There’s something about autumn. It’s nostalgic and the shadows are long and things are already almost winter which is almost summer which is almost the end of the year and what even is life? Well, we can’t tell you that but we can tell you that autumn involves some lovely things worth marking the time with. So take a look around this autumn. Use it to mark your place in the year. This is a Public Service Announcement: look around. This bit can be lovely.
Cool evenings are gorgeous. Couches are cosier and sleep is deeper and if you go for a walk in a cool evening you come back with a slightly shiny, slightly rosy face.
Treetops are nice. You don’t see a lot of graphs about the percentage of time human adults spend looking at tree tops but my guess is that that particular section of the pie graph would be a tiny sliver. Look at treetops more. They’re quiet and ancient and they have an excellent view of the tiny people walking past beneath them looking at their phones.
Warm socks are nice.
The word hedgehog exists.
Conversations between people from other generations are a great way of remind yourself that language is incredible. Tune in to one. Listen to the way people outside your cohort use language to do things it doesn’t usually do. Do they say seriously though, oh my God shut up when they mean “goodness, how exciting”? Do they say she wasn’t trained as such per se when they mean “she wasn’t trained at all but I couldn’t have cared less”? Language is a way of sharing, and we have languages even inside our own languages. Listen to someone else’s for a bit.
An open fire is a thing of beauty and a joy to behold and I don’t care who knows it. Even the smell of someone else’s fire does about twenty percent of the job.
Reading a book when it’s raining has got to be one of the greatest pastimes available to human kind. Rain, of course, is rare at the moment, but as soon as you hear it on the roof, grab a book and go hard, because there’s nothing quite like it.
Hot drinks. Steam coming off them, twirling and backflipping up into the universe. It’s not winter yet so you don’t need hot drinks, they just make things better.
This isn’t particular to autumn but the other day I remembered that the expression “change your mind” is one of those expressions Shakespeare came up with. Before that, the concept of changing one’s mind wasn’t a thing. It’s such a beautiful expression, when you think about it, because it’s about a magical/chemical transformation of ideas that is so all-encompassing as to change the very brain itself, and by extension the identity of the person thinking. The act of having one’s mind changed is a concept that sustains a bit of heavy artillery these days. We know what we think. Sometimes we get more information and we develop our thinking, but rarely do we revise our thinking on something so completely that our mind is changed. It doesn’t sound like fun, to be honest, to have your mind changed. It can be, though, a powerful thing. Think back on the last few times it happened. Most people have a friend who’s really good at mind-changing — someone’s whose perspective is well-considered or well argued or hilariously on point. Asking people who know more than you about something a bunch of questions can change your mind. Reading an article - a really good article - can change your mind. A good documentary will change your mind. Amazing that you can sit there for 90 minutes and at the end of those 90 minutes you feel like a slightly different person because suddenly you know about how Russian dance changed subtly but importantly between the wars. So do it: change your mind. It’s good for you.
Secret paths are lovely. Down the side of a building. Off the main walkway. Hooray for secret paths.
Haircuts are the business. Sick of yourself? Get a haircut.
Eat some cake.
Stand in a garden. Stand in a flower shop. Surround yourself in green.
Autumn is sweet and lovely and full of possibility and so are lots of the things you’re not concentrating on. Concentrate, for heaven’s sake. The treetops are watching you. This has been a Public Service Announcement.
This originally appeared in The Big Issue.