As autumn hits us in full flow, I find now is the time of year I like to sit back and take stock of all the things flying around my mind. Sometimes, as the seasons wind onward, the colder air turns our thoughts to the end of the calendar year, and of course, the advertisers and retailers have been nudging our consciousness that way ever since September.
It’s so easy, as we listen to our friends start to plan their shopping, to begin to lose our balance and get swept up in that chill breeze, higher and higher into a retail frenzy. People begin to hint about what they want for Christmas, about what we’re expected to buy. Newspapers begin to take bets on what the big Christmas gift will be this year. And thrift shops gear up to receive a whole pile of them just a few months down the line.
As society begins to enter the busiest, most maniacal time of the year, I actively try to disengage from that retail whirlwind. I always, always struggle with gift-giving at Christmas/Yule. It saddens me that the expectation is upon us to have to choose a gift for no other reason that it is assumed we have to at this time of year. Shops are filled with opportunistic, overpriced gift-sets, throwaway novelties, shiny wrapping and endless mountains of excess packaging. Retailers have been stocking up since summer’s end, from one spending event to another spending event to another spending event. A never-ending circle of pressure to buy.
Instead of letting myself get caught up in that thought chain, as the blaze of autumn begins to fade to brown, I start to relax and settle for the winter ahead. I replace the little television I watch with a roaring fire and rooibos tea. I streamline my YouTube subscriptions and spend days away from Facebook and Twitter. My ears begin to tune out advertisements, and I start to reassess what is really important to me at this time of year. Instead of having to buy stuff for people, a clear out and re-organise is a sort of present to myself.
Instead of joining the big retailers in placing higher importance on buying things and consuming more, I’d like to reallocate that importance to experiences and memories. The sharp intake of breath at the top of a mountain in snow. Catching a golden leaf as it falls lazily from the tree beside you. The smell of woodsmoke on a silent evening in the valley, the glow of windows in houses far away, pinpricking through the night.
The warmth of a larger hand enveloping mine. Catching a glance and dissolving into giggles. Homebrew and good cooking, grey rainy days and crisp bright sunlight. Those are the things that are important in my world this time of year.
In consumer society, money is always the driving force. Consume more, buy more, spend more. We’re not going to change it in a hurry, even though the seeds of dissatisfaction with the throwaway lifestyle are beginning to grow and become more mainstream. But right here, right now, we can place importance on our own experiences, our own joy by turning inwards and reflecting. What is important to you this season, as the year begins to wind down?