I have not had a garden before. (Well, I did when I lived in Portland, Oregon, but on a recent trip to the pacific northwest, my sister said with disdain, “These people aren’t gardeners. They could throw seeds out the window and they’d sprout here. That doesn’t count at all.”)
Indeed, summer gardening in the South is… not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. Mostly sweat.
I was wisely advised to start small. So in my one little raised veggie bed, I’ve started with tulsi (holy basil), marigolds, and 6 okra plants, which have dwindled down to 2. If these guys make it, then later in the summer I’ll plant some new veggies for a fall harvest.
Here’s what I’ve discovered: Not only do I have to protect the plants from excess heat and dryness, I have to protect the gardener! Put the oxygen mask on yourself first, you know…
So after some late afternoon watering expeditions that felt sub-Saharan, I now make my daily forays to love on my veggies just after sunrise. It’s deliciously cool and the grass is wet with dew. The okra are just stretching awake with the light, and Nature is stirring with energy. Today I caught this guy visiting my neighbor’s yard.
I love spending these precious moments with my hands in the dirt and my senses open to the delicious nourishment of the living planet. It always leaves me feeling alive and connected. It reminds me what matters, what invokes wonder, and what makes me thrive.
In the heat of summer, which can be relentless and punishing here in the South, it’s important to protect ourselves from the perils of high pitta. Keeping cool is obviously medicinal – carry a hat, stay indoors during the hottest mid-day hours, and drink LOTS of water. Here are a couple more good summer medicines to tuck into your mental medicine cabinet….
Sweet foods. The sweet flavor is actually cooling! Of course, this does not include refined sugars (which are inflammatory), but wholesome, natural sweet foods are cooling internally. Load up on what Nature is giving us in the way of sweet summer fruits – berries, peaches, watermelon (of course!), cherries. Better yet, go out and pick them yourself (in the morning or evening!) and get your hands in the dirt. Other sweet cooling foods are zucchini, yellow squash, cucumber, organic cow’s milk, avocado, coconut, basmati rice, fennel, cilantro and mint.
Eye protection. There is a high concentration of pitta in the eyes, called alochaka pitta. This makes the eyes vulnerable to pitta aggravation in high heat or bright light. So wear your shades! A spritz of pure rose water over the eyes is also beneficial when it’s steamy out. A simple cold water compress over the eyes can be very nourishing after a day of computer work.
Swimming. This is another obvious choice – immersing the body in water is balancing to pitta dosha in every way. Aside from cooling the body, it helps jolt the mind out of the “get it done” mindset, and brings it to an elemental experience. Which leads to the next point…
Take a break. Pitta tends to be a bit of a task-master. It can get very focused on getting the job done. In this season when pitta tends towards elevation anyway, it is particularly important to keep that impulse in check. Don’t let yourself burn the candle at both ends. Give up perfectionism. Leave the office an hour early. Send your newsletter a few days late. Skip a meeting. It’s good for you!