The Chinese seasonal cycle includes a fifth season, just as it includes a fifth element, the season of Late Summer, the season of the Earth Element. As a kid I heard it called “Indian Summer”, having grown up in a family of cattle ranchers from the Great Plains. It literally is “the Dog Days of Summer”, those last hot, lazy days where everything seems saturated with the rays of the Summer Sun. It follows the Summer season of the Fire Element and has the feel of a Summertime hangover when one has had too much fun in the Sun and comes back from the beach sunburnt, hot, tired and covered in sand (Earth). The only activity one wants to participate in is lying in a hammock in a cool breeze.
The growing phase has pretty much come to completion and the fruit is heavy on the vine, in the final stages of ripening and maturing. It is indeed a time of slowing down and beginning to draw inward. The farmer can take a pause and a long breath before the hard work of harvest begins before heading into Autumn and Winter.
In western astrology, and the calendar that follows the cycles of the Sun, Moon, and planets for agricultural purposes, i.e. Solstices, Equinoxes and Cross Quarter days, Late Summer corresponds to Virgo, an Earth Element sign, signifying the feminine mother and early harvest. The Fall Equinox occurs in Late Summer as well. As the days shorten following the Summer Solstice, the Fall Equinox is the beginning of Autumn when night and day are equal, at least for the northern hemisphere. It is Spring for the Southern Hemisphere.
The energy is like that of ripening fruit: heavy, sweet, and full around the middle after having eaten a really good meal. In fact, the taste associated with Earth is SWEET and the color is YELLOW, like ripe bananas, squash or pears. The organs associated with the Earth Element are those of the Middle Jiao, our bellies: the SPLEEN and the STOMACH. The Stomach is likened to the cooking pot that receives all of the food we swallow. The Stomach sits on top of the Spleen, which is the Digestive Fire underneath the cooking pot that helps to break down the food into its digestible and undigestible components. It extracts the Qi from the food to replenish the stores of Qi in the body.
The body parts associated with Earth begin at the opening of the digestive tract, the MOUTH and the SALIVA that contains enzymes to initiate digestion. Food should be chewed slowly to mix well with the saliva. Imbalances in the Earth Element can include problems with chewing and swallowing, as well as digestive complaints. The time of day associated with the Spleen and Stomach is 7 am-11 pm: Breakfast time, the most important meal of the day! At breakfast we fill our gas tanks with Qi to make it through the rest of the day.
There is no mistake that the Earth is called our Mother. She nurtures us, providing everything we need to live: ground to stand on, food, water, materials to build shelters, etc. People and animals who have a lot of Earth energy are maternal, nurturing, kind and easy going. As all good mothers do, they WORRY about their children, and extend SYMPATHY towards them when they are in pain or having a hard time. If Earth types worry too much, then the digestive system is impacted. In dogs this often appears as stress diarrhea/colitis. An imbalanced deficient Earth can also result in an animal that is too clingy and possessive, afraid they are going to lose or be separated from their “mother” or source of nurturance.
In our busy world, separated as we are from the growing seasons, this is a good time to honor that feeling of wanting to slow down a little, to take a nap in the afternoon, to go for a walk barefoot in the grass feeling the warmth of the Earth before fall and winter sets in. Go to your local farmers market and enjoy the abundance of fresh vegetables and fruits. Take in some of that sweetness to feed your Inner child and nurture your belly. Offer your dog some of that sweet goodness as well. Soak up the last warm rays of Sun and slow down a little from the activities of summertime and begin to take stock of those things you would like to release this Autumn.
Give yourself permission to take a break and reconnect with the ground you stand upon. Your dog will thank you for it!