In Mid-August, we enter into one of my favorite times of year. It’s that hot and sweltering time here in the south when the air is heavy and stagnant, the humidity is high, and the botanical abundance is so ripe. It’s a time of harvesting, sharing and storing as we slowly approach the impending fall. I like to refer to this as a season in itself – Late Summer, the 5th season. Just a few weeks, from mid August to early September, is all that this season requires, and during this time it feels like a huge reflection of my entire year. I get to see the the enormous growth of a garden that I cultivated from tiny seeds full grown veggies. I get to consciously harvest this space teeming with nutrients, transform those foods into a delicious meal, and share it with my family. Everything that was so mindfully cultivated months ago is now, physically, part of my body. And that circle of transformation is truly magical.
I’ve been thinking a lot over the past year about things that positively influence our health that we are not necessarily able to quantifiably measure. It’s so easy to get bogged down in reviewing lab work, hormone panels, nutrient profiles and measurable data, that we often neglect the more subtle things that profoundly influence the body. I call these “Sensory Nutrients”, and over the past 3 years of working with clients I’ve noticed big shifts once we start to pay attention to things like this and implement them into daily routines. I’m talking about the subtle things that fill up our senses and make us feel blissed out. Things like cuddling with your dog, or kissing the top of your babe’s head, or walking barefoot in the garden or forest bathing. Sure, we can probably notice dopamine spikes, a calming of the central nervous system and even decreased blood pressure with all of these things – but they also influence the psyche, and this is an area often overlooked by most people – and it’s such an integral part of our health to nurture.
Nutrition and health is more than just the nutrients and calories that we take in. It’s everything that the body experiences – even the smells and sensory emotions that are soaked in from the cultivation process. My absolute favorite part of late summer (or any season, honestly) is the sensory experience of “Petrichor” – the smell of earth after rain. That delicious, grounding and nurturing smell of life from the forest, or from the garden, or even from the hot sticky sidewalks. The rain that cools off the heaviness of the summer air and that makes the soil soft and warm and teeming with little worms and microbes is such a relief. When I take moments to deeply inhale this part of late summer, it feels akin to eating a nourishing bowl of veggies or kitchari. Our brain is wired for bliss, and the moment of that inhale nourishes my body much the same as any nutrient. Connecting to the source is so important, because if we’re disconnected from the earth that nourishes us, we certainly won’t last long.
After the rain this past weekend, I waded out into my late summer garden and tore much it apart. The squashes and peppers and greens and cukes and beets have passed their prime and it was time for a clearing. It’s a cathartic feeling but a grieving one too. I’ll miss seeing my backyard garden flooded with greens and bright green plants. I’ll miss the harvesting process and the absolutely wild messiness that happens when I don’t bother weeding. But I’ll have that sensory emotion of Petrichor throughout every season, and it helps me remember those late summer moments, and look forward to it all over again next year. Go outside during the next rain and take it all in. It’s delicious, and one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself. What are some of your favorite sensory nutrients?