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Publisher's Letter

Peggy Malecki

Our winter birds are on their way back. As of recent days, the first wave of juncos have returned. More specifically, the dark-eyed, or slate, juncos (Junco hyemalis) have migrated to the Midwest after summering in northern Canada. These small, gray birds are a genus of the American sparrow, and we commonly see them in backyards, under bird feeders and throughout the area during colder months. To me, the autumn appearance (and late spring disappearance) of the junco serves as a seasonal transition marker.

My perennials are pretty much done blooming, although some late-season turtleheads, zigzag goldenrod and other prairie plants are lending final color to the yard before we get a hard freeze. As late October approaches, it’s time to get the garden ready for its winter sleep. I’ll be planting a few spring muscari and other bulbs soon, as well as hardneck garlic and a some nodding onions. This weekend, I reluctantly picked the remainder of the pinkish and green tomatoes, harvested the peppers and even found one lone eggplant amidst late season leaves. Soon, I’ll cut down or pull the dried vines of the annuals, mulch hearty kale and arugula with (organic) straw and put the tomato cages in the shed until next June; grateful for another season of bountiful plants, fertile soil and all the life that calls my garden home (even the chipmunks).

As much of the more visible aspects of our Midwestern natural world goes into winter hibernation, it’s a fitting time to also think about our own sleep habits, and we’ve devoted much of this issue to help you get a good night’s sleep. In our main feature, “Chasing ZZZZZs: How to Put Insomnia to Rest,” Marlaina Donato examines the many contributors to and adverse health effects of compromised sleep, along with some natural pathways to good rest. Mindfulness and meditation expert Briana Bragg explains how simple breathing exercises can help us to ease a busy mind and fall asleep.

Changing seasons affect us in myriad ways, and not always for the good. Our contributing writer Megy Karydes takes a look at the condition of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and some of the natural approaches we can take to counter the long, gray days of a Chicago winter.

There’s a lot to be thankful for this November, and many ways to show our gratitude every day far beyond the official holiday of Thanksgiving. Personal gratitude takes many forms throughout our days—be it watching migrating cranes with a sense of awe and wonder (we have an article about this by Sheryl DeVore), teaching our kids thankfulness (we have an article about that, too) or simply taking time to eat mindfully with quiet gratitude (we’ve got this covered, as well).

As always, I encourage you to step outside every day and observe the transition of the seasons. Keep a lookout for the juncos and other overwintering birds, as well as a final flock or two of migrating robins that often settle into our area and, of course, the sandhill cranes. Wishing you a restful and grateful November.

Happy Thanksgiving!