The month of September has never been my favorite. The variable temperature changes are a reminder of what’s to come as we transition from summer to fall and then the cold of winter. Nature’s cycles remain consistent year after year, yet I still find myself especially resistant to changing course from summer to fall. Those transition periods, based on the ancient Chinese theory of the Five-Elements, relate to the Earth element. This element is typically associated with what the Chinese refer to as late harvest, or late summer, the period of time from early August to early September. But the Earth element also plays another role.
As we transition from season to season, we are presented with a few weeks of a different kind rhythm. For example, as summer transitions to fall, there is a fluctuation of warm summer-like days with cool, fall-like days. It’s a sort of “tease” of what’s to come and in that tease, there is a gift of “pause.” That pause is the Earth Element gently preparing us to change course. And, every year I resist! The most obvious is my obstinate refusal to begin wearing “fall” clothes. Not in September, thank you very much!
In Five Element Theory, everything and everyone is influenced by elements that make up all matter. These elements are Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal. Water is considered the storehouse of vital essence. It is responsible for growth, development and reproduction and promotes introspection, persistence and motivation. This is the element associated with winter. Wood represents growth; it carries the seed of new life and is associated with spring. Fire reflects the warmth, brilliance and vitality of summer. Earth brings fullness, fertility, order and stability; it is the center from which we operate. When we are centered and grounded, we are better able to embrace change. The Metal element symbolizes the harvest of fall. It signifies a gathering of soul and spirit and brings decline and contraction with shorter days and colder nights.
And, of course, this decline is evident as we watch our gardens give one last eruption of beauty before dying back in preparation for the dormant rest period over the winter months. We transition from basking in the warm sun to basking in the exuberant fall colors – one last hurrah before the leaves fall.
“Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.” – Lauren DeStefano
While I appreciate the display, I remain in resistance through the autumnal equinox until about two weeks into October. When I can no longer ignore the Halloween decorations and pumpkins that suddenly dominate the landscape, I release my hold on the Earth energy and allow myself to become a full-blown participant in the activities appropriate with the new season. This burst of energy compels me to re-organize my closet. I put away summer clothes, shoes and bags while deciding what stays for another season and what gets recycled. Ah! I’ve been infused with the sense of order the Metal (autumnal energy) element brings. Next, I re-organize my kitchen. I unearth the slow cooker; squash soup replaces tuna salad. Fall is officially here and its Metal energy insists on change and a sense of order I can no longer deny.
I begin my garden clean up to assist in preparation for the progression to the Water element of winter, knowing, of course, it will make this natural evolution with or without me. I transition my flowerpots, replacing those plants that succumbed to the fluctuating temperatures with plants that enjoy the cooler nights. I add pumpkins and gourds. I finally fully embrace fall! Those outdoor pots are a visible statement that I am no longer resisting the change.
What other inevitable changes in our life do we resist when they show up? How long do we put off succumbing to them? And when we finally do, how do we acknowledge and celebrate the fact that we actually moved forward? Each season brings the opportunity to look inward at what course change or corrections are awaiting recognition. We can use the Earth energy of the changing seasons as a gentle reminder, a pause, if you will, to look at where and what we might be resisting in our lives. We can then use the elemental energy of the season to support us in making the transition. There is a rhythm to everything in life; there is a time for growth, and a time for endings. Being in the flow acknowledges these life cycles. Nature is, indeed, a model for changing course.