Embracing Autumn

by Janina Grey

This morning I awoke and went about my normal routine of starting my day. Opened the curtains, started coffee, showered. And as I surveyed myself in the mirror I noticed something other than gray hairs and wrinkles.

I saw peace.

Today I am 60 years and a day. Today I am embracing the autumn of my life.

As I write these words the harmonies of Celtic Harp, Sun Theory, fills my brain through my ear buds. The above image taken two autumns ago at Eighth Lake fills my vision on my desktop. Out my window I see fallen leaves scattering my yard, a grey and pale peach dawn is breaking over the blueberry farm across the road. Black coffee fills a Christmas mug handed down to me by my mother, who passed at 70 years young. It’s warm in my belly and heart, filling me with its rich sweetness and happy memories. And I truly am filled with peace.

One of the last conversations I shared with Mom was on her back porch in early August, sitting on her glider, admiring a maple tree she’d planted as a seedling that now towered over her yard, providing shade in the summer and homes for the little creatures she liked to feed seed and corn. She never feared growing old. But that conversation provided me with a bit of wisdom I did not know she possessed.

Motioning toward the tree she told me, “Life is like that tree. We go through seasons. I am in the autumn of my life. And I’m good with that. I get it now.”

She died a few weeks later, unexpectedly to us, but I think there was something in her that was preparing her for the moment when she would pass from autumn to winter, slipping into the cool folds of The After, to rest and rejuvenate in preparation of what’s to come.

I am in the Autumn of my life. But I’m not preparing to pass. I’m looking forward to the next turn of the Wheel of the Year. I’m looking forward to wrapping myself in the snows of Winter, weathering the dark nights, the dark mornings, the bundling up in sweaters and mittens, the holidays and getting together with loved ones. I’ll think about Spring when the time comes. For now I am embracing the days as they present themselves to me like gifts waiting to be unwrapped.

So many people fear growing old. They run from it. They try to hide from it. So it’s difficult for me to understand why I am so at peace with turning 60. My mother died at 70. My older sister, Janie, died at 47. My paternal grandmother died at 60. My age. Sixty.

But my maternal great grandmother lived to be 100 years old. A Centenarian. My maternal grandmother is looking at celebrating 99 years of life this summer. I plan to be there with her, by her side.

She is growing old with grace, sharing wisdom and laughter and love. As did my mom. That’s what I have inherited from them, from life.

At 22 years old, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. We didn’t think I’d live to see 30. But I’d just gotten married and not only did I live to see 30, but throughout the next two decades, I had two beautiful babies, bought a house, built a career, and eventually relocated to my dream life. It was a full good life.

At 40, I lost one of my kidneys to cancer. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to 41. I asked for one more year, to see my daughter in her ballet recital in the spring. To see my son perform in his first musical. My request was so simple. Over the next couple decades I was given so much more, but lost so much as well. My first marriage ended. I lost my sister Jane. I lost my career path as a journalist. My babies grew up.

But the voids created by those losses were filled with so much more. I lived beyond my requested one year. I watched my children grow into amazing human beings. I found the love of my life. I found a new career path where I help people find their life and purpose and empowerment. I fulfilled my dream of becoming a writer. I found myself and healing in my spiritual journey.

I was given so much more. So much, much more. A lifetime of love, filled with new people, new chosen family, new memories.

At 58, I faced a third bout with cancer, endometrial/uterine cancer. I didn’t know if I’d see 60.

But here I am. Not only seeing 60, but rocking it. Yeah, I take more naps, I am adjusting to slowing down a little (a little). I like the quieter times, the easier pace. Sometimes I overbook, and I have to scale back, but I’m learning not to overbook in the first place. I’m learning new things everyday. About myself, life, the people I hold close. About love.

Life is changing, and its for the better. It’s always for the better, if you give yourself permission to let it be so.

I don’t consider myself old. I feel younger today than I have at other times in my life. But life is different. I’m not in the same place I used to be, and that’s okay. For me, the key to happiness is to embrace the changing seasons, let life flow, and don’t worry about the things we can’t control.

Surrounding myself with goodness, people who love me and appreciate me, who respect me and all my quirks, who don’t make unnecessary demands on me is my goal. Filling my days with purpose, but also with time to do nothing, slowing down, not overbooking myself, all of this is the self care I have been putting in place the last couple years as I prepared for this cyclical turn of my life.

