20 Wonder-Filled Ways to Make Fall A Little More Special
Ah, Wonder… that elusive feeling of excitement, discovery, and pure joy! As a Wondersmith, I’ve dedicated myself to exploring, creating, and sharing wonder with others because I truly believe the world is a better place with more wonder in it. Below is a list of suggestions to create your own wonder this season, from using the beauty of autumn leaves to convey sweet notes to strangers to some tips to make your holiday feasts more engaging. You’ll find that a lot of these suggestions involve doing something nice for another person, and that’s no coincidence… while being the recipient of acts of kindness is wonderful, I’ve found it to be even more rewarding to be the one instigating. Picture each kind act as a stone dropped into a still pond, ripples spreading outward in all directions. Now THAT is some kind of magic.
1. Write sweet messages on leaves for strangers to find. Use a permanent, waterproof paint pen to write encouraging notes on some of fall’s most beautiful canvases. Be sure to hide them in places that are obvious and safe from wind so they don’t blow away before they are found! If you’d like to preserve your leaves further, you can press them or use beeswax to preserve them.
2. Encourage conversation at your holiday gatherings. You can buy conversation cards, or take the fun up a notch with my directions for “conversation rolls.” Use my recipes or your own favorite roll dough and tuck little questions inside before baking to keep the talk at the table interesting and engaging.
3. Honor your Ancestors. Fall is a time of remembrance, with celebrations ranging from Dia de los Muertos to Samhain to All Soul’s Day. It’s a great time to think of your lost loved ones, no matter your cultural traditions or religion. This can be as simple as cooking one of their favorite meals or writing them a letter, or as complex as making a ceremonial altar. Whatever you do, be sure to include some delicious soul cake cookies!
4. Pay for someone else’s meal. If it’s within your means, this simple act of kindness can spread further than you might imagine. (I know, because I’ve been on both ends of that situation and I’ll never forget the delight of finding out a kind stranger had already paid for my food, nor my own happiness at knowing I made someone else’s day when I bought theirs.) The key to the fun here is to stay anonymous. Think of it as the opposite of a prank - you still get to be super sneaky, but you’re spreading joy instead.
5. Abandon some art in a public place. Leave something lovely and handmade with a note, where you can sign your name or choose to remain anonymous. And once you complete your “art abandonment,” be sure to post all about it in this awesome facebook group! Get creative with your hiding places. Pumpkin patch? Corn maze? Grocery store? The options are endless!
6. Make a Nature Mandala. This is a lovely meditative exercise to really get engaged with your current surroundings. Go on a walk in some natural setting and gather little bits of nature that inspire you. Once you have a basket full of goodies, settle down somewhere quiet and create your own little bit of earth art. Making mandalas is both easy and delightful, and leaves behind an ephemeral masterpiece for others to enjoy before the earth reclaims it.
7. Invent or Celebrate a Strange Holiday. Have you heard of Wolfenoot? Or Dinovember? Both of these exceptionally fun and creative celebrations were invented by kids (or their parents) and took the internet by storm. Add a little more play to your life by celebrating one of these or designing your own new creative holiday! (Much more on this later, since this is a very entrancing concept!)
8. Spend an afternoon alone in Nature. Leave your technology behind (or at least turn it off) and pledge to spend a whole afternoon in some beautiful natural setting with no distractions. Just bring water, snacks, and a sketchbook. You may be surprised at the ideas or insights that come to you during the stillness!
9. Send a little Anonymous encouragement. Got a friend who’s going through a rough patch? Send them flowers. But the fun part is to leave your name off… there’s something EXTRA magical from getting a gift of support from a secret friend. Be sure to include some encouraging words in your note so it isn’t mistaken as a romantic gesture (unless, of course, that is your intention!)
10. Design a Treasure Hunt. It’s my firm belief that not NEARLY enough people go on treasure hunts these days. And I’m not just talking about kids (though creating a treasure hunt for your favorite mini human would definitely give you the “awesome parent” reward); I’m talking about adults too. Round up some of your favorite adventure-seekers and set up clues all over town. Use something special for the prize - maybe a ridiculous homemade trophy, or perhaps a bottle of fancy booze (for the adult-only celebrations, of course), or even design your own custom chocolate coins!
