Summer is…

Every summer, no matter what else gets planted in my garden, I always put in tomatoes. Specifically, an heirloom variety called Brandywine tomatoes. They’re a late-grower, coming in towards the end of August, that is oversized, pale red/pinkish in color, and less acidic than most other varieties. Paired with homegrown garlic (Filaree Garlic farm in Okanogan is the best source of Washington specific varieties!), basil, olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar, I spend Labor Day weekend cooking up the best tomato sauce you can imagine. If it makes it past my husband that first day, I store as many jars as I can get in the freezer. Because when the rainy, blustery days of November and January roll around, nothing beats popping open a jar of this sauce. It smells like August and I am nourished!!

Summer is… special. We don’t get a long one here in the Pacific Northwest, so we all have learned to make the most of it. In Chinese Medicine, summer is associated with the Fire element, which is associated with the Heart. This is the organ that governs relationships and feelings of relatedness, and it is the place where trust and connection reside. So it makes sense that we all turn into social butterflies when the sun comes out, doesn’t it? It energizes our Fire element, and we are busy-as-bees, soaking in as much of this summer fire energy as we can by getting outside and spending time nurturing relationships.

While bees make honey from their summer labors in order to help nourish them through the long winter, we don’t have the same concrete evidence of our summertime joy. However, with a little
intention, it’s possible (and Chinese medicine would even say it’s recommended) to make “honey” in order to nourish our reserves during the long, cold winter. Just like opening a jar of summer tomato sauce in January.

When we build relationships and have experiences of feeling connected, we experience this on a chemical level. Dopamine and oxytocin are two brain chemicals released when we are experiencing a
rewarding connection. Oxytocin is even called the “Love chemical”, as it is part of the mother-baby bonding experience. While it’s not easy to “jar” oxytocin (like my tomato sauce), it can be stored up in other ways. One of the most potent ways of building your “love and connection” reserve is by being fully present. Being fully present means allowing the experience to soak in. To saturated your being, right down to your bones. Allow the feeling of joy, connection, feeling safe and at home with your favorite people in your favorite places – to really seep in and feed your cells. Take a moment and just observe it. Breath it in. Appreciate it. Take a “snap shot” of a joyful experience with your heart, not just your camera.

Doing this not only fills you with memories to cherish, but it also fills your body and being with the experience of connection and belonging. Right down to your bones. So when the contracted energy of winter comes, and connection feels less “easy”, you can reflect back on these moments and re-experience how deeply safe you felt in those moments. When you feel a deeper sense of safety, good
health and vitality follows.

Here are some prompts to help you practice being fully Present:

– Call on the emotion of gratitude in a situation, and notice how it slows you down and makes you notice and appreciate the “details”.
– What colors speak to you? (Blue, green, and yellow (sunflowers!) make my heart burst with the joy of summer.)
– What are your favorite smells? (The smell of the forest when I’m mountain biking, oh yeah!)
– The sounds of summer? (Those arguing hummingbirds that dominate my garden in July/August.)

Practice putting some “Joy” in the “nourishment jar” when your heart overflows this summer. And just like opening a jar of tomato sauce in January, you’ll be nourished.