Month: September 2020

Needs must

In her book, Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin writes: “Any beginning is a time of special power for habit creation, and at certain times we experience a clean slate, in which circumstances change in a way that makes a fresh start possible…” For me, September has this special power.

According to the calendar, September is just another month in the year. But according to our emotions, this time of year often feels particularly weighty.

With summer at an end, many people experience a pang of nostalgia for the good weather as the days grow shorter and there’s a distinct nip in early morning air. For parents and students, the back to school period is often a potent cocktail of relief, excitement, and anxiety.

The idea of setting intentions or a ‘resolution’ may only seem necessary when you’re counting down the seconds at a New Year’s Eve party, or overcoming a transformational life event. Resolutions might seem like the sort of thing we reserve for special occasions, when we really want to make a change. The thing is, every day is ripe for resolution-making, whether it’s a rainy Thursday afternoon or a bright and optimistic Monday morning. Every moment offers the opportunity to set an intention, a sankalpa and a resolution.

The word resolution itself has two meanings; the original word comes from the Latin solvere, meaning ‘to loosen or release’, and also breaking into parts’, while the relatively modern version is derived from the word ‘resolute’, referring to a sense of being determined and firm. Usually, when we set a resolution, our attitude is determined and firm, an attempt to control our mind or body. Your resolution might be to give up sugar, start jogging, to practice yoga every day, or to be more organised. When we set resolutions like this however, we can sometimes miss the entire point of making the resolution itself, which deep down is probably along the lines of being happy and enjoying life more. If the reason behind setting resolutions is about being happy or enjoying life a little more, I invite you to think of a resolution that is more about cultivating solvere – loosening, releasing and breaking into parts – than it is about controlling. What do you feel you try to control and grip a little too much? What would you benefit from loosening or releasing a little more? So much of our lives is already about improving, developing and hiding any imperfections, that loosening and releasing from time to time could be the very medicine we need and the missing link to feeling better.

Dr. Claudia Welch, who specialises in Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine, and who authored the book Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life, champions the notion of giving ourselves more rest, and letting go of the need to achieve and ‘do’ all the time. “If we’ve done some work on ourselves, we respect the natural urge of hunger, we respect thirst, but we tend not to respect tired”. Indeed, in a bid to be our ‘best’ selves, very often resolutions are about ‘doing’, ‘improving’, and exhausting ourselves, more than they’re about honouring and nourishing ourselves. So perhaps pause for a moment and listen – really listen; if you were to loosen and release, and if you were to allow parts of your identity and current habits to ‘break into parts’, what might that look like? What one thing in your life would you benefit from loosening the grip on or letting go of? Chances are it’s the first thing that comes into your mind… To practice setting a resolution this month, set some time aside some time in silence whether sitting or walking, and simply listen when you ask the question; “What do I need?

Get ready for sortumn

No, that’s not a typo. It’s a word I found recently that’s quite perfect to describe this time of year: sortumn. Not summer anymore, but not quite autumn either, this just might be my favourite season – a beautiful in-between time made up of equal parts golden sunshine and misty mornings.

It’s particularly lovely where I live, in my semi rural idyll of Romsey. The evenings are still long enough to walk the canal path before dinner, while the slanted sunshine gilds leaves that are just beginning to turn colour. My favourite walk takes us under an ancient apple tree, and at the moment the windfalls are filling the air with a wonderful cidery smell that evokes thoughts of the months yet to come – full of crisp air and cosy jumpers and soup for dinner, with a warm apple crumble afterward if we’re lucky.

As we make our way between the hedgerows, hubby and I, a few early leaves crunch underfoot; the pheasants, stealing a few more days of leisure before the hunters arrive, cluck and chuckle in the fields which border the canal. It’s warm enough to wear short sleeves, but not hot enough to be uncomfortable – the perfect sort of evening to bring along a blanket and a beloved and a bottle of wine to share beside the river, while the mayflies dance and the swallows perform an aerial ballet overhead.

A neighbour asked me the other day why this season is my favourite, as opposed to spring. True, the delights of a full-on English spring are not to be sniffed at – this country knows how to burst into bloom with a vengeance – but there’s something a bit melancholy and bittersweet about these brief few golden weeks that I love beyond reason. The mellow sunshine is fleeting, and the long nights will soon draw in. (These have their good side, too, but they do take some getting used to.) This small season – this sortumn – is a transition, a moment trapped between one thing and another, and as such it can’t ever be truly savoured before it’s gone. Maybe that’s why it feels so precious.