Letter from PublisherSep 30, 2020 ● By Peggy Malecki
I’ve been watching the squirrels gather their winter food supplies, including acorns, walnuts and hickory nuts, conserving summer’s bounty for another season. As the days get cooler, they’re scurrying around the yard, typically with something in their mouth, looking for a storage space. Hmmm, somehow this often seems to involve one of my containers of herbs or tomato plants ...
Likewise, fall is a time for picking apples and pears, storing hard shell squash and putting away food for the winter. This year is no exception, and I’m noticing how many people are taking a more active approach to food preservation. One of the interesting side effects of the pandemic has been an increased interest in revisiting age-old traditions of canning, freezing, dehydrating and otherwise actively engaging in preserving fruits and vegetables for the winter. Yes, this serves a very practical need and ensures there'll be more food to get us through the winter while also allowing us to savor the fruits of the season in the cold months. Yet, prepping, chopping and preserving food can also be a great form of meditation and reflection, focusing our minds on the produce, the cutting board and the process we’re following.
This month’s issue of Natural Awakenings Chicago focuses on stress management. In a year that’s affected everyone, the change of seasons is perhaps an ideal time to take stock of our own stress levels, assess the well-being of those around us and investigate new things we can do every day not just to cope, but to thrive. In our main article, Marlaina Donato offers ways we can rebalance, better manage and re-direct high levels of stress to maintain a healthy body, mind and spirit. We also explore how to get started in journaling, ways to help our kids cope with their own pressures, natural approaches to managing postpartum depression and holistic ways of managing depression. Of course, what we eat in stressful times is so important, and you’ll find some amazing tasty (and healthy) recipes for inspiring breakfasts and gluten-free comfort foods.
It’s not just our bodies and lives that are stressed—the natural world is facing more pressures than ever. Fires, heat waves, droughts, hurricanes, derechos and more have intensified with climate change, and invasive species, temperature zonal changes and other factors are pushing many species to the brink while stressing other natural populations. One such affected species that we all know is the oak tree, which author William Bryant Logan calls “the frame of civilization.” While not the largest or oldest trees on Earth, oaks have been inextricably tied to human civilization from the very beginning.
Oaks support an amazing range of biodiversity and are host plants to more than 500 different species of butterflies and moths alone. Yet their numbers are declining in many areas due to disease, development and other factors. This “keystone species” is an indicator of the health of our ecosystems, and local contributing writer Sheryl DeVore introduces us to a few of the many conservationists in our area working to help native oak populations.
As we journey through fall, please be sure to take time for some self-care and energizing practices. One of my favorite fall activities is gathering and pressing unique leaves I find on daily walks, as well as continuing my habit of taking a photo or two each day to note the progression of the year. Maybe you’ll want to try journaling or meditation, listen to new music, cook a seasonal recipe or find other ways to spend time doing activities that refresh and nurture your spirit.
As always, I urge you to take a mindful trip outside every day just to observe and listen to the natural world. Notice the leaves as they change colors, look for birds still migrating through the area, safely visit a local natural area and savor the changing seasons.