Choose a nice day. Or not, rain will do as well. Doing nothing is not meditation. You are not emptying your mind, you are letting it wander around from one thing to another while you sit still. Some people think of monkey mind as something to be conquered, or corralled, or even obliterated, but there is nothing wrong with your monkey mind—let it hang by its tail off the ceiling fan if it wants to.

Look, the wind is stirring things up. You will see the ghostly white shapeless thing that has puzzled you all summer, a mystery you couldn’t solve because the ground is uneven and the long walk across the acre of yard would likely result in a fall and you would be too far from the house to push the button thing you wear around your neck to call for help. Anyway, with November, and this stiff wind stripping leaves off everything, that white ghostly thing has begun to take shape, turning slowly day by day and now hour by hour into the old wicker chair. It sits surrounded by thorny berry bushes. Who dragged it out there and to do what? Your daughter will explain later that she and her sons were looking for birds’ nests. Maybe they used it to stand on next to the locust, which is also now bare. Next to it, there’s a large red object, what could it be? Never mind. Your daughter will know.

No birds today, it’s gray and going to rain but not yet. Take a gander at your crazy funny pilea plant on the windowsill, which is sticking out in all directions with big bright round leaves, each with a pale belly button where the stem attaches on the back. Keep looking, because the longer you do, the longer you smile. Outside, the hydrangea tree blossoms, once fat triangles, pointing toward the sky, are vanishing into brown shapeless clusters. Their shape once reminded you of prayers. What god were they thanking? Beseeching? Must have been the sun, and now you are thinking about the mist rising in coils off the meadow, and it is just one quick step backward to remember spirits inhabiting everything and anything and everywhere alive.

Be careful, the slightest shift in attention, or the lack thereof, will steer you toward crumbling. It’s okay to cover your face with your hands, because it feels so good. Anyone seeing you now holding your head in your hands might be forgiven for thinking you’re in distress, but this is the only comfort available in these days of death and dying, and you aren’t going to move until the monkey comes back.

Abigail Thomas had four grown children, twelve growing and grown grandchildren, and one great grandchild. She is hoping to put together a skinny book of essays about what she has noticed this past year. She lives in Woodstock, New York, with her dogs. 

Photo by Dinah Lenney