It doesnʼt seem like that long ago, I was sitting on the 7th floor of a downtown office building – gazing out the window at the big, blue prairie sky and the brilliant sunshine, and thinking, “What am I doing inside, when it looks like that outside!?”
Not only was it a stunningly, beautiful Manitoba summer day, but I was *freezing*. My teeth were chattering and my hands were cold.
The ʻclimate controlledʼ building meant I was wearing the same cardigan in the summer …as I had been wearing most of the dreadfully frigid winter.
It was no wonder that I felt completely…disconnected.
Recognizing how unnatural my day-to-day existence had become was part of what propelled me to trade in a pinstripe suit for galoshes and gardening. To make the move from city to country. And to start the journey back from deskilled- to reskilled.
Out on the land today, I wonder how so many people are able to bear it for so long. Unfortunately, many people canʼt quite define where their stress is coming from. Itʼs just always there, as a low (maybe high) grade anxiety.
Many years ago I had a co-worker come and tell me that he had to go to the hospital for having an anxiety attack, “for no reason.”
But was it really no reason?
Its ʻsymptomsʼ are said to include:
• increased feelings of stress
• trouble paying attention
• feelings of not being rooted in the world
Is it really that far-fetched that this disconnect is causing mental and physical illness?
As humans, we are still hardwired to pay attention to the seasons and the weather…That primal part of us that signals, ʻit is time to be outside. It is time to hunt and gather. To frolic. To turn our faces to the sun.ʼ Despite the modern conveniences of air conditioning, lights, ipads and *year-round* strawberries….that part of us lives on.
Like, a child tugging at the pant leg. Asking you to *listen*…
It wasnʼt long ago, that the human animal lived just as closely to Mother Earth as the other living beings that populate our planet.
And Mother Nature dictated what we did *and when* we did it.
Day-to-day and season-to-season…People rose with the sun, and wound down when darkness fell.
There was no electricity to power lights, television and computers to keep us working and browsing, long after our natural biorhythms had told us it was time to rest and restore with a good nightʼs sleep…
Our inclination to live in sync with the seasons is apparent throughout history and in our connection to the food we are designed to eat…
Many people have heard of the ʻHarvest Moonʼ- a moniker stemming from the Old Farmersʼ Almanac. But each of the moonʼs 13 annual cycles had names as well. And while they varied around the world, they most often described the food or living situation that dominated that period of time.
• Corn Moon: fell on the cusp of summer and fall when corn stood tall in the fields (Celts
and many Native American cultures)
• Moon When Salmon Return to The Earth: This name is attributed to the Saanich (or
Wsanec people) who actually had several names for the period when specific salmon
(such as Coho) returned.
• Blood Moon or Hunterʼs Moon: This name has its roots with indigenous people of the
Eastern Woodlands and falls mid-autumn, when the air is growing colder and the
northern dwellers would work to ensure their store of meat would last the winter.
• Snow Moon: Is from sixteenth century England. This is when autumn is becoming
winter. The first snowfall could be expected at any time. Waterways and reservoirs
start to freeze. Could be the last opportunity to preserve food
• Moon of Long Nights: This is the time when winter solstice approaches. In some
regions, dawn and dusk occur at almost the same time. A time of darkness.
• Hunger Moon: Coincides with the late winter lunar cycle and is named such because,
as you might have guessed, food was often in scarce supply…
• Sap Moon: A name with Ojibway roots. “Although snow and ice still cover the ground,
the promise of spring stirs the land. Sap begins to rise up through tree trunks…”
Source: Full Moon Feast, Jessica Prentice
Working on our relationship to food, can help us recover our relationship to nature. Just *try* to plant a garden, for example, and not notice just a *few* more details about the nuances of each season. Tender shoots, rapid growth, flowering and fruiting. Decay and dormancy.
Old sayings like, “make hay while the sun shines” take on added meaning. The fairly narrow window for each fruit, vegetable and herb that needs to be picked and processed, comes in rapid succession. Wild mushrooms. Berries. Peas. Stinging nettle. Spinach. Beans. Corn. Rosehips….
Enjoyed at their peak deliciousness. Juicy strawberries picked and eaten from the plant. Sweet peas shelled by tiny hands. And carrots so tasty they simply cannot be compared to supermarket fare…
And while there is often a sense of urgency that comes with a lifestyle more in sync with the seasons (for example during periods of planting, growth and harvest)- there is also a sense of groundedness and connection.
Again, the prose of Jessica Prentice comes to mind…
“…eating winter produce in winter helps me reconnect with the Earthʼs rhythms and with the seasonal reality of my forebears. It reminds me that to everything there is a season and time. It helps me let go of my desire to have whatever I want, whenever I want it, instantly. It helps me appreciate that what I have been given and to accept it gratefully.”
￼As part of a new wave of ʻmodern homesteadersʼ we have come to realize that attention to, and attunement with, seasonal rhythms could mean the difference between a great harvest (and a poor one), working in the flow (or against it), and even life and death. It can dictate how and when we connect with others and, as I teach in my classes, the difference between good or- poor health.
I have often wondered what unnatural lighting does to *human* biorhythms and hormones. Especially after observing how the ʻsimpleʼ act of turning a light on in a chicken coop can propel hens to lay eggs throughout the winter- a time when, left to their own devices, they would be dormant- saving their baby-making energy for spring- a time of natural fertility.
In the book, “Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival”, Anthropologist T.S. Wiley muses that artificial lighting responsible for the rise in degenerative diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
The reason, she says, is that when we stay up after the sun goes down (using artificial lights, watching tv and and using computers), we disrupt our natural hormone function and push our bodies into a state of ʻperpetual summerʼ. This, she says, is at the root of our sugar and carbohydrate cravings because those nutrients were primarily available to hunter-gatherers during the summer.
So improving your health could be as simple to making a commitment to turn off the computer (and turn out the lights)…
It is likely, that, more often than you think, your body gives you signals that it is *still* in tune with our ancestral food wisdom…
For example, I find that I can hardly bear to eat a salad in the middle of the winter. But give me a bowl of hearty, piping hot soup or a root vegetable stew and I am content.
Come spring, I am eager to eat sprouts and shoots.
In the summer, it seems easy to skip right over lunch in the heat of the day (or to keep it very light). Supper could be as simple as a plate of fresh vegetables, steamed beets, cheese and sourdough bread.
By eschewing farmersʼ markets for supermarkets, and slow food for convenience food, many people have lost their ability to heal through intuitive and seasonal eating. But that can be reclaimed – whether you live on a homestead or in a condo.
Take the time to learn what is in season. And maybe even to grow something yourself. Preserve one thing this year, whether that is by freezing, fermenting, canning or drying it.
Take a walk in nature, Plant a garden, Turn off the lights. Take part in a seasonal (not commercial) celebration.
And disconnect from your screen time to connect again with life…
*This article was originally printed in the fall edition of Interlake Arts, Life and Leisure Magazine….