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The Harvest: Late Summer and the Earth Element (Part I)

In the midst of Summer’s warmth and play, there comes a day when we feel a faint chill in the air. We know that Summer is coming to an end, and Autumn is on its way. The days may be warm, but they are shorter and don’t carry the same punch of heat. Mornings are cool, and the air feels heavy and fragrant with the scent of ripening fruit. Flowers have passed the peak of bloom and look a little tired and faded. Leaves begin to yellow and look old.

The subtle transition from Summer (the Fire Element) to Late Summer (the Earth Element) has begun. Plants have taken in, stored and transformed the Fire energy of Summer. Now the focus has shifted to ripening fruit and setting seed, readying for the harvest and for the cooler months to come.

The ancient Chinese divided the year into five seasons, rather than four. Late Summer, the Earth Element, is regarded as a distinct phase of its own. Summer, the Fire Element, is the zenith of Yang energy, the active principle. In Late Summer, there is still plenty of activity around, but Yang has begun to decline and Yin energy (the receptive principle) has begun to increase.

In the human realm, the wisdom of Late Summer is to gear down and do one less thing. Like the plants, our energies begin to turn inward. The boundless activity of Summer may begin to feel overwhelming. It is easy to ignore the inward shift and overextend ourselves with too much activity, putting our inner reserves at risk in the cooler months ahead.

Late Summer is the season of the harvest and the nourishment it brings. The Earth Element is deeply connected with our ability to gather in and to be nourished by the fruits of our labors. A good harvest brings a sense of security and comfort, sustaining us through the darkening months of Autumn and Winter.

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