Small wonders: Thoughts on taking a seasonal break

Foggy mornings. Searing days. Cool evenings.

Thus marks the seasonal change in our SoCal bubble, where summer and autumn wage battle, neither letting us know who will win until winter’s had her say.

The seasons don't change so much as argue for two months; one day cold and rainy, the next blistering hot. Pull out the extra blankets, flannel shirts and wool sweaters, then nature's whim peels the clouds away and smothers us with her stifling heat, making a mockery of our plans.

Though we strain against it, our souls are tethered to this primordial pulse. Never steady, always wrestling. Wrestling with chores and responsibilities, demands and desires, in a world with no pause button.

I've been thinking a lot lately about what I do here in this column, the responsibility that comes with this gift to write and be read, for which I am eternally grateful.

I’ve been wondering whether I am living up to the task, giving this honor everything it deserves. Frankly, I don’t feel I am.

I don’t feel my contribution to our human dialogue has been up to snuff for a little while (using the phrase “up to snuff” is a perfect example). There are probably many reasons for this mood — the confluence of work and so many other responsibilities. But, more than anything else, I think it has to do with the elevated goals we set for ourselves and how harshly we criticize ourselves when we fail to meet them.

Over the three years this newspaper has graciously, and curiously, published my opinions and observations, I’ve written a bit about politics, about religion, pop culture, local and global issues. But mostly I’ve written about myself — a remarkably unremarkable person swimming laps in the Petri dish of life in the hopes you see yourself and your own struggles, which is why I’m writing about my thoughts on change now.

We all struggle with the daily checklist: put in a solid, productive day’s work for a (hopefully) reasonable day's pay; be present — physically and emotionally — for our loved ones; uncover and pursue our passions as much as possible; take time to exercise, recharge and renew. Not to mention laundry, shopping, cooking, toenail-clipping and such countless tasks that otherwise mar the canvas of a day.

I know no one who succeeds at all of these.

One of my struggles is to find something to offer on the altar of social discourse here in this column each week. And since I feel I haven’t been living up to my goals in that area, I think I need a break.

I need a little time to pull back, survey what I've done here and chart where I want to go. A friend asked me if I needed to find my muse again. Maybe I do. And maybe with a new job and so much else to do, I just need to simplify things — take one step backward in order to dance forward.

There have been no great traumas or tragedies, no life-altering events. I’m just a little drained creatively and need a jolt to the system in hopes of rediscovering why I do this. And autumn, with its colors of change and nesting tendencies, seems an ideal time for that.

So, with the blessing and encouragement of the editors — who promise not to find anyone more talented and devoted to fill my place — I’m taking a little sabbatical. Doesn’t that sound nice? Sabbatical. If only we all could simply forestall a set of duties for a season to come back to them refreshed.

This will be my last column for a couple months. I’ll be writing during that time — blog posts, perhaps, and random postings on Facebook and elsewhere. And hopefully some other things that have been brewing in the slow-drip coffeemaker of my mind.

Look me up. And look for me to bring you more Small Wonders in January.

I don’t know what I hope to accomplish with this time off. As I write these words, all I can think of are the thousand reasons why I should push through these feelings and keep writing.

But choices are like that. The only way to find out if you’ve made the right one is to walk through the door.

So, with that, I’ll see you on the other side, when winter’s finally settled the argument.

PATRICK CANEDAY will miss you. Stay in touch with him on Facebook, at and

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