Coming from a much warmer climate zone it has taken me a few years to work out how to adjust to this shift into the cooler season. I have a routine in which I go out for a jog in the morning to warm up and get in touch with the elements of the day. Considering how variable the weather is here in the Lakes, I am amazed by the way farmers brave the conditions. Last November we were chatting with a local farmer, when she mentioned that she rarely uses heating during the Cumbrian Winter. When I asked her how she manages, perhaps with the faintest hint of the characteristic Cumbrian dryness, she said she ‘puts on a coat and goes outside’!
The elemental qualities of each season all have their invigorating and intrinsically healing qualities. It’s all down to how we work with the seasons to learn about ourselves and our health. With cold and flu season on the horizon Autumn is a valuable time to care for the body so that the chance of hosting a virus is greatly reduced. There are lots of simple ways to support our bodies to manage the impact of the drying winds of Autumn and increasing dampness as we get closer to Winter. One simple way is to stimulate the digestion and appetite through the sense of smell. We can stimulate the appetite through the fragrant acts of baking and sautéing food.
Foods for this season are root vegetables, bright orange squashes and pumpkins, turnip and mustard greens, kale, broccoli. Bright orange vegetables help to provide the body with Vitamin A to manage mucous secretions and dark green vegetables give the body chlorophyll to dispel the toxins of the city smog, cigarette smoke and other modern day environmental stresses.
Autumn is a time to reflect and re-organise life after the free flowing, active summer. There is a quality of consolidation of the important and essential, and shedding the unnecessary emotional and physical clutter. With its connection to the wind also comes the connection to the lungs according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. The emotional correspondence of our lungs are grief and sadness. By acknowledging and resolving grief and sadness we give our immune system a chance against lung congestion.
Slow cooked foods at lower heats, cooked with less water will also help to increase mental concentration and internalise one’s focus, advises Paul Pritchard of the classic tome ‘Healing with Wholefoods’. Sour and pungent foods are also fantastic at this time of year at helping to concentrate the mental energies, bringing focus as well as breaking up lung congestion. These include sourdough bread, sauerkraut, olives, pickles, leeks, aduki beans, rose-hip tea, vinegar, cheese, yoghurt, lemons, and sour varieties of apples, plums and grapes.
So…welcome to Autumn, when the fields and woods no longer hum with the busy efficiency of pollinators and hungry birds. Welcome to the stillness which comes with the sense that there is no more to do, as the trees send their life force back down to the replenishing earth. I relish this season. I feel a quality of relief of a long period of promised rest. It is time to build the fire, and surrender to the sweet weariness, rejoicing in a great collective latitudinal yawn.