This is how you will write now, now that your to-do list grows and grows despite the shortening days. This is how you will seek slow, spacious time. This is how you will revise the very idea of a new school year.
1. Before entering any space that swarms your chest with the buzzing of bees, fill your lungs with the first cooling breaths of autumn air.
1, 2, 3, 4 (breathe in)
1, 2, 3, 4 (hold)
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 (release)
If frenzy threatens to re-enter, breathe again and again. If the bees swarm, do this at least twice a day for thirty days, or until time feels thick as honey.
2. Before taking another step, name the people, bodies, care, and violence that shaped this landscape long before you. Speak their names—known and unknown—to the soil through your touch. Let citation spread through damp leaf mold and memory. Leave threads of yourself—hair, skin, saliva, pencil shavings, mental maps—as offerings.
3. Feel gravity and time pull your body toward the warm Earth’s core. Remember the first mycelial thread of an idea buried beneath a pile of paper leaves. With care, remove each layer and file it away. Find the thread and pull it gently till it leads you to the roots of a young tree. Wait there.
4. If slowness distracts you, resist doomscrolling through sunrise. Instead, find the point on the horizon where the light appears purple at dawn. If you only see pink or orange or blue, you are not allowed to doomscroll. I don’t make the rules.
5. If slowness distracts you, do not answer that passive-aggressive email. Instead, plant two seeds: one fast and one slow; one radish and one pawpaw. Watch them germinate, leaf out, grow roots. When one radish is ready, pull it out. Eat it sliced on toast with butter and flaked salt. Then plant another. Do this again. Again. Until the pawpaw bears fruit. Then you’ll be ready to respond.
6. Write on the timescale of the radish: quick germination, shoots, leaves, and a glowing root bulb. Revise on the timescale of the pawpaw: generations of radishes, planted in one spot, will grow and be eaten before it even bears fruit. This is the way.
7. Harvest the last of summer’s fruits, those turns of phrase, threads, and glimmers that beg to be thickened by heat alongside the paste tomatoes. Save their seeds to plant next spring. Do not start any seedlings before the ground unfreezes.
8. Scythe what’s dry and overgrown with steady, relaxed motions, swinging effortlessly from side to side. Feel the blade slice through the tentative and the hurried. If it dulls, do not hesitate to pause. With your whetstone, grind the edge. Or with a hammer, beat the malleable metal back to sharpness on an anvil. When the mowing is done, thoroughly rake what’s left for compost or hay.
9. Notice that the light has changed. It comes in at an angle, a harsh critic. Watch the first of autumn’s leaves drop, red and dry, in piles beneath the trees. You don’t need to respond or clean up. You don’t need to do anything but wait.
10. Preserve. Store your most pungent ideas in the shed, along shelves of curing onions. Hang your sweetest words between drying herbs. The most precious insights deserve lacto-fermentation; extract their tart juices to fend off winter scurvy. Don’t forget to leave yourself freezer meals for nourishment in that cold season when dawn and dusk stretch into midday, leaving you to work by lamplight.
11. Compost the rest. Printer paper and discarded ink, doodles on scraps, notes to self, letters from exes, yellowed sticky notes. Layer with chicken shit and leaf mold. Leave until spring. Don’t you dare turn that pile before it is ready.
12. Cover a wall with a map of the cold season. Notice the days and nights stretching out over months. Be reassured that there is no scarcity; there is always time. When the cold, damp days leave you restless, or when you feel the sharp pull of impending deadlines buzz like bees in your chest, cast a spell by adding the words “slow, spacious time” to each calendar day. Fill this time with stillness before making any commitments.
13. You may not be more productive, but you will be more aligned. What is autumn if not a new year?