11. Make your Space Special. Spend a little time making some nook in your home extra special with the addition of seasonal decorations. You could string nuts or pinecones into earthy garlands, carve pumpkins, or replace worn-out old furniture with newer pieces (There have been lots of estate sales around here lately, where you can get great bargains on gorgeous furniture!) It can be especially fun to go on a walk and brainstorm ways you can bring the outside in to adorn your home.
12. Start on Handmade Holiday Gifts. If you enjoy making things, now is a great time to settle in with some fun crafts or art projects to share with loved ones during the holiday season. By October, I’m usually well on my way of planning and creating gifts for my family. That way, they’re all wrapped and ready long before Christmas and I can spend the holidays enjoying time with my family instead of frantically shopping at the last minute! Even if you don’t create your own gifts, you can still start shopping now, especially by going to craft shows and markets to support your local artisans!
13. Use up the Scraps. Is there a part of a food that you usually throw away? If it’s edible, this can be a fun challenge to learn to be less wasteful. Turn those citrus peels into candied citrus peels for holiday gifts. Pickle those watermelon rinds. Roast those pumpkin seeds. How far can your imagination take you?
14. Write some secret love notes. Tuck them into unexpected places - the drawer in the fridge where your husband keeps his favorite bagels, your daughter’s lunchbox, your mother’s coat pocket. They don’t need to be long and complicated - sweet little sentiments will do just fine and will bring a smile to their finders! You could even just write down funny compliments or sweet memories you shared with that person.
15. Incorporate wild foods into your harvest celebrations. As we give thanks for the bounties of our lands (and the Native Americans who were forced to share those lands with us), it feels very meaningful and significant to honor the native plants that grow here. Look for stinging nettles or wild rice at your farmer’s market, or get out in the woods yourself and do a little foraging! (Just make sure to do it safely! Look for more guidelines in identification books or foraging blogs if you’re new to it.) You can even do quite a bit of urban foraging as well, looking for windfall apples, walnuts, or other goodies.
16. Make a magic potion. Fall is a GREAT time to stock up on medicines for the coming cold season. It’s easy to make your own herbal remedies at home, from the infamous “Fire Cider” to my own elderberry, horehound, and star anise concoction. (To make it extra fun, it even shimmers like liquid metal.)
17. Get scent involved. Whether you make wildcrafted incense or use your favorite essential oils to perfume soy candles or hand lotion, now is a great time to be extra intentional about scent. One of my favorite fall traditions is making pomanders (delightfully scented clove-studded oranges) so this year I took that a step further and used them to perfume some gorgeous roasted game hens. How can you incorporate your favorite natural scents into your daily routine? How can you elevate them to something extra special?
18. Make a crazy costume. With Halloween around the corner, you now have the perfect excuse to go all out on something absolutely magical. There are tons of tutorials online to make anything from foam armor to felt crowns. Start brainstorming and creating and you can make something fantastic!
19. Have a “Massage Brainstorming Session.” Go get a massage with the intention to let your mind wander as you relax. Any time it comes back to stressors or tasks, gently remind it that it’s allowed to play. See what kind of creative new ideas come forth when both your body and mind are treated with care! Be sure to keep a sketchbook nearby once you’re finished.
20. Host a Dinner for Strangers. This one is a little more of a commitment, but no less fun! Some of you may know that doing exactly this is a big part of my art practice. It’s as simple as hiding invitations in some public place with a way for guests to RSVP, then hosting a dinner for your interesting new friends! Try tucking invites into books you enjoy, hiding them at a concert to attract people with similar musical tastes, or disguising them as curious artworks for inquisitive guests to pick up. (Also: I’m thinking about writing a guidebook on how to create your own magical events using my formulas and planning. Is that something you’d be interested in? Know of any publishers that might? Let me know in the comments below!!)
I hope you’ve enjoyed this compilation of ways to incorporate a little more wonder into your season. I would also love to hear your own techniques for harnessing wonder if you’d care to share them in the comments below!
Lots of love,
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