4 Ways to Kick Off Fall (When It Looks and Feels So Much Like the Past Two Seasons)

published Sep 1, 2020
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It’s a back-to-school season like none we’ve ever had, and it has me riding an emotional roller coaster I can’t get off of.

Like so many other parents around the world, my family and I had to make agonizing decisions that in the end, for all of us, meant making the absolute best of our own personal situation in the context of an out-of-control one fraught with uncertainty, anxiety, and a searing ache for the long-gone normal days we took too much for granted.

And just like every year, even if back-to-school doesn’t apply to you, taking advantage of the shift in season to re-center, re-orient, and refresh yourself is more important than it ever has been. When days and weeks blur into months that inexplicably flash by and drag on simultaneously, marking the passage of time takes on a new significance.

I’m determined to mark the beginning of this school year for my kids (and for me!), even if it looks different than our usual back-to-school shopping for new clothes and supplies and going to meet new teachers and seeing old friends at orientation.

Seizing this moment in time to perform a new or old ritual, practice a treasured family tradition, or mark a transition or milestone in whatever way feels right takes a deliberate choice and a bit of creativity. But the payoff is the reward that comes every time we mark moments mindfully.

Dally Messenger, author of “Ceremonies and Celebrations,” puts it this way: “[P]eople still need ritual to mark major points in their life. Ceremonies are an expression of culture, mechanisms which express and generate love, forge and declare the bond between individuals, and establish and identify community.” Love, bonding, and community. Is there ever enough?

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

4 Rituals to Help You Say Goodbye to Summer

Here are some suggestions for ways to generate meaning in the passage of this season to the next, even when we can’t rely on our surroundings to dictate how we do it:

1. Plan a week of seasonal activities.

What says “summer” to you? Maybe it’s the grilled chicken and watermelon salad you eat nearly every week starting in June. Or maybe it’s the nightly stroll you take after dinner, when light lingers late. Plan a Farewell to Summer week, with one special, purposeful activity planned for each night. Do it far enough in advance so that looking forward to it is part of the fun. You could also flip the script and do a week of fall-centric activities, instead, if that’s what gets you going.

2. Throw a summer-themed party.

Watermelons might just be summer’s most recognizable icon. So you could plan a watermelon-themed party to celebrate. Make decorations and a coordinating menu, and get the whole household involved. Incorporating a game night or outdoor summer games (think water balloons or bean bag toss) into the party makes the night even more festive. If watermelons don’t say “summer” to you, replace it with another theme, like flamingos, ice cream cones, or the beach. You could also do this over Zoom with friends.

3. Make the first day of school special.

Even if everyone in the house is doing distance learning, marking the beginning of school with a special breakfast, those classic first-day-of-school pictures, and a fresh set of markers helps you and the kids transition to a more structured routine.

4. Journal.

I’ve written about journaling before and its benefits can’t be overstated. Sitting down to purposefully pour your heart onto the page about your experience of the last season (or two) can bring you the closure of a finished chapter. Then, writing about your fears and questions, your hopes and dreams for the one to come can help you look forward to the next. A journaling session is a simple way to try to make peace with both the past and the future while grounding you in the present moment. Make it special by writing outside on a blanket in the grass, in a hammock, or during a sunrise.