This is long and rambling, and I’m sure not everyone will read it, but I wanted you all to know that embracing your autumn will bring you peace. Understanding we are like a Maple Tree, going through the seasons, celebrating life, resting when we can, is all a part of life.

I want to grow old gracefully, like my mother. Like my grandmother and my great grandmother. Fill my days with love and laughter, with hugs and tears of happiness. Let my eyes rest on sights that fill my heart with awe. Let my ears tap into sounds of nature and music and peace. Let my body be filled with goodness. Let my head rest on my soft pillow, snuggled with my husband as I drift off to sleep, only to rise refreshed and ready to face the new day.

There are no worries of wrinkles, or gray hairs, or a few extra pounds. I’ve earned these trophies. These are things to lift up and wear with a smile and laughter.

And when the time comes I want to be remembered as a kind, strong woman, who understood herself and loved herself-every bit of her self-and lived her life unashamedly and without reservation, all the while embracing life, peace, and eventually, embracing her autumn.

Music and Muses (or ‘when the voices in my head want to sing’)

Music, muses, and me.

It’s no coincidence that computers and pianos both have keyboards. Keyboards serve as the bridge guiding the artist and/or author along the path of creation that connects their soul to the completed work of art, be it a musical composition or written word.

Which is why, possibly, music is such a major motivator when I sit down to write, compose, create. It feeds my soul and provides the sustenance needed to move along the arduous journey my writing leads me.

My keyboard and a reminder from my son, Anthony.

I used to be able to sing really well when I was younger. I even made it to District Chorus in high school—huge surprise if you’ve ever heard me sing as an adult. But I was labelled the bookworm and writer and brainiac growing up, and my older sister, Janie, was the singer. So anytime I tried to sing I was shut down. It was almost sacrilegious to try to break out of the molds that each of us had been cast into. She sang. I wrote. Her keyboard was a guitar. Mine was a pen and paper.

Janie and her guitar in 8th grade, Selden, NY.

Music has motivated me throughout my life. Janie and I would write poetry and songs together as kids. As we grew up and lived our own lives, she would call me and sing songs over the phone. I would mail her poetry (yes, pre-email!). We were always linked in this way. Growing up, my big sis also proved to be a great influence on my musical choices. She introduced me to all the greats especially Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks.

So, four years ago, when I started working on TEN BUCKS AND A WISH, I tapped into my musical muses. My greatest motivator for my first contemporary romance released by Soul Mate Publishing was Elton John’s Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy album. I still possess this well-worn, memorized album of my youth. I knew it inside out, as did Janie. Someone Saved My Life Tonight was a song we’d belt at the top of our lungs. I still do, when no one is home.

Elton’s collection of songs depicting his early days and the struggles they went through as starving artists must have been played thousands of times via Apple Music as I created the final version of TEN BUCKS AND A WISH. I relived my youth by listening to and singing the lyrics I’d memorized more than four decades ago, while writing the scenes born from my days of growing up in Selden, Long Island, New York (aka Olde Westfield in TEN BUCKS AND A WISH).

For LOVE IN THE FOREST, I played a mix. This was my attempt at a Pagan romance, so I played a lot of Omnia, Damh the Bard, Stevie Nicks/Fleetwood Mac. But good ole Elton crept back in when I hit brick walls and didn’t know where to go with the story. It seems BITTER FINGERS and WRITING off of Captain Fantastic is the key to unlocking my muse. “Will the things we wrote today sound as good tomorrow?” (Elton John and Bernie Taupin) Someone Saved My Life Tonight was playing when I wrote Brooke’s death scene, which came about very unexpectedly and heralded the beginning of four tumultuous years of self discovery and salvation and transformation. Very fitting. But that’s another blog.

I immediately jumped into Book 2 of the Earth and Sky series and this is where things got weird. Which is weird in itself because everyone who knows me kind of categorizes my whole life as weird. So for me to say things get weird, it’s off the charts weird. In LIFE IS FOR LIVING, Barefoot Dan and Jayde TOLD ME what to play. I’d never been a big fan of Coldplay, but apparently these two lovers were diehard fans. So I checked out Coldplay and much to my surprise, the music coincided with the story line. Songs like DADDY, and LIFE IS FOR LIVING, and quite a few others helped me stay in the head of the characters as I struggled with their angst, turmoil, heart break and finally their healing. It was an amazing journey. Crazy thing about this book was that I’d created the title before I even knew who the characters were going to be, way before they even told me about Coldplay. Life is for Living is a mantra I’ve followed since my sister Jane passed in 2007. I even had a column called this with the newspaper I used to work for, Richfield Springs Mercury back then. It was synchronicity, serendipity maybe, that Dan and Jayde brought me together with Coldplay.

