By Guest Columnist Adam Gottstein
(Republication courtesy of Rick Torgerson, Upcountry News, December 2016 Vol. 15, No12)
One only needs to be out and about in our county with all the changing colors of the deciduous trees, grape vines and slanting sun rays to appreciate autumn. Our family has often remarked how October and November are our favorite months in the foothills. Not only do the fall holidays kick off with Labor Day and continue through Halloween, Thanksgiving and then the December holidays, Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza and others…but the weather cools commensurately and the hills change color…affecting us in a positive and mellow way.
It is also time to prepare for winter. Leaves are raked (don’t burn or haul them away…they make great homes for critters and break down for much needed topsoil), trees are pruned, firewood stacked, hoses put away and the myriad of other tasks completed that can viscerally make you feelthe change of the seasons.
Acknowledging that the country has come through a bruising national election, this year’s celebration of Thanksgiving seemed more significant than ever. Being ‘thankful’ can take on many connotations and my read from family and friends is one of taking a step back, breathing deep and contemplating what might come next. One way to do this for example, would be to take a walk in Chaw’se Indian Grinding Rock State Park or Big Trees in Calaveras…somehow connecting with nature and our revered Mother Earth. There is no shortage of strife and discord around our planet, so we must therefore double down on our pursuit of happiness and fulfillment. This would be a particularly good time for reaching out to others. One example might be to reflect that our Native American brothers and sisters protesting at Standing Rock, North Dakota were not home--safe and sound with their family and friends. They’ve taken a strong stance in the face of violent tactics from the opposition and we are at very least, obligated to acknowledge their courage, let alone show our support for them. Our local food banks are always in higher demand at this time of year as well.
We must also remember that for some percentage of the population, the holidays can be an extremely challenging time. The loss of a family member, the stresses of economics for some, can create a social detachment that is difficult to navigate. This is an important time to reach out and comfort wherever we can.
The golden hues of fall in Amador remind me of so many of the water colors by the late Alice Duke, long time watercolor artist who lived much of her life in Volcano. She could capture the bare branches of grape vines against a backdrop of a cloud scudded sky…various shades of grey with a weathered barn in the illustration…like no other.
I will walk around at this time of year, see a similar sight and be immediately reminded of her art. From there, often, is a stream of consciousness that takes me on the journey in my mind and reflects on the thoughts above. Whatever the change of the seasons mean to you, I hope that some small part of this word parade resonates…that we indeed do live in a current ‘Gold Rush’ of mind, spirit and environment.