Senses of Living® Holidays

September 2003
© 2003 by Bret S. Beall

As of 4:47am, CDT, on September 23, 2003, autumn will be upon us! On that day, night and day will be equal in length, and afterwards, the darkness will exceed the light. Temperatures drop, there’s crispness in the air, frost sometimes settles on grasses, trees lose their leaves, herbaceous plants set seed, flowers sometimes whither before setting seed, birds migrate or start fattening themselves, squirrels hide nuts and other seeds, insects and other small creatures either lay eggs and die, or find a secure corner to spend the winter (sometimes, those corners are in my apartment: scutigerid centipedes, beetles, flies and a variety of arachnids always consider my home to be an autumnal safehouse, partially because it is: scutigerids and arachnids are carnivores, and they will eat the other critters that have sought the warmth of Casa Beall).

Given this influence of nature coming in, I allow my autumn décor and decorations to follow this theme. Of course, bringing the outdoors inside is my theme year-round, but September is wonderful because it is a great time to combine summer and autumnal décor! Fresh cut flowers can be found everywhere, often at excellent prices (like the stems of gladioli for 20 cents each!). I’m not fond of chrysanthemums, but if you are, you can bring in vast swathes of color using potted mums. Seed pods, changing leaves, cattails, Equisetum (horsetails), and twigs can be placed in bowls and vases around your home to create almost architectural arrangements that bring the flavor of the season indoors. Create centerpieces of these renewable resources, and amaze dinner guests with your décor as well as with your food (if you follow my Simple! Sensible! Sensational!® Recipes).

The use of fallen leaves, broken twigs, and various other end-of-the-season natural objects are all part of wabi sabi, the art of casual imperfection, which in turn is part of the more encompassing philosophy of shibui (also referred to as “shibumi,” although this is the adjective form). Shibui is one of the more prominent areas of my décor consultation, where I emphasize that striving for perfection is not natural, and should be avoided. Casual décor is more relaxing, more inviting, more conducive to connecting with the world at large. You might even consider it as the antithesis of a certain doyenne of décor, who is always declaring a project to be the “perfect” this or that. Forget perfection, both in your décor and in yourself. The world just doesn’t work that way.

If you can successfully abandon trying to be perfect, or incorporating perfection into your lifestyle, you truly have a major reason to celebrate. Here are some of the occasions for celebration in September.

From various sources, I have discovered that September is:

Adult Literacy Month: If one spends any amount of time on the Internet, one quickly realizes that literacy is waning. Wake up! Recognize that literacy is one of the primary keys to success!

American Newspaper Month: Newspapers were once the bastions of free speech. Now they seem to be the home of editorial/political rhetoric. I see no reason to celebrate this.

Baby Safety Month: Too many people seem to think of having children as a right, rather than a privilege. Consequently, baby and child safety are taken for granted. If one is going to have children, keep them safe!

Eye Health & Safety Month: Last month I extolled the virtues of proper eye care; see my column in August’s Senses of Living® for arguments in favor of ongoing eye care.

Classical Music Month: I promote the use of all kinds of music to enhance our daily living. However, there are specific reasons for listening to classical music. Please read “The Mozart Effect,” by Don Campbell (1997; Avon Books: New York; 332 pp) for a detailed treatment of the value of classical and other kinds of music.

Library Card Sign-Up: our public libraries are a fantastic resource. Please take advantage of them!

Mushroom Month: I love mushrooms. They are very seasonal, and different species emerge through the year. I love them fresh, frozen, canned and dried. If you are afraid of mushrooms, let me help you. By the way, they go really well with the ragout in this month’s Simple! Sensible! Sensational!®

Rice Month: I use lots and LOTS of rice: white, brown, wild, jasmine, basmati, Thai purple, and others. Rice is delicious, healthy and affordable. If you don’t eat rice, start. If you do eat rice, eat more (once cooked, it freezes well!).

Coupon Month: Coupons are great. Check out my Senses of Living® column for May 2003 at http://god-dess.com/webhintsMay03.html to gain insight into organizing and using coupons.

