As the Wheel of the Year turns once more, Emine Kali Rushton leads us into the crisp, clear mornings and sweetest harvests of autumn...
Ah, autumn. A time to let go. Slow down. Release. Savour. Our spring seeds are now fully-grown fruits. Abundance. Richness. Reaping what we have sown.
This season, my nature journal is ablaze. This is the time when my family and I are most likely to venture out on long, meandering walks after lunch. Something about those golden canopies and leaf-lined paths beckons the inner child within us all: ‘Come dance, roll, play, delight.’ How many of us have fondest memories of scooping up armfuls of jewel-coloured leaves and tossing them about our heads?
I love the autumn images you see on social media – the fruits of a forager’s walk laid out across the kitchen table, colours ebbing from blazing ruby to honeyed amber. Our tree canopies are nature’s best medicine now. In Ayurveda, the colour therapy offered up by these warming, bronzed, blazing colours, is a gentle counterbalance to autumn’s crisp dryness. And a wander around a local park or woodland lends itself beautifully to a fruitful gathering. My nature journal is filled with leaves I lay flat between the pages of favourite books until dry, with the date we found them, and a line that captures the moment: “Children lined up on a log. Spotted a smudge of moon. Hot choc by the fire.”
Autumn’s characteristic quality is one of light. We move out of summer’s warmth and humidity, towards a season that is ruled by Vata in Ayurveda, the elemental qualities of space and air. If we cast an eye over our landscape, we can see how the plush plumage of our trees is falling away, how things seem thinner and more brittle, how the soil is drier, how there’s a crisper, clearer quality to the light. In summer, sunlight can be blinding; in autumn, it is less overwhelming. We can open our eyes up to the light more comfortably, as we begin to look into what it is we truly desire and feel into where it is that we would like to go.
We are also supported to consider how we may all begin to do less now. Though many of us have a short holiday in summer, it is really in autumn and winter that we are better afforded time away from the endless tasks and to-dos. Historically, autumn would have been a beautiful time to harvest what we had spent the year sowing and growing, and very much in keeping with this was an understanding that we harvest now in order that, come winter, we might do very little other than enjoy the fruits of our labours.
We gather good things around us – our autumn fruits and vegetables, warm company, laughter, a crackling fire or flickering candle, a steaming bath or mug of deep, dark cacao – so that we may also galvanise our spirits, as we prepare to go deeper and deeper into the darkest part of the year.
A time of letting go
Because of autumn’s shift – the coming out of summer into the brittler, crisper energy of this season – all things within us change too. We can feel a shift, but often, we are not sure how to respond, or we are simply too busy to consider how we might begin to do things a little differently. Mother Nature shows us the way. By looking around us, we get a chance to consider what she is doing, right now.
In shedding her layers, she simplifies her processes. Rather than putting her energy into growth – capturing and synthesising light via her many green leaves – she lets her leaves fall, and sends her full focus back down into her own roots.
By doing this, her intention is clear: ‘I must conserve my own resources, and put them where they are most needed.’ A tree may grow as tall as she wishes, but if she does not first put down strong, secure roots, she will not survive the harshest winters nor the most dramatic storms. And so it is true of us all: remembering, right now, the importance of furnishing our inner stores and bolstering our foundations – the tallest trees have the deepest root systems after all. And so, our focus here, this season, begins to feel crystal clear, as clear as these autumn mornings with their glister and gold: feed your roots.
A morning meditation for autumn
Often, morning is the most frantic part of our day. We wake up on the back foot, mind and heart racing. In autumn, I really try to rise in tune with the sun, to enter the world with stillness and silence, to sit alone, reflect, breathe, and awaken my body, mind and spirit as gently as I would a sleeping child. Unfurling our consciousness, ever so softly, allows us to come into the day in a completely different way. Try to invite a more peaceful beginning into your day several times a week – whether in formal meditation, or simply as you sit out under the morning sun with a blanket and cuppa.
Two ways to celebrate autumn’s harvest
Sweet stone-fruits, apples, pears and ripest hips bring us natural nourishment this season.
Sweet Honeyed Plums
I have a darling Italian neighbour for whom plums are purest nectar. All autumn long she’ll find different ways to enjoy them, from pies, tarts and crumbles, to jams, compotes and fresh for breakfast. We have a sprawling Mirabelle plum tree at the back of our terraced garden, which has grown fervently in the 10 years since we planted it, and now produces hundreds of small stone-fruits every year. Light yellow in colour and slightly sour, they are collected by our neighbour by the bucketload. She washes, splits and de-stones them, before popping them into clean jars and topping with local raw honey. She eats them from the jar for breakfast, or on crusty bread, pastries or porridge – an autumnal treat I adopted for myself last season and heartily enjoyed.
Autumn Harvest Tea
I used to work as a holistic skin therapist, having qualified shortly before my second child was born, and that’s when I began mixing up custom oils, balms and teas to support my clients. This autumn tea, which is wonderfully nourishing for women during their own inner autumn and winter too (while premenstrual and during menstruation), celebrates the season’s riches: apples, spice, hips and haws. You can forage, gather or buy the ingredients needed, but if you’d like the tea to keep for a while, do ensure that your ingredients are all completely dry, and keep in an airtight, sterile container, away from heat and light.
Mix two parts dried apple and dried cinnamon (I like to buy cinnamon sticks and then crush them roughly, to leave generous shards) with one part cloves, hawthorn berries and rose hips, for a sweet, fragrant, warming tea that is also wonderfully comforting of a brisk, blustery evening. Simply add a teaspoonful of the mix to a teapot of boiling water, allow to steep for 5 minutes, strain and enjoy.
Emine Kali Rushton is a writer and author, whose books include Natural Wellness Every Day: The Weleda Way and Sattva: The Ayurvedic Way to Live Well. She runs a seasonal self-care membership for women from her cottage in Kent, and also makes seasonal wild remedies from her garden. thisconsciousbeing.com and on Instagram @eminekalirushton
First published in issue 80 of JUNO. Accurate at the time this issue went to print.