“We’ve gotten stuck in the summer mode, in chronic summer… In fall and winter we should move into a new mode, a contractive and restorative mode… like coming home at the end of the day… with a sense of settling, of slowing down, of peace, of belonging, of gratitude and of generosity… being more vulnerable, more present with fewer people who mean more to us.”
Dallas Hartwig (my paraphrase from an interview with Caroline Leaf)
The plan of nature for the good human life has much nuance. As Hesiod saw and expressed in Works and Days, this plan includes the gift of seasons, and how they can channel our lives into nourishing and fruitful rhythms.
What I found most arresting in what I heard from Dallas Hartwig was the diagnosis that we are stuck in chronic summer. The summer mode is characterized by long hours of work and its corresponding productivity. This of course has its place, or rather its time in the rhythm of human life. But it is not the ultimate mode; and in any case it is surely not the only mode.
Contemporary patterns of thought often tend to be cemented into unyielding patterns of action by the technologies that enable and encourage these patterns. Think of chronic summer: consistent long hours of work and productivity that follow from our technologies and mindset that remove our work and daily habits from the realities of earth and natural world, of day and night, of body and soul, of community and relationship; and of seasons.
Nature has prescribed, perhaps without fanfare but nonetheless clearly and powerfully, another mode. It is a mode of contracting and re-centering, a mode to restore and rejuvenate. The busyness of summer mode must be set aside so that we can refocus and come closer once again to the kinds of things that give meaning to the whole cycle of life.
Being more present with fewer people. What a powerful and attractive idea, even if a challenging one. The current situation in our nation and world can actually be an extra push in the direction of winter mode. Yet we cannot simply be pushed. We must open our eyes and heart to receive the gift of slowdown and of restoration. We can set aside the hurly burly. We can make a sacrifice of the productivity we forego.
And we can receive the gift of presence with fewer people who mean more to us. This winter.
Dallas Hartwig is co-founder of the Whole30 program and co-author of two New York Times bestselling books — It Starts With Food and The Whole30. His latest book is The 4 Season Solution. I have not read and thus cannot comment on these books. This post is simply sharing something I found very helpful in an interview with Mr. Hartwig.
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