A recent slew of damp days in Maine left us hungrily anticipating that first magic Autumn day, when the last vestiges of humidity have flown south with the wild geese, leaving the air crisp and bright, the wind tossing papery leaves against the bluest sky… in the meantime, we’ve been thinking a lot about how we can stay rooted in community, even as the shift in season pulls us inward. How can we remain connected to others without overextending ourselves? Gathering together, whether in work or revelry (or both!) can be nourishing and supportive, instead of draining and depleting, with a bit of reframing.
This can look like leaning on our neighbors as we put our gardens to bed and ready our homes for cold weather— perhaps ask a neighbor to help stack wood in exchange for raking leaves. (Even better: don’t rake! Let the fallen leaves provide habitat for hibernating insects and return organic matter to the soil, feeding the trees who dropped them. Here’s a great article about the many benefits of leaving the leaves, written by The Wild Seed Project, a Maine nonprofit devoted to bringing back native plants, grown from wild seed. Maybe said neighbor needs help starting a new garden bed instead-- we love this sheet composting method.)
Sharing tools is another way to steep your life in community-- Portland, Maine has a tool library that is open to the public, for a membership fee of $50/year. A recent trip to the library yielded a wooden cider press, and in turn, a crate of heirloom apples yielded a glorious gallon of cider. TBD whether we’ll let it wild ferment, or should aforementioned magic Autumn day come soon, warm it with cinnamon and cloves and spike it with whiskey, to be sipped around a fire with neighbors. See if your town has a similar program, and if not… start one! Or, easier, start an email conversation with friends, offering and seeking tools to share.
Building community can mean starting a weekly meal swap with a friend, or making regular donations to a food pantry. Find a neighbor with similar taste in food, and trade weeks making and sharing big pots of soup-- it can be that simple. If giving support to those less fortunate is calling to you, know that most shelters/food pantries are inundated with donations and volunteers around the holidays, so October is a great month to get ahead of the trend.
It can also look like communing over a thoughtfully set table with your closest of kin-- we highly recommend tucking the kids in early, opening a bottle of wine, lighting some tapers, putting on a favorite album and making Alison Roman’s extremely satisfying version of spaghetti carbonara for yourself and a loved one. If you follow her instructions to the letter, you’ll be rewarded with a bowl of perfectly silky pasta and a desire to linger over the table, savoring the last few strands of spaghetti, the end of the wine and the slow drip of melting candle wax.
Think of autumn gathering as a series of mutual favors-- spokes in the cyclical wheel of life that keep us warm, grounded, well fed, and connected to one another and the natural world.