As I wrapped up LIFE IS FOR LIVING/Earth and Sky Series Book 2, the concept for LOST IN YOUR RHYTHM came to me. I couldn’t wrap up Book 2 fast enough. The characters for Book 3 were banging on the door, demanding attention. I continued listening to Coldplay as I introduced myself to Liza and Jack, but it turned out they did not really like Coldplay. They were really into Imagine Dragons. In fact, I soon learned Jack had done an internship with them while he was studying music. I’d never really listened to Imagine Dragons before. My husband and Research Assistant (You know David from previous blogs) had tried to turn me on to this band years ago, but I wasn’t into them.

So when I learned that Liza loved them, I had to give them a try. Not gonna lie, it took me a while to adjust to this selection of music, but after a few weeks of playing their songs repeatedly as I grappled with the outline and details of the story, I realized they were a perfect fit for Jack and Liza, and ultimately LOST IN YOUR RHYTHM Book 3 of the Earth and Sky Series.

Dangerous, Dancing in the Dark, Monday, Polaroid, Hopeless Opus, Smoke and Mirrors… these are a few of the songs that provided inspiration. It was difficult since I had not followed Imagine Dragons, to make sure Liza and Jack did not reference songs that did not sync up with the timeline of the story, but they helped me out.

LOST IN YOUR RHYTHM was the most difficult story to write thus far. I was writing totally out of my element, about characters I really did not relate to, who had journeys that were fairly similar to things I’d dealt with but way beyond anything I knew well. In fact, my love of drumming, my own battles with cancer and depression, and loving the idea of love were the foundation of our relationship. I’d vowed to my readers that this was going to be the hottest book of all, and it was. But I had to make sure the sex scenes weren’t gratuitous or forced. In the end, I cut a few scenes out completely because I felt they just didn’t work.

I had the cover picked out the same time I picked out the cover art for LIFE IS FOR LIVING. I knew this was what I wanted, even though previously I agonized over the cover art selections of each release with Soul Mate Publishing.

So here I am, waiting for my publisher to get back to me after her first read. She’s either going to tell me “this one rocks,” or “rewrite the whole damn thing because it sucks.”

I really hope it doesn’t suck.

So, yeah. This is how music serves as my muse.

I’m now focusing on marketing, getting LOST IN YOUR RHYTHM ready to roll out, and figuring out what my next writing project will be. I have a few ideas, but at this point my brain is fried and I have real life telling me to take a break for the holidays. I’ve tried warning everyone (in my real life) that depends on what the next characters want to do.

If they start waking me up in the middle of the night to introduce themselves I have to listen. If they beckon, I go. If they summon, I obey. I will give you a hint though. I’ve been introduced to a man named Ambrose Morgan, a cowboy who comes to Earth and Sky and sweeps E&S counselor Mandy off her feet. (You’ve met Mandy in all three E&S books). Cowboys are NOT Mandy’s type. She goes for the city slickers like Derek or Armand in Books 1 and 3. You’ve been warned. I imagine that sound track will have a lot of music clash – country vs techno maybe? Hm. We will see. I don’t really listen to either, but then again, it’s not about me, is it?

As you can see, once my characters start playing their music for me, I have no choice but to sit down at my keyboard and be their accompaniment as we weave our next composition of music and words, telling a tale of dreams, heartbreak, healing, and happily ever afters.

Speaking of music, if you want to check out the playlists I created for each of the Earth and Sky Series books, click on the links below:

LIFE IS FOR LIVING – Barefoot Dan’s Playlist
LIFE IS FOR LIVING – Jayde’s Playlist


As I finish this blog, Elton John is singing “And just like us, you must have had a once upon a time…”

See? Muse. Always there. Always willing to lend a hand. Always calling me, beckoning, beckoning. And, as Imagine Dragons sang, “there’s nothing left to say now…”