To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. Book of Ecclesiastes
Every main season in my four-season climate contains many micro-seasons of varying length.
They arise and die continuously throughout the calendar year, sometimes overlapping, often coinciding, some years never occurring at all. Late March and early April bring seed-starting season, dandelion season, and mud season, which ease gradually into forsythia, volunteer-lettuce and lilac seasons; then on to strawberries-peas-lamb’s quarters-and-asparagus seasons, until we finally reach the August-September blowout: broccoli-green beans-tomatoes-peppers-eggplants-summer squash-and-corn season.
The annual sequence of food-producing, wild-plant collecting, and food preservation create many of my seasons, but there are others: For example, I observe pond seasons such as ice-out and pollywog season. I delight in the ephemeral seasons of puffballs and slime molds. Each year brings a couple of hard-to-dry clothes-indoors-or-out seasons, when the days are too short and cloudy the laundry line, and it’s still too warm for the constant of radiant wood heat that dries them on indoor bars.
The visible and measurable changes in weather and hours of daylight precipitate psychological changes. Each season brings a different kind of awareness. The way the air feels on my skin, the angle of light striking my eyes as the sun moves across the sky, the sensations of the ground underfoot as I walk or kneel all affect my thinking, my hoping and dreaming, the way I put words together and go about solving problems.
Beyond seasonal eating
Many of us have embraced the idea of seasonal eating: Growing or buying locally-grown food (as well as eating wild plants) throughout the growing season gets you the most flavorful, nutritious foods, contributes to the local economy, may save money, contributes less carbon to the atmosphere, and certainly can introduce you to foods you couldn’t find in the supermarket.
But what about living seasonally?
By seasonal living, I mean fully inhabiting your natural environment and letting your environment inhabit you. You can live seasonally even in urban settings, even if you spend your working hours in an office cubicle without windows.
- Get out more, and pay attention once you get out. Get curious about what’s happening in the natural world. Notice what’s new or changed since the last time you ventured out.
- Make yourself go out in all kinds of weather. (Okay, avoid thunderstorms and extreme weather.) Get some serviceable raingear, wind-resistant jacket and pants, sweat-wicking shorts, t-shirts for summer, thermal longjohns for the colder months; plus hats, mittens, and treaded boots. If you live in snow country, put some lightweight snowshoes and trekking poles on your gift list. A bike (speedy for commuting or just an old beater for jaunting around).
- Buy wild and cultivated plant guides and learn how to use the identifier keys they contain. Look at the weeds that grow from cracks in the asphalt or along the roadsides or along the woodland path. Identify the aromatic flowers and shrubs that grow in a neighbor’s yard. Notice the insects that flutter around this or that plant. Friend or foe?
- If you’re really adventurous, buy insect, bird, wildlife guides, too. Identify which pollinator species is buzzing around inside that squash blossom, or which mammal left that pile of scat at the edge of the field. What bird species made that perfect, tiny nest in the lilac bush outside the town library?
The benefits of seasonal living
- If you get out more often to explore your surroundings, you’ll get more exercise, always a good thing. Taking a lunchtime walk, even on an overcast day, does wonders for recharging your mental batteries and sharpening your mind, as well as burning a few calories.
- If you choose to learn more about the plants and animals that share the space around you, you’ll expand your knowledge, maybe even your wisdom. Your interior world will become broader, deeper, more diverse.
- You may find new friends out exploring the same terrain. This, in turn, may lead to planning more extensive joint adventures. New relationships formed around similar interests can increase your emotional wellbeing.
- As you notice and learn more about your local environment, you may start to care more about it and understand about the human impacts on other living creatures. People simply don't take care of what they don't know and embody.
- More seasons? More celebrations! To my way of looking at it, every season, particularly if it involves a lot of hard work, deserves a holiday. Depressingly long mud season? Plan a mudluck dessert social, where everybody brings their gooiest dark chocolate confection. Harvest season winding down? Time to celebrate with an evening of Halloween pumpkin carving. You get the idea.
Go ahead. Name your private seasons. Celebrate one today!
Margaret Boyles lives in a wood-heated house in central New Hampshire. She grows vegetables, eats weeds, keeps chickens, swims in a backyard pond in summer, snowshoes in the surrounding woods in winter, and commutes by bike whenever possible.