We’re all familiar with the four seasons of Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer. But I’ve become aware that in Eastern philosophy there is a fifth season, as they assign an element to each season and there are five elements that compromise the natural world: Fire, Water, Metal, Earth, and Wood. This season is called Late Summer and it relates to the element of Earth. And I will declare–we are in it.
This is how I can tell we are in the season of Late Summer–what has been coined “the dog days of summer.” I step out of my air conditioned house in Georgia, sliding the glass door that is damp with condensation to step on to my back porch. Immediately I’m hit with it–a heaviness that is all too familiar to people from the South. A heavy stillness that makes it impossible to take a long, deep breath and feel refreshed at all. No, I will not be going for a run this morning.
I fill my watering can from the spigot and feel the tiny relief of the drops of water that splatter on to my bare feet. The flowers in my pots are gangly. There are a couple of blooms holding on but their stems are long and bare, their lushness sizzled up by months of sitting on the South-facing side of my house. Poor things are just stressed.
The dog peeks at me through the sliding glass door but doesn’t beg to come out for fear I might put a leash on her and make her go for a walk with me. A bead of sweat rolls down my temple. I step on to my lawn which is now pretty brown with a speckling of green, Earth crumbly under my feet. But under the canopy of the trees it feels a bit cooler. A bit.
The Earth feels thirsty. When I ponder this being the predominant element of this mini-season I think about the nourishment of our natural system. The opposite of the Earth is the sky, and the sky is not offering much nourishment right now. Little rain, scorching sun. This is evident by the powdery clay under my toes.
It takes presence, deliberate attention, to think about what lies under this depleted crust. I close my eyes and think about the deeper layers. I place my hand on one of my backyard tree friends and envision in my mind the roots that penetrate the darker, damper, levels of the Earth. There’s nourishment that comes from within. There is all sorts of life actively happening down there beyond my comprehension, a subject I was happy to relearn having children going through middle school science.
How can I apply this consciousness to myself? Late Summer to me means the temperatures are more oppressive than they were earlier in the Summer, leaving me more sluggish, desiring to remain inside rather than enjoy the fun activities I enjoyed outdoors just a few weeks ago. My children are already back in school so my house is quiet and still, and it too has a feeling of depletion. It’s decor is a bit lackluster and disheveled. My inspiration for sprucing it up is non-existent, beyond noticing it’s slightly sorry state.
My outer crust is feeling dehydrated. My skin is tan and freckly. My energy stores are low from months of having my kids around and the flurry of activities that go along with summer break. I’m happy but tired. Not the type of tired after a bad night’s sleep; just tired. But if I consciously focus on the deeper layers, what lies beneath the surface, I can see the life that
continues to churn and vibrate within. There is nourishment deep within, just like the Earth. And that is what I’m called to do during this season of Late Summer: go within. The way to elevate my energy and replenish that which has been depleted by giving so much of myself is to get quiet, breath gently, and go within.
This is a waning season and before too long the leaves creating the canopy in my backyard will dry up and begin to fall to the ground. The air will get crisp, and the breaths I take will be deeper and more refreshing again. But for now, I will follow the cues of Mother Nature and savor in the stillness. In my air conditioning.