My arms were too full with ingredients from my pantry. The stainless steal measuring cup slipped from my fingers. When I tried to grasp it the bag of flour slipped from where it was wedged in-between my elbow and ribs. The cup landed with a loud clang-clink-clang-clang-clang that rang inside my head. The flour landed with a thud, followed by a soft pfft. In slow motion a white plume of flour blossomed into a sizable dusty cloud. As I swept up the layer of dusty precipitation from that flour cloud I noticed my head felt fuzzy and there was a pressure behind my eyes. I often feel off balance when the weather is about to change. There was a cold front predicted for later that day.
Rather than trying to power through that fuzzy off-balance feeling I took a few moments, found a seat on the back porch, slowly sipped warm ginger tea and waited for the sun and the spicy ginger to warm and melt the fuzz from my head. When I felt a sense of balance return I brushed the flour from my apron and stepped back into my kitchen. It was my youngest son’s 16th birthday. With his invitation list of eight hungry teenage boys I would be kitchen bound for most of the day, quadrupling the already time consuming recipe of his favorite birthday meal, Asian orange chicken.
The windows were open, fans running as I dipped the fifth or sixth batch of marinated chicken thigh pieces into frothy egg whites, then dredged them in seasoned corn starch. The house smelled of orange, garlic, and the mouth watering salty oily scent of crispy chicken deep fried in pure peanut oil. Even with all those deliciously heavy smells in the house, the fragrance of fall poured in through the open windows. The leaves on the ground still held the vibrant colors of red, yellow, and orange. Their distinctive clean perfume was amplified by the heat from the bright sun on an unusually hot day in late November. The smell of fall seemed to challenge the summer-like heat. Like a friendly but firm knock on the seasonal door saying “Hey, It’s my turn.”
Before I even heard the wind or felt a chill in the air, my body sensed an approaching powerful force. It felt thrilling, not scary. All of my senses were suddenly wildly alive, that brain fuzz from earlier in the day completely lifted. I smelled the cold even before I felt it. It smelled the way cold wet stones taste and what the color slate blue would smell like if it had a fragrance.
I put down my tongs and moved the vat of boiling oil off heat. In my back yard the glow from the sun brilliantly bounced off the bright yellow leaves on the ground. I didn’t know if I should shield my eyes from the sun above or the ground pulsating with light below.
I could feel the contrast of dark and light even before I saw the ominous bank of clouds swiftly closing in from the north. With what felt like the force of a freight train in the sky, heavy winds descended from those slate blue colored clouds that I could taste and smell.
The wind swooped down and lifted the golden floor of leaves beneath me. The leaves seemed to hover for a moment before they started to spiral and swirl. All around me, red, yellow, orange, brown, and green leaves swirled. I turned in the opposite direction of the wind as if I were the eye of a kaleidoscope. Trees swayed and bowed. It was exhilarating to be outside and witness the indian summer hand the baton off to fall, and feel winter’s breath so close on it’s heels.
Although, a race can be aggressive, competitive, this meeting and exchange of power felt more like dancers taking turns for the spotlight on earth’s stage. Each season met and bowed to one another. Summer graciously retired, simply melted into the earth, to allow fall and winter continue with their waltz.
When the sun was swallowed up by the clouds the chill in the air guided me back inside.
In those few intense but powerful moments the seasons had officially changed. I turned off the fans, shut the windows. That bowl of cold juicy honey crisp apples on the dining room table looked so refreshing and tempting to bite into before the temperature had significantly dropped. Those same apples now made me think of warm spiced apple pie served with a slab of melty cheddar cheese.
Years ago, to stay “healthy” I ignored those intuitive cravings for warm spicy heavy foods and ate summer salads and raw foods 12 months out of the year. I struggled for years with constant confusion, depression, isolation, and illness. Our health—physical, emotional, spiritual, and social, are a direct expression of our connection to ourselves. Because I was out of touch with nature, I was unable to find that vital connection to myself.
There is a presence of a powerful purity in that which is wild. Dancing with the seasons that day I wasn’t just a witness to nature, I was unfolding along with the unfolding of the seasons.
Henry David Thoreau’s words are an elegant recipe for staying healthy and connected: “Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”