Here in Oregon, we're just finishing up some of the last harvests of the season. On the farm, it's the last of the tomatoes, carrots and beets. On the hillsides, it's the last of the acorns, chinquapins, and bay laurel nuts. In the forest, it's the last of the Fall Chanterelles before they begin to freeze and rot.
This is also the season for lifting wildflower bulbs (yampah, wild lilies and onions) and native herbs (biscuitroots, balsamroots, compassplant, etc.). They are at the end of their dormant season here in the Pacific Northwest. From the soft, wet soils of Fall, they emerge with ease. Soon, they'll arrive in backyards across the region.
At the nursery, the winds from the Southwest pick up in the afternoons, and golden leaves flutter down from the maples, the ash, the oaks. It is the end of their harvest, too. They have miraculously alchemized the sun-sugar of the Summer, and now slowly begin to coalesce this energy back down to the Earth. The soil is excited. The trees sweet root tips drip-feed the millions of microscopic families beneath the Earth's skin, as their fallen leaves blanket, feed, and house even more.
Every year we see the same ancient pattern. The deciduous trees decide to let go, and shift their focus to the roots and soil. With the fading light, the leaves that have nourished them are now too costly to maintain. They set down the project of photosynthesis, pare down and prepare to weather the Winter.
Watching this moment reflects to me something essential about my life. What stress am I unnecessarily holding that I might set down, and let return to the soil? What in my life is producing less energy than it takes to carry, and can I shift that balance? Can I simplify myself so that I can enter the longer nights with a lighter and more open heart?
We might not need to change anything circumstantial, but instead change how we relate to it. The stress and worry for the people and things of our lives isn't a mandate. We don't have to carry it in order to care for it. Perhaps we can use this natural inspiration to set some stress down and let the Earth hold our worries, just like it holds the leaves of the countless trees of the forest.
Here's a simple somatic exercise that you can do to embody the wisdom of Fall. Simply sit on the forest floor and pick up a handful of leaves in each hand. Then, raise your hands up in the air, to your sides, and hold them there as long as you can. Imagine that what you're holding are not leaves but the things in your life that are troubling you.
Even though the leaves may be light, you can't hold them up forever. Eventually, your arms tire. Your shaking muscles force you to lower, inch by inch. When your hands are close to the ground, relax and imagining that you're setting down your troubles. Let your body feel what that feels like. You can repeat this several times. Then, release your clutch of the leaves and notice that the leaves (i.e. your troubles) are held quite nicely by the Earth itself. Then feel your sit bones on the Earth, and allow yourself to sit tall. You too, are held up in the same way.
Indeed, all our dreams and disappointments, and our loved ones and friends - they have already fallen like the leaves. They are fleeting, ephemeral, made of the changing elements. They are already held by the Earth. We can vision our futures. We help those that are suffering. But, we don't have to hold the weight of carrying them.
Setting down the extra burdens in our lives is not an empty act. Just like the leaves provide protection and nourishment for the seeds beneath, our letting go is an act of love for ourselves. It creates the fertile soil from which the seeds of our past intentions come to sprout in the coming year. By feeding the life of our inner soil, a more joyful and connected future begins to germinate within us. Indeed, we can learn from nature. For native seeds, Fall is the planting time and Winter is the nurturing time.
Consider these seasonal metaphors to help us tend to the challenges in our chaotic modern lives. In a time of global crisis like this, we each have to find our own creative ways to care for ourselves, the Earth and one another that don't drain us or dampen us - but actually lift us up. What are your rituals for this time of year that help you stay connected to the Earth? How do you tend your inner and outer gardens in this age of great challenge?
Send us your responses (email@example.com). We'd love to share them online for everyone to benefit from.
Blessings on your Fall from all of us here at Native Foods Nursery!