Late Summer

Living in the Season: Late Summer

Here in Damariscotta Mills the leaves are beginning to turn, some hastened by the brown-tail moth’s appetite earlier in the Summer. The lake water is cooling off and the irresistible urge to swim has suddenly vanished. There’s been a seasonal shift. Have you noticed it?

We have now moved into what is called Late Summer in acupuncture circles. This is a distinct season that precedes Fall, and it offers specific opportunities and tasks that help us live in balance with this very special time of year.

The great expansion of Summer reached its zenith and is now in decline. That’s not to say there isn’t warmth; the earth has stored generous amounts of heat, and there is a gentle and radiant glow as our surroundings start to cool off. For fruits and vegetables, the emphasis is now on ripening more than growing. If we are to capture that sweetness before it ‘goes beyond’ and spoils, we need to pay attention.

Acupuncturists often speak about Late Summer in relation to the harvest, and abundance. The important question posed by this season is; “Will there be enough, both in the garden, and in the heart?” As we move into the cold and dark time of the year, will we have food to eat, and will we feel blessed by the fruition of efforts completed, and relationships carefully tended. Will we experience a sense of satisfaction?

The kind of gratefulness that we often feel when we sit around the Thanksgiving table is from the vantage point of Fall, looking back, and giving thanks for the completed harvest, and the abundance that has been secured. But we are now in Late Summer and the ‘fruit’ is still being picked. There is promise, great care, and an edge of uncertainty.

This is the time when we can reap the benefits of what we set in motion last Spring by planting the seed, real or metaphoric. What weighs in the balance now is whether the harvest will create sufficient reserves that allow us to feel confident letting go into Fall and Winter, as we must. The coming dark time is important, and has its own set of challenges and possibilities.

The energetic texture of Late Summer is like the Mother’s unconditional care for those in her charge as she gathers, provides, and makes preparation for the impending descent. It is both tender and fierce. She knows there may be plenty now, but this time is brief.

Late Summer is the beginning of a voyage that looks out and imagines far into the distance, and sees the arrival of Spring. Just as Spring, full of promise and planning, looks far ahead and imagines the harvest of Late Summer. These are the two great inflection points of the year. These are the narrows that we must pass through if we hope to experience some level of harmony within the ebb and flow of the seasons.

While the calendar says the year is winding down, I actually feel I am at the start of something new when September arrives and school begins. And for some of us Rosh Hashanah announces that this is the new year, as well. What is true is that Late Summer is the beginning of the season of decline. And I don’t say that to sound ominous. It is just an observable fact that Nature’s energy expands and then contracts and then expands again, up and down, in a reassuring circle of return. The Earth is breathing, and it is the cycle of the seasons. Right now, we are on the cusp of a major half year adventure, and it rightly focuses our attention. Will there be enough to get us through?

As warming foods once again begin to beckon, and salads don’t quite enthrall as they used to, our bodies are signaling change. We are encouraged to take stock at all levels and to appreciate what we have actually created or helped to support in this first very active part of the year. Now we are in a transition, and are called to start turning inward, gathering around us what we will need to sustain ourselves in the months ahead. 

In the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur encourages us to reflect and ask for forgiveness from those we may have hurt during the past year. It’s practical and humbling. When embarking on a voyage into the depths of Winter, why carry bitterness or misunderstanding? We need to keep our eyes on the prize, which is to arrive on the shores of Spring rested and rejuvenated.