Harvesting seeds and musing about seasonal living
Today I am harvesting Everlasting daisy flower seeds. It’s a job purely dictated by the seasons. I love having these pretty little flowers pop up in the garden, but the seeds are very expensive to purchase and hard to justify when it’s just for prettiness. Harvesting the seeds once the flowers have dies off brings a connection between me and the garden, makes me enjoy the flowers more and look forward to having them appear again, makes me pay attention to their full cycle of growth (can’t miss the seed window - it’s just as important as enjoying the flowers) and and very practically, saves money.
Living in the country has made me pay attention to the changes of the seasons much more than suburban life, as my day-to-day activities change much more based on the time of year rather than the time on the clock.
In our modern world, most of us tend to find ourselves living based on the clock.
The clock dictates the running of most days - waking and sleeping, eating, working, school etc. A lot of our activities can remain fairly constant all year. This routine can be sustained with greater consistency by artificial lighting and climate control. As a result, we are not as “in-tune” with the seasons as many people who have come before us. Before artificial lighting and climate control and increased development and efficiency in storage and transport, the seasons dictated much more of human life. We would have edited our day more based on darkness and light, food availability would have been much more varied and defined by seasonal production and many of our activities would have been affected by the changing weather conditions.
So what, you might say? There are some benefits for being able to swim in a heated pool all year ‘round. It’s nice to have your favourite produce available at your whim. This is true, but
as stress and anxiety levels seem to be rising in the population and the sustainability of some of these practices is becoming increasingly questionable, perhaps we need to start questioning some of our ways of living, which may including returning to a more natural rhythm.
There is a lot of information to be found in Chinese medicine and the holistic community about the benefits of living in tune with the seasons, but even if we are quick to brush off the need for a “connection to “Mother Earth” as “mumbo-jumbo” here are some simple, practical reasons why we might adjust to seasonal living:
It doesn’t take much research to see that this “buzzword” is more than just a fad concept - it frequently appears as a genuine way to treat feelings of stress, anxiety and overwhelm. The practice of mindfulness involves taking a moment (or many moments) in which we stop thinking about the past and the future and concentrate on the exact moment we are in. It doesn’t take long for most people to realise when they try this that we don’t do it very much.
A stressed mind is constantly dwelling on the past, and fretting about the future. Or even if you’re not actually worried about the future, you are often mentally tied up in planning, organising or strategising for future events. We are also becoming increasing tied to our screens and finding it hard to actually take a moment free from such stimulation. For instance, you rarely see people in a queue these days observing their surroundings. Even when a few seconds are free we reach for our phones.
We need to press pause every so often and connect with our surroundings in order to properly decompress. Taking a moment daily to observe the seasons - taking note of every aspect of the changing weather and surroundings and learning to embrace the positive aspects of all seasons - is a great way to practice mindfulness. That’s also a great push towards embracing the metaphorical seasons of life, something we also need to practice for mental well-being. When we learn to see the positive aspects of our life and self at each age, we won’t feel as much pain from the passing of any “season” of life.
Getting Outdoors has been proven to be good for you
There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence, but in 2018, a report from the University of East Anglia used global data involving over 290 million people concluded that “living close to nature and spending time outside has significant and wide ranging health benefits” The researchers noted that “exposure to greenspace reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure” and “Populations with higher levels of greenspace exposure are also more likely to report good overall health.”
People who have access to greenspace (defined as: open, undeveloped land with natural vegetation as well as urban greenspaces, which included urban parks and street greenery) also slept better and showed lower stress markers including salivary cortisol, reduced heart rate and blood pressure.
The evidence was significant enough to suggest that there is definite benefit to consider changing our physical environment as a way to prevent or treat some health conditions, rather than purely addressing it with medication.
Eating seasonally is delicious and more environmentally sustainable
Food picked at its peak has better nutrition and flavour. If fruit and veg has had to travel a long way from an appropriate climate to reach you it will have been picked green and ripened in a box without sun, limiting the time it will have to develop flavour and nutrients. Chemicals are often applied to prevent over or pre-ripening.
Moving food over long distances has great environmental impact and a significant carbon footprint.
Local, seasonal food should be cheaper too. Abundance means a lower price per kilo in store. The travel and production cost of out of season produce also contributes to higher cost.
Eating seasonally also adds variety. Novelty and interest to your daily plate is very good for your body. It also supports your local community. Buying from local producers puts money back into your local economy. If you have the luxury of being able to buy directly from your farm gate, at local markets or work in a community garden it can also foster a sense of community that is a precious luxury in the modern world (and excellent for mental health).
It’s fun to look forward to things
Novelty is great. When everything is available at your fingertips, what do you have to look forward too? Preparing, planning or anticipating a special event is shown to provide as much happiness (sometimes more) as having the experience itself. Reminiscing about the event after it has passed is also a big part of enjoyment.
Things have to come and go. If you learn to embrace the best of every season for what it is, you can squeeze extra happiness out of the experience. Look forward and then enjoy to hot drinks in front of your warm fire in Winter and doing cold-weather sports. Look forward and then enjoy new green shoots and spring flowers, summer swimming on long, hot afternoons, autumn leaf colours on brisk mornings. Enjoy the different foods that come with the seasons.
I want to enjoy everything and then miss it, to make it’s appearance more rewarding and joy-inducing. Exactly the reason I don’t want hot cross buns or fruit mince pies all year or a birthday present every day. Where’s the fun in that?
So although I’d never really considered it a “thing” before, I’m ready to embrace more seasonal living as part of my “simple living” ethos. What can be more simple than going back to basics and paying a bit more attention to nature and the goings-on of the environment around us.
Here’s hoping I get lots of Everlasting Daisies next year.