IN COLLEGE, I SPENT MY SUMMERS lifeguarding in South Carolina. Most of us were strangers at the beginning of each season and best friends by the time we left. We lived together, trained together, and experimented with the newfound independence of not living under our parents’ roofs. Those summers were celebrated, so much so that we developed a traditional send-off to mark each guard’s dreaded last day (we were from various countries and states, so school start dates were staggered). A handful of guards, usually those closest to the person leaving, would wake up extra early and “open the beach,” which included setting up sailboats, lifeguard stands, and hundreds of umbrellas and chairs for beachgoers to rent. The departing guard would arrive at their station thrilled to find all of their equipment already set up, and their friends would take them to breakfast (a novelty, as we were usually on the beach by 7 a.m. to set up). In hindsight, it was the embodiment of ritual — a series of small acts, infused with intention, that conveyed more than words ever could.
In Traditional Chinese medicine, late summer is recognized as its own distinct season, spanning mid-August through the fall equinox.
Like most times of transition, late summer comes with an underlying sense of trepidation, as our warmest days are numbered and we brace ourselves to return to work or school and the routines they require. According to Taoist philosophy, the ever-elusive state of equanimity can only be achieved when we live in harmony with nature. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to take up off-grid camping or start foraging for food. Instead, we can simply let our surroundings guide us toward the rituals that will leave us feeling full in every sense of the word:
Symbolized by the earth element, late summer coincides with nature’s most abundant harvest — a signal to reap the benefits of all that we have versus all that we hope to achieve. One simple but sacred way to participate in this abundant mindset is to conclude each day with a gratitude journal, toast, or prayer. Be specific as you call to mind all that you are most grateful for, and remember that anything goes so long as it fills you with feelings of affection or peace.
Late summer is the shortest season, but it can also be one of the most potent. As our warm weather days wind down, we’re reminded that even relationships should be measured for quality over quantity. In an effort to make the most of the final days of summer socializing, take stock of the people who leave you feeling most seen, supported, and safe. Time is your most valuable asset — curate how you spend it with care.
The earth element is synonymous with being centered and, when in balance, it’s representative of stability. Some tried-and-true practices for grounding include: walking in nature (ideally without your phone), sitting or lying on the earth, self-massage, and touching dirt (anything counts, from potted plants to sand at the beach). Spend time with the ground beneath you and it will support all that you hope to manifest.
Late summer concludes the expansive and outbound yang energy of summer while introducing the more introspective yin qualities that are associated with winter. Like all transitions, this shift can cause friction if we resist the pull to pause. Instead, make space for quietude by revisiting passive pastimes like bathing, baking, or knitting.
The simple act of gathering doesn’t guarantee a good time. Some of my favorite techniques for curating connections include prompts — like, What have you learned as of late? Or, related to the first point above, What are you most grateful for? In the same way we might follow a recipe to create a meal, we can return to the following checklist whenever we’re struggling to foster connection:
Listen to learn
The ultimate ritual for reaping the benefits of late summer comes in the form of gathering. Whether you organize a picnic in the park or cook an elaborate 3-course meal, holding space for others, with food as the vehicle for connection, is the ultimate modern method for participating in this harvest time. Consider seasonal foods such as watermelon, strawberries, and tomatoes as you craft your menu, and invite others to participate by offering their own seasonal cravings.
Instead of mourning summer’s departure, I encourage you to reap the benefits of all that late summer has to offer. As an invitation to gather and ground, late summer is the ideal time to return to who and what matters most. Spend time with those who nourish your soul, eat seasonal foods begging to be savored, and give thanks to the ground beneath you.
Jenn Tardif Writer
Jenn Tardif is the founder of the mindful collective 3rd Ritual, a certified aromatherapist, and a writer. A devout student of Taoism, yoga, and mindfulness, Tardif is a firm believer that wisdom lights the path to well-being, and has made a lifelong commitment to share the teachings with anyone curious enough to learn more.
Jessa Carter Photographer
Jessa Carter (she/her) is a multimodal omnidisciplinary artist compelled toward the collapsing of categories, systems thinking, and collective healing. Carter’s work/play traverses ecosystem and egosystem to trace the leading lines of value, ownership, authorship, identity, time, performativity, language, and labor.