In recent weeks, as winter’s chill slowly overtakes the warm summer sun, I’ve been wrestling with the idea of fall. It started during a meditation that my yoga instructor, Celeste, lead, during which she said that we should usher in and change along with the new season. In the past, I would have resisted the notion of welcoming fall. While I think the changing of leaves from rich greens to reds and yellows is beautiful, this process also serves as a sad reminder that the air is getting chillier, and I’ll soon have to trade in my tank-top and shorts for multi-layering and heavy winter coats. Having spent most of my childhood in Hawaii and Los Angeles, I’ve not been conditioned for cold weather. And despite many years of living in Baltimore and now Berlin, where I’ve experienced pronounced changes with all four seasons, I still resist the thought of fall, wearing my tank tops well into October. But, as I sat there in lotus position with the notion that I should be welcoming and changing with the season, the idea resonated with me. But I still knew that I needed time to think on how I could apply it to my life.
I’ve thought about change a lot since that meditation. I thought about what that meant for me. How was I going to change with the seasons? Would it be a physical, emotional or mental change? Or better yet, all three? I hoped so. But, could I make these changes so quickly? I wasn’t sure.
We were already a week into fall by that point. And as I thought about change, more specifically how I was going to change, I was reminded of the power of observation. I was looking through photos that I had taken over the summer. They reminded me of what an awesome summer I’d had with friends and family. Then I’d read something that my brother, Derek, had posted on Facebook, which for me, further cemented the power of taking a break, taking a big step back and expressing gratitude. He wrote, “I’m extremely fortunate. The people in my life have always shared their best with me. I’m just really thankful for that.”
“Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.” -Alphonse Karr.
I realized that perhaps my role is not to try to change with the season, but rather observe, take inventory, celebrate and be grateful for the changes that have already taken place. Seeing those photos and reading that post reminded me of our time with our good friend, Zen, and her friend, Megan. They had visited us in Berlin and together we’d taken a trip to Budapest. Ned is a quarter Hungarian, and the last people to have visited Budapest in his family were his grandparents, which was decades ago, so this trip had special significance for him. And I am grateful to have been there with him, seeing sites that his grandparents had seen. It was a special moment.
I also relived our time with our very good friend, Pam. She came to visit with us back in July. We’d taken a trip to Dresden, the first time we’d all been together. We discovered a really wonderful Italian restaurant in the “new” city, and loved it so much that we took Zen and Megan there, as well. While Pam was in town, we also met up with some of our friends for a picnic, who also happened to be Baltimore-to-Berlin transplants. Our good friends, Jaina and CJ, along with Jaina’s parents hosted the picnic, which lives in my memory as one of many highlights of the summer.
I was also reminded of our time with our friends at the Fusion Festival, a music festival, which happens once a year just outside of Berlin. I really loved reuniting with friends, whom we hadn’t seen in nearly a year, and making new friends, too. It rained during the last days of the event. However, we were grateful for the times that it didn’t rain, which was more often than not.
And while the circumstances weren’t the best, I am also grateful for the time that I spent with my family and friends, while I was in Los Angeles this April. I was there for a funeral for my uncle, Randy. He was my dad’s youngest brother. He had a wonderful service, during which several of his friends, co-workers and acquaintances spoke about how instrumental he was to their well-being and recovery. I knew vaguely that he worked with troubled youth and people recovering from substance abuse, but I had no idea about the many lives that he had touched, including my own. Randy was an amazing uncle. He was always making everyone laugh. He was everyone’s favorite uncle. Being there to celebrate his life reminded me of the life-lessons that he taught me, some of which I know I need to refresh and renew as if I were sharpening the blades of dull knives. One of those lessons is learning to laugh at myself. He was always good at that. Randy loved to joke and crack wise on other people, but he also had a really good sense of humor about himself. He made sure that you laughed as much about him as he laughed about you and the things that he thought made you unique.
It was good to see my other uncles, aunts and cousins. I truly valued the time spent with my grandma. Actually, she and I got to bake a couple of cakes together – Pineapple Upside-down. They were really tasty, as is everything that she makes.
I am especially grateful to have spent some time with two of my brothers, Derek and Kevin. It was the first time the three of us had been together in years. We spent the good part of a week with Kevin’s family – his wife, daughter and son. Lots of laughs were had swimming, cooking together, eating dinner, and having conversations led by my nephew, Kaelin, which were all about Power Rangers.
Despite the circumstances, it was a wonderful trip back to Los Angeles, mostly because the people that were there for me – my family and close friends, like my friends Sandy, Alise, Martha and Juanita, with whom I spent time taking long walks, eating at hot-spots and dives, or just talking and laughing up a storm; which was what I needed most.
Now, as I sit in front of my computer, looking out at the tree that proudly stands in the courtyard of our apartment building, I am seeing fall through a different lens. Instead of seeing them as a reminder of losing the warm summer sun, I am now seeing the red and yellow leaves as if they were nature’s traffic lights reminding us to stop, slow-down and give gratitude for what we have.