Tag: Autumn

The Nature of Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

New England, the place to be in the autumn, right! An explosion of colour from bursts of tangerine to shades of crimson, nature is at its most picturesque time of year. Can’t argue with that but what I can say is that New England got its spirited reputation honestly—inherited it from Old England, if you will.

Two weekends in a row I’ve found myself mesmerised by nature—just nature.

At a recent retreat, during an out-of-doors experience, I was first attracted to the polished, manicured lawns of an old country house turned hotel, but then noticed the naturally arranged trees in the distance and couldn’t get enough of walking amongst them. It was there that I discovered the benefits of leaving my comfort zones. More on that later but also I suddenly noticed the humanity of trees, how they lived cheek by jowl as we do, but manage to have more than enough space to grow. Somehow they didn’t crowd each other, try to get rid of each other. It was in diversity that they seemed to thrive rather than to stumble. Even suffering had not conquered them.

Upon reflection, the facilitator, let’s call her a tree whisperer of sorts, wondered if I had become a part of the landscape. As I sat to contemplate my experience, I saw what she meant and have had a new reverence for the out-of-doors since.

Surely, it was this eye opening experience, which led me to Wakehurst, Kew’s lush gardens and woodlands in Sussex. Actually, it was my husband who suggested we visit as a part of an early birthday present. All the same, it was an extraordinary gift, a wonderful experience.

Back to the issue of comfort zone, I wandered into the beautiful gardens and grounds and felt ever so comfortable with one tree in particular – a striking, sage beauty, though tinier that most around her – and wandered over to have a photograph with it only to find that the sunlight didn’t do the picture justice. It was then that I crossed the road and posed in front of a seemingly orchestrated landscape to discover in the distance behind me, nature untamed. A variety of colours and textures allured me (see above). 

There is something to say about stepping out of one’s comfort zone now and again. For me in this instance, it has opened my eyes to the goodness of nature, cultivated or uncultivated.  From its stunning beauty to its exhilarating scents, nature is an intrinsic part of life, offering healing properties and so on and invaluable lessons to live by.

When I was a girl, I entered and won a Georgia US statewide writing contest – What a Tree Means to Me. Trees are a symbol of life, I wrote all those years ago.

Fast-forward,  forty something years later, I know this simple truth is still relative and likely always will be. But as an adult, I now understand that we can learn a lot from trees, ranging from how to deal with suffering to healing. Wakehurst is a great example of that, having recovered from the storm of 1987. The woodland lost some 20,00 trees.

Of course, in such learning we have a responsibility, not only to plant seeds, even if only metaphorically, but also to nurture them, let them breathe and flourish. Hence the beautiful parks, gardens of both Old and New England as well as the untamed woodlands—a hassle-free way to step out of one’s comfort zone.


Live Life Wherever You Are

Depending on who you ask, autumn is closer than you think.  While astronomers maintain that fall begins September 22, meteorologists say its tomorrow–the first day of September. I vote for the latter for a number of reasons. From fresher days to earlier nights, there is a newness out and about. Even if one isn’t fortunate enough to see it in the colour of bright leaves falling, it is in the air–the whiff of newness that begins with new beginnings. Back to school, back to work, back to life after a long summer holiday, old ways, whether local or global, seem a bit stale. Time to look ahead.

That’s me! After taking off a month or so, I am looking ahead to next week’s official return to my desk. In the meantime, I have a thing or two the say about life as an expat. In short,  Live Life Where You Are (as written about in latest Huff Post blog)…Seems like an obvious thing to do, doesn’t it? But living life to the fullest when transitioning to a new city, a new country, for example, isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

Undeniably, so much has been left behind both physically and mentally. At least that is the way I felt when I moved to London nearly twenty years ago, but holding close to my chest some savvy advice from my brother, a Retired US Airforce Chief Master Sergeant, who had already travelled the world, I got looking ahead fairly early on instead of always looking over my shoulder.

See the thing is: looking ahead doesn’t always mean forgetting the life lived previously, but it does mean adding to it and living life in the present.  Read more in the Huff Post about making a smooth transition from one country to another.

And follow me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Sonjalewis.com as I continue and complete my podcast series, You Inside and Out, dare to write more perceptive commentary and transition into a the next phase of living life to the fullest, right here in jolly old England.

The Fresh Feeling of Autumn in London

Though I have been back from holiday in The Algarve, Portugal for more than a week now, I’m only beginning to feel grounded. What a lovely holiday. Do check out the pictures below:

Anyhow, with a busy schedule including working on the design of my upcoming book,The Seasons, which will be out in late October, and preparing for the launch of a new website to coincide with it, I have hardly had time to notice London, even it is as busy as ever.

I have been moving about rather purposefully, only doing the essentials—training, going to the hair salon, and shopping for groceries. And what a task the latter has been since discovering that I have more food intolerances that I can stomach. But that’s another story.

On top of all this, I lost my favourite aunt last weekend and continue to struggle with mourning from afar.  See my January 2011 blog on this very topic. Admittedly, I felt better re-reading it.

Still, I felt foggy and a bit out of sorts until yesterday.  Then I noticed something different in the atmosphere, something novel and perhaps light.

No longer was the heaviness of summer hanging over me as I made my way to the nearby park during my morning run, though I hadn’t run in a few days. And later that morning on a jaunt to Knightsbridge and Sloane Square, I felt a similar vigour.

Suddenly, it occurred to me that though not official according to astronomers, autumn has come to London. Even if day and night are not of equal length, I’m certain it is here, even if there are only a few berry coloured trees to behold and two or three rust coloured leaves around.

As autumn has always been my favourite seasons, I have long concluded that its arrival is not necessarily in the landscape, but in the air.  It’s an atmosphere, a feeling. And in London, this atmosphere takes off the intense edge.

What a sigh of relief to notice that:

1)   People here seem to approach autumn almost as if it is a New Year.  From launching new restaurants to opening flagship stores, merchants keep the capital fresh and relevant. Yesterday, I popped into the new Club Monaco store in Sloane Square. Not bad, not bad!

2)  The buzz around the new term – be it the school term, the work term, the ‘explore or improve your life’ course term – adds to the novelty. In any case it is all about new beginnings. No need to wait for January to set off to a crisp start.

3)  Londoners and tourists alike are friendlier. While I have always been one of those people with an ‘ask me’ stamp on my forehead, it seems to glow in the daylight in autumn.  Where is Sloane Street? Am I on the right road to Harrods? Is Parliament Square this way? Just a few of the questions I was asked recently. So glad I could help.

4)  More walkers and runners are taking to the paths. The pleasant weather is just right for walking and running and cycling, too. Never mind the occasional dark cloud and threat of rain.  It’s London, after all.

5)  People continue to sit outside, if only for a spell. In summer everyone goes out in droves for fear they won’t get the opportunity to do so the next day. But autumn days linger, making us all a bit more relaxed.

6)  It doesn’t hurt that there are few, if any gnats or midges to reckon with, although I did notice a bee kicking up a buzz among the crowds in Fulham over the weekend.

7)  And lo and behold drivers are far more courteous than they were in the summer. Yeah, yeah, yeah, the congestion can be taxing. But we are all in it together. Seriously!

Though I’m looking forward to those traditional days when the leaves will colour the landscape, for now I’m taking in the fresh atmosphere of autumn in the capital and basking in it. It’s in the air.

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