In the dark, spacious cave of winter, I touched the places in my soul which are scared. Afraid of what we’re doing to this world, to each other. I lost hope for a blink or two, there, in the depths of the spring that felt it would never get underway. Maybe you did, too?
But the sense of the days lengthening – kept me going.
So, the seasons save me. My practice of aligning with them give me ground beneath my feet when I need it most.
Last year, the feeling of the year slowing and the whiff of Autumn rotting down into the fertile ground brought me back to earth. When the wildfire that took my home in the hills had uprooted me, destroyed my home and pared my belongings down to a bag or two, and everything seemed senseless and strange.
And as I sense a greater urgency in my work to shift the impact we’re having on the planet, I realise that living more seasonally might go beyond saving me. It might helps us save everything else that matters, too.
Seasonal living makes us saner
The seasons of the year are cyclical, but they’re not relentless. They rise and fall, like the beating of our mother’s hearts in the womb, like our ribcages, like night and day.
Humans weren’t made for fluorescent-lit cubicles and production line efficiency. We need to run and then rest, to laugh and then cry, to speed up and slow down.
Aligning ourselves with the seasons is an endless invitation to come back to ourselves beneath the electricity, the networks, the money and the status.
We breathe in, and out, and the sky changes. We’re home.
2. Seasonal living slows us down
Getting bored with the year doesn’t work. Winter comes when it comes. The days lengthen and the moon rises and all of it’s out of our control.
When we impose our own timelines on the world, we have a tendency to rush things. Move on to the next thing before we’ve allowed ourselves to go deeper into this experience. Beyond the point where we feel comfortable, past the point where we think we’ve “ticked the box” of what that season means.
In winter, after you’ve bought the pine-scented candle and instagrammed a cosy blanket, you feel the pang of what it means that we will die. In Spring, after the flush of cleaning and energy, pay attention and the real ideas you’re meant to cultivate shoot through.
Slowing down might be the single biggest thing we can do to make our impact on the planet deeper, wiser and more powerful.
3. Seasonal living changes what we put into our bodies
Our diets would have changed with the season, long ago. We’d have eaten what came from the land around us, or what we could store. Slow cooked roots grounding us through the Autumn. Fresh salads and raw berries through the summer. Green sprouts and pickled leaves as we come to the end of Spring.
In the US, food produces approximately 8 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per household – 17% of the total. Eating food grown locally, cooking it yourself and using every scrap is the best thing we can do to reduce that. But more than that, as Wendell Berry said, “eating is an agricultural act”.
What we eat each day is our opportunity to say how we want the earth to be used. Filled with food factories, transporting tasteless goods thousand of miles on oil-fuelled transport? Or thronged with small scale farmers who care about their land and nurture what they grow?
Seasonal eating is activism, writ small.
4. Seasonal living shows us how things are changing
Starving polar bears, melting ice caps, raging wildfires. We know what’s going down. And yet when it comes to making small shifts in our own lives, it’s so easy to pretend that everything’s the same. Only, it isn’t.
When did the first migrating birds arrive where you live? How cold did the winter get? How did your mood feel in October when summer heat still raged and you hadn’t yet resorted to the woodpile?
Tracking the seasons in our own lives awakens us to what is going on around us. Mindfulness brings power to choose the right action, without losing hope. We move forward, step by step.
We wake up.
5. Seasonal living reminds us what we love
I have fallen in love with trees, with soil, with the river which wends through the valley I live in. Paying attention fosters connections with the objects around us. And in the words of Stephen Gould “we will not fight to save what we do not love.”
It is this which keeps me paying attention, which reminds me of the battle I am waging each day. Love fortifies me to challenge the culture I swim in, the society which raised me, the belief that money is the most important indicator of status and endless growth is good and any alternative is “backward” or “weird”.
Notice, and deepen your noticing. You might fall in love, too. You might change.
We are living in troubling times. Dark times, and whilst I believe that every civilisation has sensed its Doomsday, I cannot deny that at times I feel these years of heat and trauma might be darkest of all.
And then I look up from the screen and see the way the rain is blooming over the mountain, the way the charred soil is now carpeted with green, know that the lupins will flower next month and that so many of the cork oaks, cushioned and padded, will thrive even on these blackened hills.
I remember that the moon is waning and the light is growing and that I’m no better or worse than the birds beginning to ready themselves in the trees, to flit for food and prepare to build their nests.
The season’s changing. Maybe we can change, too.