In Praise of Seasonal Living

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Live in each season as it passes: breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit.”
–  Henry David Thoreau

 “I’d just as soon skip over this time of year,” a friend said to me as we drank tea together yesterday.  I nodded.  It was hot and steamy as it often is here in Nebraska in late June and I could completely relate.  I’ve never been a summer person, always preferring the cool, brisk air of fall and the inner warmth of winter.  And yet I know that when I wish away a particular season, just waiting for whatever is next, I’m missing out on so many small seasonal pleasures, opportunities to be present and fully alive in the here and now.

In the era of heat, air conditioning and a global food supply, we have the opportunity to not really participate in the seasons if we choose not to.  Don’t get me wrong…I’m as big a fan of modern conveniences as the next person.  But when we don’t allow ourselves to really experience the cycle of the year, life can feel like one big 70 degree day where raspberries are always in season. This kind of living can leave us feeling disconnected from ourselves and from the natural world.  There is so much joy to be found in the sensory experience of being a human being on this extraordinary earth.  Why not take a moment and notice it?  Enjoy it, even?  If your days, weeks and months are tending to blend together or you are seriously wishing summer would just get itself over with so it can be fall already (remember when you were just saying that about winter a few short months ago?), maybe it’s time for a new way of being.  One in which you are willing to lean in to the current season and notice the small seasonal pleasures that are all around you just waiting to be discovered.  Here are a few ideas for noticing, cultivating and appreciating the current season of your existence, whatever that might be:

  1. Notice the sounds that are inherently linked to each season…rainshowers in the spring, lawnmowers in the summer, the sound of a football game in the fall, the scrape of a shovel against the driveway in the winter. All seasons have their own soundtrack.
  2. Likewise, each season has its own scents as well: The smell of fresh, damp earth, just-mowed grass, wet leaves, wood fires.
  3. Pay close attention to the change in light as the days pass. When you check the weather on your phone each day, pause and also check the time of the sunrise and sunset.  Notice as the days and nights get longer and shorter during the year.
  4. Commit to spending time outside everyday, even if it is not your favorite weather. Scandinavian parents tell their children, “there is no such things as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”  Gear up or strip down (whichever is seasonally appropriate) and head out!  Be open to the experience of finding something you might like about that which you are assuming will be uncomfortable. Sometimes the best part of heading out in the cold for a brisk walk is coming back inside and experiencing the warmth of your home again, maybe with a steaming hot beverage cupped between your icy hands.  Just the anticipation of this is enough to make that chilly walk worthwhile.
  5. Cook and eat seasonally.  Supermarket tomatoes in January are just sad.  Just because foods are available to us all year round doesn’t mean that we need to eat them all year round.  When we eat fruits and vegetables when they are in season we are not only getting more delicious produce, we are also saving money and the environment.  We also develop a sense of anticipation for what is to come…strawberries in the spring or the first crop of apples in the fall. The tomato can wait!  Imagine that day in July when you slice into that perfectly ripe, red fruit still warm from the farmstand or, better yet, your own garden. The real thing is worth waiting for.
  6. At the beginning of each month, make a list of what you enjoy (or think you might enjoy) doing that month that is in sync with what is happening in the natural world. Think small and simple.  In July, for example, maybe you want to host a barbecue for your neighbors, really listen to the hum of the cicadas each evening and make your first batch of fresh tomato salsa.  Look to nature and possibly your childhood for inspiration.  Sometimes the things we enjoyed doing as children (catching fireflies at dusk, spreading out a blanket under a shady tree and reading a book, enjoying a warm slice of apple pie) are the very same things that help us reconnect with our sensory world as adults.  If your childhood was less than idyllic, ask your inner child for ideas.  There is a soft, tender part of each of us that is just waiting to be comforted and soothed by these simple seasonal activities.
  7. Take a few moments in the evening to record what seasonal pleasures you enjoyed during the day. Commit to yourself to make more time for those things.

Decide now that it is time you became a true sensualist, someone who feels alive and connected and who finds pleasure in the world around them as it is right now at this very moment.  Not next month or once it’s not so damn hot outside but NOW.  If you are looking for me later this evening, I’ll be on my back porch sipping a glass of chilled white wine and listening to the cicadas sing to me from the trees.

 

 

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