Seasonal Affect

We are well and truly into fall, it would seem. October’s golden light has given way to biting winds, early darkness, and snow. November, apparently, is taking the job seriously.

Sunset this afternoon is at 4:39 PM.

Winter is a season that I have had to work to love, especially here in the far northwest reaches of Washington. It’s a time of year that I approach with some trepidation, steeling myself with full-spectrum Happy Lights and fleecy tights for winter activities and recipes for warm soup (made with offcuts of sablefish, because that’s what we had on hand).

Time spent in nature is my answer to most conundrums, and time outside certainly helps to combat the winter blues.

It is also, however, a season for human connections.

Last Friday afternoon, rather than make meager headway on a never-ending pile of grading, I chose to sit with a group of students working on a project. Snow fell softly outside, weighing heavily on tree branches still cloaked in fall colors. Indoors, this small clutch of students was completely absorbed in their efforts to bring to fruition this project, a wild idea cooked up by one of my student employees and I last spring. Not something these students were assigned to do, mind you, but a project they’d taken on out of enthusiasm for the subject.

My job, like all jobs, involves things I love and things I don’t. It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day hustle. To let the urgent crowd out the important.

And in the broader context, things feel especially urgent these days, what with the gun violence and the sexual assault and the prospect of a Tweet-storm kicking off an international conflict.

That a group of students can come together, in the face of all this, and create an event designed solely to express a love of language and culture and a willingness to build community across differences, it’s almost too much.

And yet, this is how it goes, right? We have the choice to love one another, even–especially–when we don’t like each other. We each get to choose how to interact with others. We each have the opportunity to nudge the conversation in the direction of kindness.

I don’t always know what this means in my own life. Oh, god, do I ever not know. There are days when I’m angry, so very angry, and days when I’m sad. I am so much better at this in the abstract.

But change, of course, happens in the concrete. It happens with choosing thoughtful action over idealized perfection.

We’re all of us making things up as we go. We can choose to make something better.


Here’s how I’m connecting with community this fall.

  • Supporting the arts in person, because humans are also capable of astounding beauty. This fall, we’ve seen David Grisman at the Triple Door in Seattle, a Brazilian family act called Choro das Tres here in Bellingham, and the opera Tales of Hoffman at McIntyre Hall in Mount Vernon. We’re headed back for The Nutcracker in early December. Each of them was a necessary reminder of how painfully beautiful it can be to be human.
  • Access to affordable housing is an ongoing problem in this region. I’m involved with projects with this organization, which does an excellent job of assessing community needs and offering low-cost housing in alignment with those needs.
  • This organization offers a wide range of trainings on mediation, communication, and creative conflict resolution. I took their 40-hour training a few years ago, and it was quite literally life changing. I currently volunteer with them.
  • Making a concerted effort to enjoy the company of friends and family, offline.
  • Planning has started for the annual tamale party, in which we spend hours upon hours making delightful porky deliciousness in an homage to culinary traditions–and damn good food.




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