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Today is the Harvest full moon!
Farmers all over the Midwest are working day and night to reap the results of their growing season - much of which was beyond their control. Whatever amounts of rain or pests summer brought along with it determines in part the success of the harvest that supports their livelihoods. Having grown up in central Illinois, harvest brings to mind dusty fields being cut down, hay bales scattered across the fields, grain elevators working to store a good supply for the next year, and the farmers I know being exhausted, but hopefully pleasantly surprised at their harvests.
Even here in Chicago, with our urban gardens, we're experiencing the final amounts of summer produce ripening before the first frost. Our garden has a newly reddened tomato every day, the peppers are finally maturing, the sunflowers are smiling down on us, and the herbs continue to be full and aromatic. But this is juxtaposed against wilted cucumber vines, dried out lima bean pods that we neglected to pick, and browning perennials crumbling their seeds at the lightest touch.
You can see and feel the shift in energy that is Autumn and the Harvest. The abundance of Summer with its warmth and fullness is waning, and the desolation of Winter is waxing. In between those extreme seasons is a beautiful time! Autumn is the time that the Earth allows itself to let go of all the things that will no longer be able to be nourished and nurtured when the cold season arrives. This process of letting go is gorgeous with its changing colors and falling leaves. Yet there is also abundance in the form of pumpkins, squash, apples, pears, root vegetables, and grains which WILL provide nourishment and nurturing during the depths of winter. The Earth is providing exactly what will be needed!
Our bodies are doing this as well. Harvest highlights all the fullness in energy we had over the Summer, and beckons us to begin storing some of that energy internally so we are prepared for Winter. We are starting to feel dryer as the moisture in the air and our skin and hair changes, and are eating more moisturizing foods like pears, apples, and maple syrup. We're craving the tastes and smells of Autumn (pumpkin spice lattes anyone?) which are warmer spices and heartier meals so that our bodies can nurture the remaining warmth within and shore it up to get us through Winter. Even though the temperatures haven't significantly dropped yet, we are pulling out our sweaters, scarves, sweatshirts, and corduroys knowing that we are going to need a little extra warmth, just like the animals begin filling out their winter coats. We are a part of the Season!
But we aren't only preparing physically. We are mirroring nature emotionally as well. Autumn, fittingly, is a time for grief. The Earth is letting go of the Harvest, of the leaves, of the green signs of life, of the abundant sunlight of Summer. This loss, despite its necessity, is still a loss. And when there is a loss, grief is appropriate. In Chinese Medicine, the lungs are in charge of this emotion. The lungs consistently take in and let go. This is their job - to breathe. In order to fill up with abundance like the Springtime, you have to exhale in the Autumn. The Lungs do this for us. They circulate the qi.
It's during this time of year that problems arise with the Lung qi of the body. Emotionally, we may be feeling more sadness, more grief, and especially in the aftermath of the tragedy in Las Vegas and the devastation from the hurricanes that ravaged Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, this emotion feels so heavy. Physically, in Chinese Medicine, the Lungs connect to the nose and throat, manage the skin, and protect us from outside pathogens. This is why in Autumn we see a rise in upper respiratory infections, coughing, asthma, allergies, dry skin and rashes.
The Lung qi needs a little extra help in the Fall.
Ashlie Martin is an acupuncturist and lover of nature - and loves connecting the patterns of nature and theories of Traditional East Asian Medicine.