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Taking note: Fond memories

The warmth of the sun and the sweet, humid breeze were a pleasant surprise. Just a few hours before, small, icy flakes were raining down from the sky, hitting the pavement with what sounded like a hard sizzle.

The days before were unusually warm, to the point of breaking high-temperature records. But before the strangely hot stretch of days hit earlier this month, October brought us record-breaking cold and snowfall.

This dance at the border of seasons can feel endless and jolting sometimes.

Every time I think I’ve settled into fall, it seemingly becomes spring, summer or winter for an hour, a day, a week.

And really, it’s been an unusual fall in so many ways.

All the back-and-forth weather — which I’m fairly sure has broken records for heat, cold, precipitation and snowfall at various points throughout the season — has made this season feel a bit like a rollercoaster ride.

And then there’s the spike in COVID-19 cases throughout the region, state and nation, which is changing our daily lives as well as our holiday plans.

With all these strange happenings, this fall seems like it might a season be without comparison.

But it’s hard not to compare it to previous seasons and reflect on simpler, happier moments.

And photo albums — digital and physical — are full of these simpler, happier moments from seasons past.

While it can be easy to dwell in the past and mourn what we’ve lost when looking at old photos, I find that looking back at these pictures can bring me a great deal of comfort and joy in challenging times.

I think this is because photos can bring up a rich collection of sensory and episodic memories, transporting you back to a previous time and place.

Just by browsing through a few photos, you can somehow experience the scent of a pumpkin pie, the soft embrace of a favorite sweater, the sound of fallen leaves crackling beneath your feet, or even the laughter of family members gathered together at Thanksgiving.

And I think the little bit of magic provided by photos can be helpful, especially in times like this, when we are missing our loved ones and our holiday traditions.

Photos can help us remember moments of joy and delight we didn’t even know we forgot.

Photos can remind us of all the wonderful surprises and unexpected kindnesses in our lives.

Photos can transport us back to so many simple, beautiful moments.

Photos can inspire countless stories and a lot of laughter, which we all need a bit more of these days.

And whether we look through photos solo, with a household member, or curate a slideshow or photo album for a loved one, these pictures and memories can help us get through a challenging season.

Because if we give thanks for what we had and still have, rather than focus on what we’re missing, these old photos can help us feel a bit merrier this season.

We can spread this joy around by sending photos — via snail mail or email — of previous gatherings and celebrations to loved ones who we can’t celebrate with this year. We can share a memory associated with that photo and ask them to do the same, which might just get a whole series of stories and conversations started.

And if a loved one is visually impaired or if sending photos would be a challenge, chatting and sharing your favorite memories of seasons past with that person can provide the same comfort and joy as sharing photos, as it’s really all about connecting over the memories and the moments.

Because when we share stories of the past, we can forge new connections with one another while we reflect on the wonderful times we’ve spent together.

We can remind ourselves of all the joy that has been possible and all the good things that are still yet to come.

We can find resilience and strength in our fond memories, even as one of the most universally challenging years in recent memory comes to a close.

And even though this holiday might look a little different than the ones we see in our old photos, we can still share love, joy and laughter with the people we hold near and dear to us.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Cecilia Brown is city editor at The Mining Journal. She lives in Marquette and can be found hiking if the weather’s nice, or curled up with a book if not. Contact her at cbrown@miningjournal.net.

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