All posts by Laura Kinker

Miami Woods Forest Preserve

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How to celebrate the autumn equinox

Like it or not, it’s that time of year again when the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting longer. The autumn season officially arrives Wednesday September 23rd with the autumn equinox as well as the pagan holiday Mabon – the day when the daylight hours equals the nighttime hours. Once this day is over, the nights will start getting longer as the days grow shorter and colder (for those of us in the northern hemisphere).

Many people celebrate the autumn equinox with various rituals, reaping the harvest while they prepare for winter. It’s also a wonderful time to reflect on the past as you prepare for the future. It’s a time of balance and renewal.

Here are some ways to celebrate the autumn equinox:

Meditate on balance.

Meditation is wonderful anytime but today it’s extra beneficial to meditate on balance. There are only two days a year (the spring and autumn equinoxes) when our planet is perfectly aligned with the sun. Use this energy to cement balance into your life. The meditation doesn’t need to be complicated or long. Simply sit with your eyes closed holding the intention of having balance in your life.

Balance your life.

Ask yourself how balanced your life is right now. Are you balancing work with play? Are you balancing time for yourself with time for others? Are you balancing your home life with external commitments? Take time today to discover where your life is out of balance and how you can realign it with a balance that works for you. It may not be perfect when you’re done but at least you’ll be well on your way to rebalancing your life.

Harvest something.

Autumn is a time of harvest. Even if you don’t have a garden or crops, you still have plenty you can harvest. Take stock in all that you have – your relationships, your possessions, your health, your finances, anything that’s important to you. What can you harvest from these things? What is ripe for the picking? Take some time to discover what you can harvest now and bring into the winter months with you.

Get into your garden

Spend some time in your garden, cleaning out the dead growth and preparing your beds for the colder months. Not only will your plants thank you but it will give you the opportunity to connect with the earth. It’s also an ideal time to plan ahead for the spring planting, digging holes now as needed while the earth is still warm and malleable.

Give thanks.

Even though Thanksgiving is a couple months away, the autumn equinox is an excellent time to give thanks. It’s a time of harvest and of reaping what you sow. Give thanks for all the wonderful (and maybe not so wonderful) things in your life, including people, events, health, hope, courage, strength, animals, nature, any and everything that makes your life better. Practice this through meditation or writing it out. I find writing it out strengthens it in my mind and makes me feel better. Whatever you focus on expands so this is a great practice of focusing on the positive.

Learn to let go.

Autumn is a time of death and renewal. It’s when the leaves die and fall from the trees, when plants die or go dormant, and when many animals hibernate or slow down. It’s easy to be fooled into thinking it’s a time of darkness and depression when in reality it’s simply the quiet time before the renewal in the spring. Allow yourself to use this time to slough off anything that’s no longer serving you, be it a relationship, job, situation, location, things, etc. Now is an excellent time to let them go for good. This letting go allows for something new to spring up in its place.

Honor your ancestors

A national holiday (and a day off) in Japan, the autumn equinox is a time to honor your ancestors and grieve the departed. You can do this solo or with other family members. Some people visit grave sites while others spend time in quiet contemplation. Reconnect with your past and your ancestors past. What can you learn from them? What can you learn from yourself?

However you plan to celebrate the autumn equinox, I wish you all the best in the coming months. Also – what are some of your autumn equinox rituals? I’d love to hear them.

Grape Picking in Berrien Springs

DAY 6

Kurt and I left Holland, stopping briefly in Saugatuck (love that place!), before scooting down to Berrien Springs for some grape picking. Since I discovered concord grapes a few years ago, I make an effort to come out every fall (sometimes more than once) to pick concords. When they’re at their ripest (around early October) you can smell them as you’re driving around. They are by far my favorite grapes and I’m so fortunate to have them available so close by.

Our first stop was at Pete’s U-Pick. It seemed like it’d be a big place on yelp (my go to source) but it ended up being one lady standing in front of her barn. She only had white grapes (I was bummed about that) and pointed us around the barn to get some. She gave us clippers which was cool. It didn’t take long. I was anxious to get to my concords so we didn’t stay long. But she was super nice and chatty and told us how the vineyard had been in her family forever.

From there we went to Lemon Creek Winery which was just around the corner. They had a farmers market and Kurt discovered that they had concord grapes we could pick. This lady drove us on her tractor, almost like a hay ride, out to the vineyard which wasn’t too far away but a bit of a walk. She pointed us towards the concords while she picked up another group to take them back. We were then the only ones out there which was nice.

Took lots of pics and picked a bunch of concords even though they weren’t really ripe yet. When she came back to collect us about 15 minutes later, we discovered red and small white grapes. We asked if we could pick those, too, and she said of course and drove away. The red ones tasted like ripe concords while the small white ones reminded me of champagne. We picked a ton of each then ended up walking back to the farm.

