Nothing could be more gradual, but shorter autumn days still catch me by surprise.
This week, however, while I sat waiting for my daughters to get out of one after-school activity or the other, I realized the real reward for days short on sunshine and nights long on inky skies.
At another point in life, I would have missed the pay-off altogether and only focused on the fact that I was wasting valuable time sitting in my car waiting.
Usually, I have a book to read wherever I am — in case I get caught with a few extra minutes here or there.
Or, I have my cell phone.
God forbid I should just have to sit.
But this week, for one reason or the other, I had nothing with me to otherwise occupy my time.
So, I gave myself permission to sit there “as if you could kill time without injuring eternity,” as Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden.
And, I don’t think my lack of productivity harmed a single cell of life.
Unlike Thoreau, I sat in my car on the side of the road. However, I let down the windows and found it impossible not to notice the crazy-beautiful light November’s late afternoons bring.
I watched shadows grow by the minute.
With the sun so low in the sky, there’s a special almost-golden quality to the light of a November South Louisiana afternoon.
I watched the shadow of a fire hydrant lengthen a good foot.
I saw a child’s shadow as long as a tree is tall.
I noticed almost-microscopic bugs dance what looked like a choreographed number. I saw various colonies of minuscule creatures in constant motion, creating frantic columns of activity that had probably been there all along, but I had missed them.
Sitting on the side of the road in the middle of town, I had a sense of why my brother likes to do what he calls “hunting.” Mind you, he went “hunting” for years with nothing to show for it except a pair of worn camouflage coveralls. I’d ask him, “Why do you keep getting up so early to go sit in the woods?”
His answer was always something along the lines of, “There’s lots to see.”
Taking a moment to focus on what’s out there instead of what’s in our heads or what’s on our calendars does a world of good for the heart and mind.
For me, maybe I was still this week because I was sick and too tired to move or do much. Uncommon stillness gave opportunity to notice beauty all around.
Maybe there is something about the light of a November Louisiana afternoon that allows a person to see things she may have never seen before.
Or maybe it’s feeling like night is coming on so quickly that we have to take in the sun while we can.
Whatever the reason, take a moment to be still and go see for yourself.