This morning I took the dogs out and noticed a distinct change from yesterday. The leaves, which had been falling in an occasional sprinkle, have now ramped up to a steady shower. One of the things we love about this little cul-de-sac where we live is that it's chock full of trees, so fall brings a blizzard of activity.
I walked down the driveway and let my feet bulldoze the leaves into little piles, enjoying the loud rustling sound and the way the leaves carpet the lawn in a layer of golden yellow and cocoa brown, pierced with a flash of orange and deep red here and there.
When I'm out there, I like to step on the acorns littering the sidewalk just to hear and feel the satisfying crack of the hard shell under my feet. I like to think I'm helping out a squirrel by making it easier to crack into the nut.
Speaking of hard shells, I'm grateful it's Thanksgiving because I think we could all use some softening up, myself included. After wading through a year and a half of a pandemic, a nerve-wracking election, and an increasingly toxic river of social media, it feels like we've become more rigid and unyielding. We're far too certain about most things and most people. We're cranky more often than necessary about the world and life in general. And, perhaps because of the heaping dose of bad news we've endured this past year, we're more likely to expect doom and gloom.
But this pandemic of negativity isn't good for us. One of things I'm doing this season is to think of something lovely and good every time I see a leaf fall, just to remind myself how wondrous the world can be:
The way a baby smells right after a bath.
My kids' laughter.
An incredible meal.
Pie -- of all kinds.
It's hard to be negative when you're grateful, so this falling leaf experiment has been a pick-me-up.
I'm also being more careful about the amount of news I read or watch, and I make sure I don't have just a single source or "type" of news. I spent most of my early 20s working in a newspaper newsroom, so I learned that old saying, "If it bleeds, it leads," which basically means that the more tragic a story is, the more likely it'll be at the top of the day's news. After all, headlines like "Lollipops are tasty" don't usually make for interesting reading.
But in recent years, especially with the flood of online news and "news-like" shows that are more opinion than news, that old saying has morphed into "If it outrages them, they'll click, and we'll get paid."
Just as smoke damages lungs, a steady stream of outrage impacts our minds and the way we see the world and each other. We must be more careful about how much of that toxic trickle we allow into our brain, lest it harden us into something we don't quite recognize anymore.
This holiday season, may we all crack open a little more -- like an acorn underfoot -- just wide enough to let more love inside and give more away, too.
Gwen Rockwood is a syndicated freelance columnist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her book is available on Amazon.