September 2018. As I write this piece, I am aware of a sense of anticipation of pending change and there is something very seasonal about this. In the Chinese Medicine theories, everything can be discussed in terms of the Five Elements which are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. In the standard arrangement of the Five Elements the Earth appears in between the Fire and the Metal, creating a fifth phase; if this cyclical pattern of five phases is applied to the seasons, the Fire corresponds to Summer, the Metal corresponds to Autumn and the Earth takes the space of a fifth season which we term Late Summer. Late Summer is the season of fruitfulness and harvest, a season to pause and a time to sit back, relax and take stock.
In another arrangement of the Five Elements, Earth appears four times in the pattern, in between each of the other four Elements. In this position Earth represents the transition from one phase to another. This alternative arrangement represents the other main quality of the Earth which is to act as a pivot for change, something that is absolutely critical to the cycles and rhythms of life. In this arrangement, it is the Earth phase that Spring tips into Summer, Summer into Autumn and so on; the influence of the Earth phase is to invite and enable change from one state of energy to another. So at the moment we are in Late Summer, the season of Earth, but we are also in the transitionary phase between the Summer and Autumn which in itself evokes the transitionary nature of the Earth Element. Basically whichever way you look at it, this is a great time for change and many of us will be dealing with considerable changes over the next few weeks.
It is appropriate for our household to be moving into this period of change, especially in the year of the Earth Dog, a year strongly associated with Earth; we have one going off to university, another changing schools. Many families come to this time of year with mixed emotions of excitement and trepidation; young children will start nursery for the first time, slightly older children will start a new year at school or even a new school. This is also a time when many young adults are likely to be making their first forays out into the big wide world, whether starting college or university, travelling around the world or stepping into their first proper job. At each stage, the leap may seem simultaneously absolutely necessary and frighteningly too far, both to the child and to the parents! In a few short weeks we will be able to look back and laugh at ourselves for being worried once we realise that they were perfectly ready for the new phase, indeed that the new phase is vitally important for their ongoing development.
This process of graduated development echoes in nature, as do so many of our stages in life. We can see the same combination of necessity and trepidation when the young bird first stands on the edge of the nest, when it first makes the leap down onto the nearest branch, when it first flies across to the next tree. All being well, one day they will find the wind catches them under their wing and allow them to truly soar, carrying them out into the world where they will go without the need for a backward glance.
We want the same for our children, we want them to be brave enough to make the leap and adaptable enough to find their balance when they do. We want them to be filled with the confidence and strength they need to soar, yet able to hold onto the deep sense of feeling rooted, feeling loved and supported. In my mind the most important thing to send them off with is a sense of feeling as though they really are ‘enough’, whatever that ‘enough’ relates to. Whether we send them out with a new satchel, a shiny new lunch box, a clean set of sheets or maybe just a kiss on the cheek and a wave at the door, the real gift to send them off with is the confidence to know that they are ‘enough’, and that they matter. And as for those left behind watching them fly off, if you need a bit of emotional support to help you adjust, you know where to find me!