-NOT-air-tight cake cover after my birthday. I woke up to find them feasting on my leftover birthday cake. How rude!

We end up needing to use the bait traps now a couple of times each season, and it’s not too big of a deal usually. I guiltily watch them take the poisonous sugar food back to their nest and within a few hours or days they stop coming back.

When I explained to my daughter how the bait will kill the ants, she moaned, “Oh no, the queen will be so sad that they all died!” (Nevermind the fact that she would prefer us just squish them all on sight…)

At first the ants made me feel so disgusted and sick I could barely eat anything, and their presence in the kitchen meant I didn’t cook as much as I should have.

But I’m getting better and better at compartmentalizing. I tell myself they are in THAT corner, not here. They are under THAT desk, not on my desk. They are NOT right here, not running over my food and jumping into my drink.

It definitely could be worse, I think sometimes. But I try not to think it too loud, so as not to jinx anything, of course.

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