For years, I’ve been a proponent of using eight pivotal days of the year as optimum times to make life changes.  Major or minor, changes seem easier if made in accordance with these eight days, which have been celebrated by agriculturally-based societies since ancient times.

Four of these days are well-known:  the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, the summer and winter solstices.  The others – the “cross-quarter days” – fall halfway between, corresponding, roughly, to Halloween, Groundhog Day, May Day, and – well – August 1.

Okay, we modern Americans don’t really do August 1, but if you’re fond of old English novels, you’ll recognize it as Lammas.  

Or Lughnasa, if you claim Irish descent.

Anyway, these eight days – the equinoxes, solstices, and cross-quarter days – are closely tied to Nature’s seasons.  And there’s a good case that they are also linked with the tidal forces operating within our still-evolving primate brains.

So, with the arrival of autumn, I’ve been attending to a lot of small, but important, matters.

Taking care of business.

First, I located the office of Virginia Blood Services in Waynesboro, went in, and gave a pint of whole blood.  I’ve been a blood donor for decades.  When I lived at home, I’d give six times a year at the Chester location of VBS.  

I miss that routine, and the lovely folks of the Chester VBS staff.  But I seldom get home nowadays except to visit Mom, and those visits don’t always coincide with VBS office hours.  Now that I’ve found the Waynesboro location, I can get back into my routine.  

And that’s important.  I seriously don’t understand anyone who can give blood, but doesn’t.  It’s an absolute good.  It costs nothing.  And there’s solid evidence that giving blood –by eliminating excess iron – is one of the most effective things an adult can do to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

If you don’t donate, you should really think about it.

Anyway, having made my donation, I went for my annual flu shot.  As I understand it, you can’t donate blood for eight weeks after a vaccination, so it made sense get the shot right away.  

And when I went in to my local Rite-Aid, I remembered reading their brochure about the shingles vaccine.

I’d considered getting that last fall, but it’s pretty pricey.  As a grad student, with nothing coming in, I put if off.  But since then, I’ve read more about shingles, and it’s decidedly not something I want to experience.  I had chicken-pox as a kid, which is a major indicator for shingles, so I bit the bullet and had flu vaccination in one arm, and a shingles shot in the other.

The combination pretty much knocked me out that night.  I fell asleep two hours early and slept through to my usual 6 a.m. wake-up.  But I felt fine – no soreness or other symptoms.  And it’s nice to think I’m probably safe from shingles.

Another bit of business for this week has been registering to vote in Staunton.  A simple step to take, but one that required a certain amount of thought.  Since I was 20, I’ve almost always voted in Chesterfield – because it always felt like home.

But that’s starting to change.  

When Mom went into assisted living, my sister and her husband began gradually relocating to our family home at Bermuda Hundred.  We’d had a family meeting years ago and agreed that Tuck should inherit the house – and she has certainly validated that decision by the work she’s done in restoring and renovating the old place.

It looks more beautiful – and, strangely, older and more historic – than it has in my lifetime.  She should be very proud.  

But the house is hers, now.  And I’m comfortable here in the Valley.  Oregon remains a likely, long-term destination – because it feels like a good place to write.

But that’s a decision for another season – perhaps around February 2, the winter cross-quarter day which I tend to treat as the take-off  point for truly major life changes.  (My birthday coincides with the vernal equinox, so a decision made at Candlemas gives me a good six-week run-up to a new take-off.)

For now, at least, I’m a Stauntonian, and I need to get involved – at least a little – in the politics of my town.

In our society, it’s commonplace to emphasize big, radical life changes.  But as often as not, the changes that matter most are small and incremental – changes that come under the heading of “taking care of business.”

For all my readers, I commend these three small things as a good way to begin the fall season.  Get a flu vaccination – and think about shingles, too.

If you can, give blood.  

And start thinking seriously about whom you’ll vote for next month.  It’s important, and elections are decided by the folks who show up.

It’s called Taking Care of Business.


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