Autumn is a time to pause for reflection as the heat, light and activity of Summer diminish; it is a distinct period of transition between the expansive warm energy of Summer and the cold contracting energy of Winter, a time to let go of the pleasures of Summer and to gather and safeguard food and fuel for the season ahead when the earth freezes and growth ceases.
According to traditional Asian medical theory, the Lung is the organ system associated with Autumn; it is closely connected to our external environment via the nasal passages and throat and is vulnerable to changes in temperature and atmosphere. (I remember noticing while traveling in the chilly highlands of Guatemala that women habitually covered their noses and mouths with a shawl during cold weather, when the wind blew or when riding on a bus with open windows).
The energy (Qi) of the Lungs can be supported by eating specific foods, like the fruits which are now in season: apples, pears, grapes and persimmons. These are thought to protect the Lungs by keeping them slightly moist and cool, rather than too cold, dry, hot or damp. Spicy, pungent foods like ginger root, radishes, leeks, onions and garlic also benefit the Lungs by gently increasing local circulation. Appropriate exercise, adequate sleep and mindful awareness of unsettling thought patterns and excessive emotion are additional ways to protect Lung Qi.
Apples (By Grace Schulman)
Rain hazes a street cart's green umbrella
but not its apples, heaped in paper cartons,
dry under cling film. The apple man,
who shirrs his mouth as though eating tart fruit,
exhibits four like racehorses at auction:
Blacktwig, Holland, Crimson King, Salome.
I tried one and its cold grain jolted memory:
a hill where meager apples fell so bruised
that locals wondered why we scooped them up,
my friend and I, in matching navy blazers,
One bite and I heard her laughter toll,
free as school's out, her face flushed in the late sun.
I asked the apple merchant for another,
jaunty as Cezanne's still-life reds and yellows,
having more life than stillness, telling us,
uncut, unpeeled, they are not for the feast
but for themselves, and building strength to fly
at any moment, leap from a skewed bowl,
whirl in the air, and roll off a tilted table.
Fruit-stand vendor, master of Northern Spies,
let a loose apple teach me how to spin
at random, burn in light and rave in shadows.
Bring me a Winesap like the one Eve tasted,
savored and shared, and asked for more.
No fool, she knew that beauty strikes just once,
hard, never in comfort. For that bitter fruit,
tasting of earth and song, I'd risk exile.
The air is bland here. I would forfeit mist
for hail, put on a robe of dandelions,
and run out, broken, to weep and curse- for joy.
"Apples" from The Broken String by Grace Schulman, Houghton Mifflin 2007.