Since many of us live by the clock today, it’s easy to forget that we live in a world of natural seasons and seasonal change. What if we were more in tune with the age-old rhythms of the seasons? There’s much research that shows we would live a healthier, happier, and more productive life. Here are tips on how to live seasonally—and make the most of each season.
Every main season in a four-season climate contains many micro-seasons of varying length. They arise and die continuously throughout the calendar year, sometimes overlapping, often coinciding, in some years never occurring at all. For example:
Late March and early April bring seed-starting season, dandelion season, and mud season …
These ease gradually into the forsythia, volunteer-lettuce, and lilac seasons …
And then on into the strawberries, peas, lamb’s-quarters, and asparagus seasons …
Until we reach the August–September blowout: broccoli, green beans, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, summer squash, and corn seasons …
And then we move under blankets with carrots, beets, and root vegetables that we roast, along with warm boiled soups, stews, and broths made with winter cooking greens, plus preserved and fermented jars of food, dried dates and fruits, and lots of nuts that give us heat and energy.
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 seasons. 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 for 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, and the sensations of the ground underfoot as I walk or kneel all affect my thinking, my hoping and dreaming, and the way I put words together and go about solving problems.
How many of us have no clue when fruits and vegetables are actually in season where we live? It’s worth considering the benefits of eating seasonally (as best we can):
Eating locally-grown food throughout the growing season means you enjoy the most flavorful foods. Compare a tomato ripened by the Sun to lackluster hothouse tomatoes in wintertime. The mass-produced tomatoes prioritize uniform ripening and shelf life over taste. Consider strawberries at the peak of season to those tasteless (but pricey) specimens out of season.
To eat during each season also better maintains health and prevents disease. Foods at the peak of season are more nutritionally dense. In addition, foods that can naturally ripen are healthier than foods using chemicals, gasses, and ripening agents to slow down maturation and ripening.
Finally, seasonal eating contributes to the local economy; may save money; contributes less carbon to the atmosphere; and certainly can introduce you to foods that you couldn’t find in the supermarket.
By living seasonally, 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.
“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden
How to live seasonally? Here are a few ideas.
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, do avoid thunderstorms and extreme weather.) As the need arises, get some serviceable rain gear, a wind-resistant jacket and pants, sweat-wicking shorts, T-shirts for summer, and thermal long johns 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. Add a bike (speedy for commuting or just an old beater for jaunting around) if you don’t have one.
Buy or borrow wild and cultivated plant guides and learn how to use the identifier keys that they contain. Look at the weeds that grow from cracks in the asphalt, 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, get insect, bird, and other nature 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? What kinds of fallen leaves are these?
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 well-being.
As you notice and learn more about your local environment, you may start to care more about it and understand how humans impact 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—and celebrate one today!