Walking around the farm this past week, I’ve noticed slight changes everywhere. The light hangs a little lower, the leaves have gold tints to their edges, steps sound crunchier, and the air smells sweet and earthy. Though we’re not feeling its full effects just yet (but soon!), our daylight hours are getting fewer and fewer and our peak temperatures are *allegedly* getting lower. In fact, this week marks a happy day for many people who are fully drained by the sun and can’t take much more humidity.
The Autumnal Equinox
What is the Autumnal Equinox? The Autumnal Equinox is technically the first day of fall, which arrives this year on Thursday, September 22nd (and if you want to get specific, at 9:31 am). The word “equinox” comes from the Latin word “aequus,” which means “equal” and “nox,” "nox" translating to “night.” It’s on this day that our daylight hours are just as long as our nighttime hours. Yet afterward, we slip into longer and longer nighttime hours with less daylight. This is the time of year to reflect back on all the growth and change (on the farm, in your family, in your personal life, etc.) as well as taking more time to slow down and appreciate the small moments around you. Our bodies are cyclical in nature, like the earth, and thus, we experience energy in cycles as well. In the spring and early summer, we face the day with a renewed energy, ready to move with the day and cross things off our to-do lists. But as we turn the corner into fall and subsequently winter, it’s very important to listen to the natural hums of our bodies and our minds and take more time to slow down, returning our energy inward.
How do we do this?
Personally, I love rituals. They help me track time and appreciate change. For instance, I love my morning ritual of sitting with my coffee. I don’t often have to (or get to) sit with it for long. But as soon as it goes into my mug, I sit down for just a minute or two - longer if I can - and enjoy it. This actually helps motivate me to get out of bed early in the morning. We can have daily rituals, weekly rituals, and yearly rituals. They’re not just fun, but also a great way to build a mental record of where we are in life. Over the next few days, I invite you to practice a few rituals of your own to help mark this time of change from summer to autumn. Here a few of my favorite autumnal rituals, many of which I’ll be practicing myself:
1. Reflect and meditate.
This one tends to be a bit difficult for me. I’m not often quiet in my physical life and I’m almost never quiet in my mental one either. It’s almost like my brain never takes a break and is almost always thinking of mental to-do and should-do lists. This is EXACTLY why it’s so so important to physically and mentally stop and take a break. The human brain needs time to relax and sort itself out. If we don’t give it the rest it needs, it’ll take it (usually when it's least convenient for us). Taking time during a shift in seasons to reflect and meditate can provide the necessary closure our minds need to process the change, as well as provide a wonderfully cathartic energy that welcomes the next season into our lives. It might be especially helpful to follow this moment up with a journal entry. I’m admittedly not the best when it comes to keeping a journal, but it really is just a practice that will come as soon as I make room for it and commit it to habit. So I fully understand if you’re also not a natural journal keeper, but maybe make this experience the exception and jot down a few of your thoughts and feelings about the year so far and what you want to see in the upcoming fall and winter.
2. Create your own fall feast.
This doesn’t have to be a Martha Stewart-caliber meal, but make it mean something to you. My plan is to make a soup that is full of leftover summer crops as well as soon-to-be fall crops. This will be a great way to celebrate both seasons and provide a little nourishment both physically and mentally.
3. Go on a nature walk.
This is the best way to acknowledge and solidify the daily changes happening around you. Starting last week, I started taking daily pictures of one of the maples in the front yard of the Stone House. It starts turning orange in the same spot every year and I like to watch it herald the autumn season. I guess in a sense, I use my daily picture-taking habit as a sort of journal. It helps me remember what the fields looked like this time last year, when certain events happened (large and small), and reminds me of daily life throughout the years. If you’re not into taking pictures, that’s fine too, just make sure you get outside and soak up all these beautiful colors, breezes, sounds, and smells. It can also be fun and warming to bring a few of the outside elements inside. We have a pretty fun nature collection happening at our house right now - dried flowers, acorns, cute little gourds. It’s a fun way to use the confetti that nature gives us in daily celebrations.
4. Stretch out the cobwebs before hunkering down for the season.
If it’s good for you, I’m probably pretty bad at it. Another practice that always, as a rule, makes me feel better is yoga. Don't ask me how many times in the past year I’ve practiced even the slightest hint of it, the answer is rather embarrassing. But look, it’s a new season, and while it’s not a new me, I can certainly try my darndest to practice a few new things. In fact, here’s an Autumnal Equinox-specific class that I will be trying out myself and invite you to as well.
5. Have a backyard fire.
Who doesn’t love a backyard fire? It’s a great way to either reflect quietly by yourself or invite a few friends over for a lowkey social event. Light up a dark night with a fire and throw pinecones, dried herbs, or incense in to mark special thoughts and hopes you have for the upcoming seasons.
There are many rituals you can practice this time of year. Make sure you find ones that feel right to you and share them. If any of them are particularly Woodside Farms-based, we’d love to see them, so tag us in any of your posts or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org!