Chicken Month: I don’t eat a lot of chicken, but I do enjoy it very much (dark meat, please), whether fried, or poached, or roasted, or cooked as cacciatore which I describe in this month’s Simple! Sensible! Sensational!® recipes.

Cholesterol Education Month: Cholesterol is a huge problem, and with proper diet and exercise, it can be battled successfully. Educate yourself, or contact professionals like me, or Laura Black of the Organic Food Network, for guidance.

Ethnic Foods Month: America was built upon diversity. We are like a patchwork quilt. Every piece is needed to keep the integrity of the whole. Each piece also needs to be maintained for proper integrity. Recognizing unique global cuisines is just one step toward maintaining the integrity of diversity. I am fortunate to live in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the world, and to have access to global cuisines both prepared and as raw ingredients. If you need help incorporating ethnic cuisines into your life, contact me. I can help you do it painlessly.

Food Education Safety Month: Although the construction of this “holiday” is a bit awkward, I infer that it is meant to encourage education regarding food safety. This is good. We can never know too much about food safety.

Organic Harvest Month: I believe strongly in promoting organic methods for our food supply. Shop at organic purveyors’ stores and booths, reduce your own use of non-organic methods, and consider joining the Organic Food Network, a very balanced promoter of organics in every shape and form (www.organicfoodnetwork.net); I’m a member, and hope you will become one, as well.

Self-Improvement Month: Start by improving yourself this month in just one small way, then do it again next month, and the next, and the next. You can’t go wrong.

Women of Achievement Month: Despite all of the advancements we’ve made toward the equality of women, there is still a huge disparity in income and status between the sexes. All women are Women of Achievement; recognize the ones you know today!

September 20-27: Banned Books Week: I am still incredulous that some people are so afraid of new and different ideas that they have to ban them. Fear is a powerful motivator (as I well know from other contexts), so I call upon you to abandon your fear and celebrate our freedom to read. Visit www.ala.org/bbooks/index.html for more information.

Patriotism is alive and well around the world in the form of the following September holidays:

September 1 (Revolution Anniversary, Libya; Constitution Day, Slovakia; Independence Day, Uzbekistan), September 2 (Republic Day, Vietnam), September 3 (Independence Day, Qatar; National Flag Day, Australia), September 4 (St. Marinus Day, San Marino), September 5 (Flag Day, Mozambique; National Holiday, Western Samoa), September 6 (Prince Claus Day, Netherlands; Defense Day, Pakistan; Heroes' Day, Sao Tome and Principe; Independence Day, Swaziland), September 7 (Independence Day, Brazil; Flag Day, Kuwait), September 8 (La Vierge de Meritxell, Andorra), September 9 (Socialist Revolution Anniversary, Bulgaria; National Sports Day, Indonesia; Republic Day, North Korea; Independence Day, Tajikistan), September 10 (National Day, Gibralter; Battle of St. George's Cay, Belize; Independence Day, Guinea Bissau); September 11 (Founder's Death Anniversary, Pakistan), September 12 (Day of the Nation, Cape Verde; Popular Revolution Day, Ethiopia; Amilcar Cabral's Birthday, Guinea Bissau), September 14 (Battle of San Jacinto Day, Nicaragua), September 15 (Independence Day, El Salvador; Independence Day, Guatemala; Independence Day, Honduras; Independence Day, Nicaragua; Independence Day, Costa Rica), September 16 (Independence Day, Mexico; Independence Day, Papua New Guinea), September 17 (Constitution Day, USA), September 18 (Independence Day, Chile), September 19 (Liberation Day, Luxembourg; Independence Day, St. Kitts and Nevis), September 21 (Independence Day, Armenia; Independence Day, Belize; International Day of Peace, UN), September 22 (Independence Day, Mali; Princess Martha Louise Day, Norway), September 23 (Foundation of the Kingdom, Saudi Arabia), September 24 (Heritage Day, South Africa; Republic Day, Trinidad and Tobago), September 25 (Flag Day, Cape Verde; Revolution Day, Mozambique; Establishment of Republic Day, Rwanda), September 26 (Constitution Day, Liechtenstein; Revolution Day, Yemen), September 28 (Teacher's Day, Taiwan; Flag Day, Thailand), September 29 (Battle of Boqueron, Paraguay), September 30 (Independence Day, Botswana).

