With Summer ‘vacation’ shifting towards a transitory point, the call to prepare for Autumn & Winter might feel a tad different this year. After all, our Summer vacations and usual plans were put on hold. Our Autumn & Winter visions are shifting, too. For most of us, Summer has not held its usual fullness & vigour. It’s been transformed by COVID & the general state of the world into something that has held more of a simmer without ever reaching its boiling point.
Come August, we’ll see the daylight dwindle with more clarity. In that, the days will grow shorter and we’ll start to notice as much. In that, we’ll want to bottle Summer essences up & hold onto them. If Autumn & Winter look anything like Spring, then hibernation will be emphasized in the months to come. How can we bottle Summer up through our movement, our rituals, and our daily lives? There are quite a few ways, some of which are quite dear to me, which I’ll share with you now.
August blows us nearer to Autumn, but first -- Labor Day -- that good ole’ marker of Summer’s close. In the last few weeks of proper Summer, before classes and full-on workflow kick back into gear and long weekends feel like a given, think about your relationship to the Earth’s cycles.
In seasonality, we find ourselves + our ways reflected back to us. In Summer, we are fiery and warm and doing. Autumn asks us to slowly succumb to the Earth’s dying ways without fear, for we had all Summer to prepare. And how did we prepare?
Well, nowadays, it's a rare person who prepares for the cooler months as well as our ancestors once did. Now is the time to harvest the fields in full (or, buy all the cucumbers, radishes, and pickling goods from your local market) and get to preserving. In working with plants, vegetables, and other nourishing foods with long-term use in mind, our relationship to food changes.
Consider your favorite Earth-offerings. Perhaps you’re a huge fan of Summer’s sweet corn and squashes and grains. How can you preserve these for Autumn and Winter? You might pickle your cucumbers with a dash of dill. You might bake a few loaves of zucchini bread and freeze them so they hold until you crave some fresh, summery cake in the middle of Winter.
While these considerations sound a lot like forward thinking, they can do a lot to ground us in the here + the now. They remind us of all we have at the very present moment. How fresh our fruits and veggies are. How the scent of bread baking in the oven will linger on well beyond the slow days of Summer. In finding gratitude for present offerings, we root down in their present majesty. In considering how to lengthen their lifespan + value, we root down in our sweet human being-ness.
Consider how you might encapsulate the Earth and the glory of your Summer days. What do you cherish the most? How can you preserve it?
Here are a few of my go-to Summer preservation methods:
- Dried flowers: Hang them in entryways or on your front door. Tie them with twine and string them above your bed. Drape them sweetly atop some books you already read this Summer.
- Pickled goods: Use your mason jars up and fill them with brine, cucumbers, dill, and bay leaves for a snack that will remind you of that one particularly sunny day when you closed the lid and waited for the pickling to kick into full gear. Pickled cucumbers, peppers, radishes, and the sort are a lovely Autumn & Winter treat.
- Natural dyeing: If you find yourself needing to revamp some Autumn clothes, before dashing to the store for something new, consider what the Earth can do for you. With food scraps or some pretty flowers you find on a walk one evening, you can curate a simple dye bath that can bring new life into last Autumn’s pieces. Avocado adds pink, onion skins add brown/yellow, and turmeric throws some orange on whatever you need.
Speaking of presence, your breath is your most dear guide along the way to August and September subtleties. Oftentimes, around this time of year we feel rushed and hurried along in our to-dos. Summer projects are taking longer than expected, our gardens are still blooming, but the first frost is closer than many of us might expect (I say this to you from a rather chilly PNW homestead).
Return to your breath. Trust that all will be done in due time. And what doesn’t get done? It doesn’t. And so be it.
Time and time again, yoga reminds us that control is an illusion. The breath is the one constant in our lives, and while we can seek to control it, it’s a being in its own right.
Let your breath steady you through these days. Might your breath, every inhale and exhale, water the roots of your being so that you can better show up + serve yourself, your to-dos, and those busy-bee projects you have in the works.
All in all, when the days are long but go by sweetly slow, keep going. Work hard. Play often. Find balance between the two. Opt outside more than inside (with proper social distancing in mind) and embrace whatever weathers your day. Take your practice off the mat and go for a hiking meditation. Bring your journal to a spot in the woods, quiet your mind awhile, and then dump all your thoughts, worries, and dreams onto that paper.
Get your hands in the soil. Lay on the Earth. Practice pranayama with the Earth. Feel how you are of Earth and are breathing as one always though it's not always so clearly perceived by human eyes.
Our days are not what they once were. In embracing this and moving beyond that fact, we can rebuild our ways and manners of being into something that links us softly to Earth’s sways. Something that reminds us of things our ancestors did right -- the preserving and the slowing down and the presence through every transition.