August is hot and fiery. Dry, desert climates often are physically on fire about now, while family rhythms are “thrown to the wind.” Currently, there also seems to be an underlying air of internal fire—simultaneous worry about the foreboding unknown flickering against hopeful possibilities for recreating a value-driven life.

As the heat encircles us, how do we harness its energy for useful purposes? How has COVID changed us at present? What silver lining may we capture as we transition from this crazy, unprecedented season into a new version of fall routine? With summer’s bounty in full bloom, food can be a perfect channel to help cultivate internal intention and external attention.

Internally, taking time to nourish the body with ripe fruits of the season bursting with antioxidants and phytonutrients will strengthen our body’s complex immune system. We can mindfully cook and eat with gratitude for our farmers and nature, create more stillness and less noise and consciously reduce mental chatter. Externally, consider this seasonal shift a sign to begin transitioning from constant on-the-go, outside social-distancing, bucket-list adventures to daily down time, fall family rhythms and household routines.

For me, fall always comes with diverting attention back into the kitchen. Being outside with food is dreamy—frequenting the farmers market, picking raspberries at The Hope Garden, cooking in a Dutch oven or over a grill, eating out of a mess kit beside an alpine lake—and the kitchen now feels somewhat unfamiliar. I have to carve out time to cook piles of veggies, batch-prepare basil pesto and kale chips and preserve fruits and berries. It’s a mind-shift back to baking well-balanced, hiking goodies with my kids instead of relying on convenient bars. By no means do these endeavors occur daily; planning is a concerted effort.

While it may seem impossible to unhurry in August, consider the importance of returning just slightly to family rhythms, including meal prep. Be intentional about scheduling food activities with kids and friends (to COVID-comfort): Incite curiosity about kohrabi and bok choy; pierce colorful melon skewers; pick berries in the woods; pluck herbs off stems to pulverize into a special sauce. Taking time for meaningful food experiences gives the nervous system respite from daily stressors, invites presence into the moment and reminds us about life’s truest abundances—summer food, family, friendships, gratitude and quality time together.

It’s easy for our attention to divert to myriad other activities. Therefore, a second piece to the perspective-shift puzzle is attention: Attend to creating space in busy summer bustle to carry out intentions; attend to the effort to gather, chop, pit and pour; attend to our children’s musings on funny plant shapes, textures and tastes. With focused attention, we become more mindful about our values, presence with each other and the simple life. Family food becomes pleasant versus being a chore.

Consider how food intention and attention can help you and your family develop rhythms, even amidst still-unanswered questions about uncertain back-to-school scenarios. Consider how a few, focused moves toward meal routines foster connections with each other and seasonal goodness, even in pandemic paranoia. Then, when September arrives, we’ll possess more clarity when navigating the hustle to shift routines, yet again. Perhaps also we’ll be internally nourished and externally habituated to fall into the newest normal.

Jamie Truppi, MSN, is an integrative nutritionist focusing on functional foods and family wellness.

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