Further musings on the Fall – Autumn rhythms in China
Autumn in China begins around August 7 according to the Chinese calendar. This is hard to understand from a Western point of view because the temperatures are still brutally hot in most places except the far north at the beginning of August. I hid in the air conditioning at our house and went outside only if necessary for most of July and August. My seasonal radar noticed that “li qiu,” the beginning of autumn, had arrived and I felt my hope return. The beginning of Autumn is like the “border” of the fall season, a “turning point” rather than a change in temperature, showing that the next season is on the way.
In Chinese thinking, Autumn is the time for all things to draw inward and gather resources together. Seeds and fruits mature and fall to the ground. Instead of sap rising, like in the spring, it begins to settle down into the roots. The grass loses its water and turns light and brown. Our dogs like naps curled up in the warm spots of sun in the house.
Autumn is considered a period of decline, but like other periods or states of decline, the aging of the famous or the decline of a nation, it is often hard to discern it. If you think only in a straight line, this will be a sad thought, but if you consider the seasons in their cyclical nature, this is only decline that brings the quiet of winter, which will inevitably lead to the greening of spring and the robust summer of the next year.
According to Chinese medicine, Autumn is a good time for filling up with warmer, heavier foods. People should prepare for the winter like the squirrels do – more nuts and seeds, as well as whole grains, cooked squashes and other root vegetables, and perhaps small amounts of lean meats. Cool weather means we need to focus on giving more fuel for our “furnace”. A season for cozy comfort foods means you don’t need to feel badly for eating some carbohydrates, since you are just in harmony with the season.
I often forget to wear my socks until the really freezing cold weather of winter arrives, but my Chinese friends tell me that I should wear socks or even better, wear a pair of slippers once the weather has begun to change. When autumn really sets in and my definition of “cold weather” is met, I put my socks back on and enjoy their warmth. Sweaters too. In China, people will have socks and sweaters on long before I do. “Oh, don’t you have pains in your knees if you don’t wear slippers?” they ask me. When I tell them “no,” they marvel and tell me that Americans have strong constitutions.