swingset in a garden
Photo by A.M. Orlowski

Ode to November

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November: The month for those of us living in the Northern and Western hemispheres that marks “winter is coming”. That means that the days have gotten shorter and will continue to do so. We continue to have less natural daylight. How do we find comfort in such a time?

Photo by A.M. Orlowski

In my country of origin, Canada, there are no holidays to break up the dark grey and brown month. In Germany, my current country of residence – or home, depending on the state one resides, there are several holidays to note.  On November 1st, the first day of the month is Allerheiligen (All Saints’ Day). This holiday is mostly for those practicing Catholicism and is a public holiday in Germany, France, Portugal, and other countries.  In my state, Saxony, November 18th is Buß- und Bettag (Repentance Day), also a public holiday.

In Mexican culture, November 2nd is very important as Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead). People celebrate their loved ones that are no longer with us. They set up tables with some favourite foods and items from the deceased people as a tribute to their lives.

Remembrance Day on November 11th is not a public holiday, but it is still a significant day of importance. It marks, for the commonwealth countries, the ending of the first World War in 1918.  In Canada, people wear a red poppy on their jackets or shirts as a symbol for remembrance for those who fought and assisted in the war.  As a child, we would always go to a school assembly. All students would attend and someone would recite In Flanders Fields. This isn’t really anything to help make the month more fun or comforting though.

November 13 is World Kindness Day.

This isn’t a holiday, but it is a nice day to consider.  Not that everyone should only commit an act of kindness on this ONE day a year. It is a gentle reminder to be kind. Here, finally something to have to maybe look forward to.

It is a bit silly to think that a number of NGOs put together a coalition for there to be a specific day to recognize kindness. Though there have certainly been positives out of it. For example, while working for a Student Engagement Department at a Canadian College, we put together an event for students to participate in random acts of kindness. It is a light-hearted and friendly way to have students interact with one another and momentarily forget the academic (and other) stresses they face on the daily.

Random Acts of Kindness
“Random Acts of Kindness”, courtesy of Courtney Dirks licensed under Creative Commons

What happens if everyone is more kind? Let’s first start with being kind to ourselves, and move that outwards to our neighbours, community, friends, family.

Maybe this is the naive optimist in me, but when I think about what people do for one another. If it is something random, predetermined, or a group effort. I get the warm and fuzzies inside.

During the insanity that is the world around us right now, relying on each other is really what it comes down to.

Currently in Germany we have just begun new lockdown measures. It is supposed to only be for the month of November, in the hopes to contain the spiking rise in infection numbers. If the numbers don’t rise too high, then people can maybe meet with loved ones for the Christmas holidays.  I was sad when I read that my city has cancelled the Weihnachtsmarkt, as have many others. As we all know by now, it’s not safe for hoards of crowds to be together in physical presence at this time. Simple fact, it’s just not.

My Call to Action for us all: be more kind.

photograph of trees
Photo courtesy of A. M. Orlowski

During the first lockdown, in March/April 2020, I was feeling incredibly grateful for my current home. Oh, how I enjoy living on the little island that is the city of Leipzig in East Germany; watching as the green vibrancy came to life during the beautiful season that is Spring.  I strolled around the park, I walked through forest trails. It was easy. The sun shone, and the trees grew new leaves.  Flowers started to blossom and the grass turned greener.

I felt like a Flâneur. Enjoying the simple beauties that I had right in front of me. The natural spaces as they came to life.  Spring, it was glorious.  Now, it’s Autumn.  Let’s return, it is grey often, rainy, windy, cool temperatures. I am aware of the irony as a Canadian bringing up the weather right now.

While lockdown was in effect and I was slowly appreciating my surroundings, I decided to make a playful photographic art project.  As I’m sure friends and family can attest, I am not artistically inclined. For example, I still draw stick people. A child probably creates something much nicer than what I do. That’s alright because being playful and creative comes in many different forms. Plus, I just felt like doing something creative. I felt inspired.

What inspires you to be playful or creative?

trees with yellow leaves autumn
Photo courtesy of Chrissy Orlowski

I took my Polaroid camera and walked around the park, one of my many walks.  Snapping a moment on one particular Spring day to capture the natural beauty.  Then I’d dream up or jot down some freestyle poetry.  I mailed – yes, snailmail! – a Polaroid and a poem to friends and family in different countries. It was my way of sharing the pleasure I felt.  Really, who doesn’t love receiving something in the mail? (Even if it’s not a masterpiece.)

Recently I received a small, bright and colourful envelope from Canada. The contents included a small card and a little note of stationary with a flower and the word “DREAM”. A small magnet, hand-coloured with the term “Cool Beans” added in. A term, this friend and I used constantly as teenagers.  What a lovely surprise.  On the stationary she wrote that she took the envelope from her 13-year-old daughter’s art kit and asked her for some stationary.  What’s stopping us as adults from having these colourful art kits to share thoughts and ideas with friends?

Such a simple act gave me a big smile. What makes you smile?

As much as I find November a snore and bore, at least I have my birthday to celebrate.  I’m a person who often falls prey to the Birthday Blues, but the last two years I was moving past it – maybe it’s because I’m in my 30s, I say to hell with feeling sad, life is grand! Who knows.  This year I wasn’t going to plan anything – my husband said he wanted to. Very strange for me. I love to play a fun party: theme parties are my jam! As October went to its close and it became clear that November would be restriction-fuelled, I’ve settled with it.

An ode to November: This month brings continued uncertainty and asks for patience.  We are resilient and there’s a few public holidays or days of observance around the world we can look forward to.  Enjoy the walks as the foliage changes colours, embrace the brisk mornings, eat and dress cozy and comfy.

Chrissy Orlowski is a new Leipziger. She comes from Canada, and has Portuguese-German background. She enjoys exploring different cultures, challenging herself, and learning from other peoples’ stories; just part of what brought her to living in Germany. She is particularly interested in how and why people move around the world which influences and shapes their identities. This stems from her university life as a cultural analyst. If you’d like to see what else Chrissy has to say, check out sightstobefound.com, her way to capture and share her experiences.

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