After buying our grapes (think it was under $10), we went into the wine tasting part of things. I wasn’t impressed by their lack of attention and acknowledgment when we walked in. Maybe we were looking a little grungy having just picked grapes and it being all humid out but still. Unfriendly which surprised me. We did do a wine tasting (at $8 a piece!!) and maybe bought a bottle but that was it. 

Drove the rest of the way home in the rain, getting stuck a bit in Indiana. Took route 12 most of the way through the bottom half of Michigan, stopping at John’s Farm Market right before the Indiana border to pick up green beans, peppers, apples and some more yummies that I didn’t manage to get before. Took route 12 past Michigan City and got on I-94 (into stop and go traffic) right before Gary. It was raining pretty hard, too, and we were both anxious to get home.

Heading back down to Holland

DAY 5

Today we left our cute little hotel room in Traverse City and ventured down to Holland. We stopped for brunch at Rolling Farms Cafe that sat on the top of a hill on the way out of Traverse. Again it was all vistas vistas vistas.

Kurt and I headed out of town a different way so we could see something new. Drove through Interlochen since I’ve never been. There’s not much of a town – like a couple shops maybe and a bar – but it was nice to go out a different way and see new things.

Passed by Crystal Mountain quite by accident. Had to drive Kurt through there since we were right there. It all looked the same – just less snowy. (I was last up there in February 2003.)

Stopped a bit in Manistee. I wanted to see this great big freighter that we passed on the way up. It was all lit up (it was nighttime) and I was curious what it was all about. Looks like they’re transforming it into some sort of haunted house. I’m sure that’s going to be very cool. Wish I could see it when it’s done.

Wandered around downtown Manistee a bit, too, taking pictures and doing a little shopping. I bought a vintage white and pink tablecloth that looked brand new. The sales lady told me it had been saved from a house fire in Traverse City and she had had it cleaned.

Stopped in Pentwater at Kurt’s suggestion. His dad’s cousin has a condo up there. Ate dinner at the Village Cafe (outside again – another gorgeous day) since we were hungry and it was about that time. We both got perch.

Drove by the Charles Mears State Park and took more pics. I do like that the houses seem accessible to the water – like its easy to go to the beach (something that’s always important to me).

Old Mission Peninsula

DAY 4

Today Kurt and I traveled up the Old Mission Peninsula (north of Traverse City) – one of my favorite places in the world. It’s all vistas, grapes, wineries and great big expanses of water as far as the eye can see. I love it.

We stopped for lunch at Bryant Park (which is at the base of the peninsula) with Jimmy Johns overlooking the East Grand Traverse Bay. Saw a cruise ship pull in. Don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. Kurt and I looked it up and it’s this German cruise ship that cruises around the Great Lakes from Chicago to Montreal with European tourists. We ended up bumping into them (before I looked it up) at the tip of Old Mission Peninsula. They must have docked and took a tour bus around. I think we also bumped into them at one of the wineries. I think this is something that happens about once a year (if that) and I wish I had known more about it BEFORE they departed. Oh well. I can’t seem to find anymore about it online (which is weird).

After lunch we started our journey up Old Mission Peninsula. 

Our first stop was 2 Lads winery. The view was gorgeous. They’re one of the newer wineries (maybe 5 to 7 years old) and I could tell. Kurt liked them and bought a bottle. They weren’t my favorite.

After that we went to one of my favorite wineries – Chateau Chantel. They’re views are beyond breathtaking and they do the whole wine tasting thing right by charging you only $3 for 5 tastings then rebating your money back if you buy any bottles, which we did. I get charging for the tastings since this has become the thing up here but I like the nod to comping the tastings if we’re actually buying bottles, which we usually do. We also bought some nibbles and a couple glasses of wine (a riesling for Kurt, their sparkler for me) and sat outside. It was another gorgeous day. Vistas as far as the eye could see. Took loads of pictures. Left just as tour bus (probably the Germans) descended.

Went out to the Old Mission Lighthouse and was surprised and happy to see that the water is definitely up. You used to be able to really walk out there but now it’s all covered by water with trees and other vegetation jutting out here and there. I love seeing the water up.

Kurt and I had dinner at the Peninsula Grill. Sat outside again. Another gorgeous sunny day. The food was amazing. We had a relaxing time, sipping some local wine and enjoying the evening.

We watched the sunset this time from Bryant Park at the bottom of the East Grand Traverse Bay. Also got to watch the German cruise ship leave. 

Even though we were tired, I joked about going to the casino and we ended up at the Turtle Creek Casino just outside of town after driving around a bit in the Grand Traverse Resort. I thought they had a casino, too, for some reason. Drove some really dark and deserted roads to the casino and then it was all lit up. Played only slots. Won then lost some.