By Lisa Grazan
"This morning, the sun endures past dawn. I realise that it is late August: the summer's last stand."
~ Sara Baume, A Line Made by Walking
For so many years, late August was the time I spent anticipating my immediate future. My mind jumped ahead to thoughts about the fall, whether it was the upcoming start of school, the soon-to-be chilly night air, the warmer clothes, the layered styles, nightly homework, the new television line-ups, flannel sheets or my cozy red plaid pajamas I'd soon be wearing. It seemed like late August was the perfect time to put my attention on the more active months ahead; the months that clearly plot out exactly where we are in the year, where we're going, and how long it will take us to get there, like September's Labor Day and First Day of Fall, October's Halloween, November's Thanksgiving, and December's Christmas Day. After all, what did late August offer but a lull, a temporary "intermission" between the waning of summer and the bustle of fall?
" . . . the best of summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time."
~ Sylvia Plath
An odd, uneven time indeed. Much like the four o'clock hour on any given workday, when it's generally too late to tackle a new task but too early to wrap things up for the day. Or it's like an early Sunday evening as dusk approaches. You're caught up in that twilight time that's technically still part of the weekend yet there's really nothing left of it to enjoy. But there's something about late August that holds a fascination for me now. There's something about it that makes me want to linger here and enjoy all that its unique beauty has to offer.
Maybe it's not wisdom that comes with age, but rather appreciation. And what I've come to appreciate about late August is its distinctive look and feel. The blazing hot sun that mercilessly beat down on us only one month earlier seems a little more forgiving, lessening in its intensity and now casting everything in a warm, golden light. Those long shadows of the sun are now angled to make it look like it's late afternoon all day long. Late August is vivid, yet undefinable. It's alive, yet calm. You can't help but notice the incongruity of still feeling summer but seeing the signs of fall. The dark green trees of June and July are beginning to turn a green-yellow color with random dashes of red here and there. The leaves are so light in weight now that instead of swaying in the warm breezes, they're losing their grip and more easily falling to the ground. It's almost like late August is trying with all it's might to give us a promise we so want to believe but yet we know it can't keep.
"It was one of those late summer days trying its best to convince everyone that winter would never seep through and ravage the earth."
~ A.J. Waines
But everything has a purpose, even late August. So rather than looking to the past wishing for the height of summer, or looking to the future wishing for the arrival of fall, I try to linger here and appreciate late August for what it is: a time of transition. And while we've experienced this same transition year after year, let's not skip ahead. Let's relish in the time and experience that late August offers. As with any transitional time, that period so necessary to usher in change, the challenge is to be present in it. It's not a time to rush through or dismiss, but a time to savor. Be present in this intermission, in this significant interval of time and space when the energy is preparing to reverse its direction.
"It is the point of transition from yang to yin, between the expansive growth phases of spring and summer and the inward cooler, more mysterious fall and winter seasons. A pleasant, tranquil, and flourishing season, it is as if time stops here and activity becomes effortless, dreamlike . . . as if living at the instant where the pendulum reverses its swing."
~ Paul Pitchford, Healing with Whole Foods
While Pitchford speaks about the transition from yang to yin, Ayurveda speaks about this transitional time in terms of doshic energy changes. The bright, hot, intense energy of Pitta that dominated the summer months now gives way to the cooler, lighter, and more free flowing Vata energy which will usher us through the fall and into early winter.
Because transitions are often subtle, and since it may not look like much is happening, we're so tempted to want to gloss over them or rush through them to get to the other side. But it's in the subtlety of a transition that holds its power. While you may think transitional time is uneventful, that's actually where the "magic" happens.
Transitional time is a lot like the savasana we yogis enjoy at the end of our practice; those moments of "rest" at the end of class that mark our time on and off the mat. Savasana is the brief yet significant transition that internalizes and seals into our body and our mind all the benefits we worked so hard for during class.
There's also that transitional time we so often take for granted between our inhalation and exhalation; that subtle, brief, yet crucial transition in the flow of our breath that's necessary for us to survive. There are transition times between the thoughts we think and the words we speak (sometimes we wish those particular transition times were longer!). Needless to say, although transitional times may often go unnoticed, they are indeed pivotal.
It's a lot like aging. We can see photos of someone at different stages of their life but it's the everyday subtle changes in between that make all the difference. It's the transitional moments of their life you don't see that actually carve those lines on their brow, that trace their smile, that imprint the way they hold their jaw, and infuse their gaze with wisdom. It's the transitional times that are more defining than the milestones.
So as we're still in this transitional time of late August, be present here. Linger here, in this interval "in between". When you find yourself needlessly anticipating the upcoming fall, bring yourself back to his "odd uneven time" now. Pay attention to its unique beauty and power. This practice of coming back to the present moment helps you to appreciate what you have in front of you. And while you know all too well that things will change, at least you can say that you appreciated and savored those moments of transition when they were there for you to enjoy them, in all their golden glory.
Copyright 2020, Lisa Grazan. All rights reserved.