September 1: National Wattle Day, Australia: celebrating biodiversity in Australia.

September 6: Fight Procrastination Day: Don’t put off until tomorrow anything that you can do today! We continually waste time. We must embrace mindfulness in everything we do, in order to maximize our experience of every single day. Time is an irretrievable commodity (as emphasized to me by my 10th grade geometry and 12th grade calculus teacher, the late Mr. Miles Hufft, whom I will always honor as a wise influence).

September 8: National Date Nut Bread Day: I love date nut bread, and one of these days, I’ll provide a recipe for you. Pardon Day: I will equate this with forgiveness, and I will state emphatically that we must work to forgive all of those who have wronged us in the past. We must forgive them. To do that, we must seek to understand WHY they wronged us. This has been an ongoing project for me, but I am making headway, and hope you will, as well.

September 10: Swap Ideas Day: swapping = bartering, and this is one of the oldest forms of commerce. Sharing connects us, which is why I share my ideas here monthly, as well as professionally.

September 11: No News Is Good News Day: I don’t know the origin of this particular designation, but it seems slightly relevant to the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001. Still, it seems rather trite. I prefer to spend this day (or as much of it as possible) in meditation regarding our individual role in the “big picture.” Each of us has the responsibility to leave the world a better place than when we entered it. Each of us has the responsibility to improve ourselves. Each of us has the responsibility to engage in respect, tolerance, understanding and assistance of others.

September 13: Defy Superstition Day: everything about Global Organic Designs (GOD-DESS) is based on science, evidence and fact, so I am always going to encourage abandoning and defying superstitions. Do it today!

September 16: Collect Rocks Day: I had no idea there was a day for collecting rocks! I’ve done this since I was about 4 years old, and it has brought me much joy. Give it a try!

September 17: National Apple Dumpling Day: I love apple dumplings, especially if they are light and delicate. While apples and Johnny Appleseed are often considered symbolic of the growth of America, let’s focus on Citizenship Day, which is the anniversary of the ratification of the US Constitution in 1787. Interpreting the intentions of the authors of the Constitution keeps attorneys in business, but it is still one of the most magnificent documents ever created.

September 20: National Punch Day: so much of what is distributed under the name of “punch” is pure crap. Make some limonata, or tamarindo, or jamaica, or even some sangria … now THOSE are punches (so is the stuff called “swampwater” when I was in high school, but that’s all I remember about it!).

September 21: World Gratitude Day: No matter how bad things seem to be, there are ALWAYS good things, and we must learn to recognize those good things, and to be grateful for them. Eventually, you will find that the good things outnumber and eventually eliminate the bad things.

September 23: Autumnal Equinox/Mabon: today, the length of the day equals the length of the night. The symbolism is that of Nature going to sleep, hibernating, going through rest and renewal (though in the Southern Hemisphere, Spring is starting, and the symbolism is that of Nature awakening and burgeoning). See http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/EarthSeasons.html (my new favorite resource for lunar phases).

September 26: National Good Neighbor Day: Do you know your neighbors? If not, why not? Get to know your neighbors! If everyone knew their neighbors, there would be no strangers in the world! Can you imagine that?

September 27: Rosh Hashanah: This is the Jewish New Year. In Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah means, "head of the year" or "first of the year." Rosh Hashanah isn't about partying, football, fireworks and loud celebrating; time is spent in synagogues, and no work is allowed except the preparation of food. Express reverence and gratitude.

September 28: Ask A Stupid Question Day: I’ve done a lot of teaching in my life, and continue to do so. One of my greatest challenges has been to make students feel comfortable with asking questions. My guideline is, if a question is sincere, it is not stupid. So, I would like to rename this date as “Ask a Sincere Question Day.”

If this column doesn’t keep you busy celebrating the turn of the season and other “important” events, you really need to work on adding more joy to your life. Life is meant to be lived, not suffered. So live! Daily! Call me if you need some help.