Stillness. What feelings or pictures does that word conjure up for you? Maybe vacation. Maybe hugging your child, grandchild, niece or nephew. Maybe reading a good book in a favorite spot. I recently had an experience that helped my find stillness in an experience outside.

I’ve been very aware lately that my family’s transition from summer to fall wasn’t as smooth as I thought it would be. For the first time in my life, I felt like I treasured every moment of summer even with a busy schedule. When cooler temperatures coincided with the start of a new school year, and my kids had a hard time transitioning to their new schedule, I panicked.

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Was fall going to escape me in the blink of an eye? What do I need to do differently without jam-packing every weekend with trips to the apple orchard, pumpkin patch, fall festivals, and everything else fall before the days are so short and dark when we get home? Not to mention I didn’t want my kids to feel like fun was gone out of their weekday lives now that they had homework and soccer practice in the evening and couldn’t watch cartoons in the morning (a week day school-year rule in our house).

I didn’t have an answer for myself until last Sunday. After spending the morning doing yard work together, my husband asked if I was having a good day–in a way like I was going to say “yes”. “It was very productive,” I said. “Replacing a few dead bushes is a lot different to me than ‘gardening.’ To me, gardening is planting with excitement and then watching the changes; sitting and enjoying the space that I created. Today, there wasn’t enough of sitting and enjoying after the planting.”

After playing soccer with my older son, I invited my kids on a bike ride. Instead, they ran inside to watch football with dad. So, I decided I would take the bike ride anyway, and told my husband that I would be back in 20 minutes.

As I came to a footbridge over the stream along the path, I stopped. And listened. The longer I stood there, the louder the sounds became and the more sounds I heard: acorns falling intermittently, a long slow crescendo of many types of birds, and the faint trickling of a stream. Here and there, a leaf would fall from a tree, and I found stillness–like the stillness I find in my garden.

I noticed that nature is the garden that is always there, always slowing changing, for us to see in detail if we just stop to look and listen. If I didn’t need to get back home, I think I could have stood there for hours.

So for me and my family to enjoy each moment of fall, I will take a moment to stop, look, and listen–when I want to stop, when my kids want to stop, or when my husband wants to stop. And this morning we found stillness, stopping twice on our way to school, when my five year-old saw with excitement two teeny tiny snails in shells on the ground.

Oh, and when I returned from my bike ride, I was happy to see that the kids were outside with their dad, playing football.

Rebecca P. Cohen is Founder and President of Rebecca Plants LLC, is a gardening and outdoor lifestyle company that inspires families to be outside and improve their well being. For her weekly online video series, “Get Out of the House” as well as Starla J. King’s guest blog series “Savoring Summer,” visit

Published: October 8, 2009