Letter from Publisher
Earlier this week, I watched the bird feeder outside my office window to see a pair of cardinals come and go. They were soon interrupted by juvenile blue jays that made a noisy, bouncy entrance before grabbing a few choice morsels. A downy woodpecker landed and quickly made its selection, and the cardinals returned. I noticed as a couple of white-breasted nuthatches appeared, darting for seed and then back again to the nearby chokeberry branches. Looking to the grass beneath the feeder, I saw the typical sparrows and black-capped chickadees, along with some migratory white-throated sparrows. And then I spotted them—several newly arrived dark-eyed juncos had joined the ground-feeding birds. Uh-oh, nuthatches and juncos. “The winter birds,” I stated as I emailed our Natural Chicago section writer Sheryl DeVore, “…are back.”
As we transition from October into November, I’m always amazed at the contrasting tug of seasons when colorful leaves and an early snowfall might unexpectedly combine on the same day, only to be followed by gorgeous, sunny stretches in the 50s and low 60s—perfect weather to comfortably plant garden bulbs, enjoy a hot mug of coffee in the sunshine, take an invigorating stroll or otherwise soak up as much outdoor time as possible before the sun begins to set low in a wintery sky.
This month’s issue of Natural Awakenings Chicago focuses on seasonal transitions as we prepare for the coming holidays and winter season. In our main article, “The Joys of Minimalism,” writer Carrie Jackson explores ways that we can live a richer, more rewarding life with less stuff. Not only is this approach practical for our own well-being, a minimalist approach to purchasing is key to our environment in many ways, and a great philosophy to consider adopting as we approach the holiday gift-giving and decorating season.
From a cook’s (and diner’s) perspective, November is the time to enjoy the late season harvest as summer vegetable season becomes a delicious memory (or a preserved bounty for winter stews and soups). New season apples, pears, quince, grapes, winter squashes, brassicas (cruciferous veggies) and root vegetables take center stage, accompanied by culinary herbs, mushrooms and leafy greens.
If you were fortunate enough to gather these crops from your own garden or obtain from fall farmers markets, CSAs, farmstands (or the grocery store or an area food co-op), crisp autumn weekends and Thanksgiving feasts are the ideal time to begin to enjoy them. Writer Veronica Hinke this month offers us a range of savory plant-forward recipes for main dishes, sides and desserts in our Conscious Eating department.
As we head toward the holidays, I encourage you be sure to take a few moments for yourself every day for reflection and gratitude, as well as to recharge your energy in the natural world. Amid the swirl of work and family commitments and deadlines, it’s both okay and necessary to stop and breathe, to acknowledge the good things in life and to find solace in the little moments of the day. Consciously reminding ourselves of all things big and little we can be grateful for and giving thanks as we choose can help us to experience all the beauty and warmth of the season, as well as the strength to cope and thrive in its challenges.
As always, I ask you to please step outside every day and take notice of the seasonal transition. Watch for overwintering and migrating birds in the sky and at the feeder, track the moon’s progress through the month, visit a natural area, walk along a waterway, feel the wind or marvel in the colors of the sky. I encourage you to cherish your moments within nature, as well as those times with loved ones and those spent on your own.
Wishing you a season filled with love, laughter, wonder and peaceful moments of serenity.