It’s finally feeling like fall as Goldenrod’s yellow fountain of tiny flowers bid us adieu. Goldenrod bows elegantly next to deep purple Ironweed, and hovering above like a firework is Joe Pye weed, yet another native aster. Be sure to take it all in before winter arrives.
Robin Wall Kimmerer, scientist and founding director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment has a beautifully written ode to asters and the plant kingdom. She writes:
“In moving from a childhood in the woods to the university I had unknowingly shifted between world views, from a natural history of experience in which I knew plants as teachers and companions into the realm of science. The questions scientists raised were not “Who are you?” but “What is it?” No one asked plants “What can you tell us?” The primary question was “How does it work?” The botany I was taught was reductionist, mechanistic. Plants were reduced to objects; they were no longer subjects. The way botany was conceived and taught didn’t seem to leave much room for a person who thought the way I did. The only way I could make sense of it was to conclude that the things I had always believed about plants must not be true after all.”
Seasonal changes generally bring a sense of nostalgia and a shift of energy and focus, both in the physical and emotional body. On Sept. 22, the Autumn Equinox greeted us with a refreshing cold snap — a relief from late summer’s hot, intense and busy energy.
If you take a moment to look around, notice how your plant friends are experiencing fall — they’re lookin’ pretty crispy and starting to die back as their energy shifts inward down to the roots. We can learn a lot by observing plants and seasonal changes.
The aerial parts of a hardy perennial plant will die back in fall. The whole plant does not die, rather it focuses its energy on supplying the roots with nutrients in order to survive winter. Still alive and vibrant, plants re-focus and energy distribution has shifted. This is a great time to save seeds to start next spring. This is also why it’s best to harvest roots for medicine once they’ve died back — there are more nutrients in the roots since the plant is not using its energy to feed the leaves and flowers.
Looking at it from a culinary perspective, a frost will make carrots, beets and brassicas taste sweeter because the cold helps to convert starches into sugars.
Planning for Winter
Play along with me and let’s use this analogy to think of yourself as a lovely perennial plant: It’s the end of summer, you’re feeling crispy and a bit exhausted, maybe your energy reserve is feeling low because of all the activities you’ve been engaging in. You still want to enjoy and appreciate the weather, you’re not completely ready to cozy up on the couch with a good book (maybe you are) but the feeling is different. The focus has shifted. Your body and mind may be hinting that you need some internal self-care, some nourishment, some reflection, gratitude and processing before winter comes.
Listen to it. Fall is the perfect time to shift that outward summer energy inward, give gratitude for summer’s abundance, and plan for the nourishing and rejuvenating winter ahead.
The Autumn Equinox is all about gratitude for abundance, and giving thanks for the bounty and community spring and summer has provided us. If you struggle with being present and find it hard to welcome seasonal shifts, I encourage you to write down three things you’re thankful for daily.
A gratitude journal is a great tool to help us remember, give thanks and look back on all we have when times get tough.
I hope this seasonal shift has left you feeling inspired, grateful and alive. What are some routines and rituals you are excited to incorporate in your fall self-care practice?