Falling Leaves and Changing Winds

Travis Kern, L.Ac.

The transition from Summer to Fall is a marked one in most parts of the US. Not only do the days start to shorten and the temperatures get cooler but many people start to get excited about the coming holiday seasons. Whether spending time with family or loved ones, going on trips, playing out meaningful traditions, or just getting a few minutes of pensive reflection, the fall season reminds us all of the continuous change intrinsic to all of our environments.

Historically and still in many parts of the world, Fall is the time of harvesting and fruition; of storing away the potent Yang that has dominated these last several months so that in the coming months ruled by the dark and cold Yin, we have enough motive force to sustain our lives and activities. This process is easiest to see in the picking, processing, and canning of late summer fruits and vegetables. If you’ve ever grown tomatoes or green beans, you know that those four plants you started in May are now overfilled with ripe fruit, more than you could ever eat, and it’s time to pack their nutrients away to help satisfy your appetites come Winter.

But it is not only in food and eating that the Fall season can be experienced. Indeed, our activity and movement during this time of year also changes. Many of us know the feeling of wanting to curl up on the couch with a warm drink and watch our favourite films or read a great book. Humans start to feel slower and disinclined to make intense physical efforts. This tendency is our natural movement toward the hibernation of the eventual winter season when we need to conserve our energy and our effort because making big things happen during the cold of the coming Winter can be difficult and almost always depleting.

Fall is also the Chinese Medicine season of dryness and even though in many parts of the country fall brings increased rain, the air begins to chap our faces and lips and the ground starts to crack as the chill begins, reflecting the systemic dryness of the season. Foods that are moistening and supportive of the lung from a Chinese Medicine point of view are a must during this time of year.

The Interaction of Yin and Yang


The classic Taiji symbol has been common in American consciousness since the early 90s at least. That swirl of white and black doesn’t usually draw profound contemplation from Western people but it is indeed a powerfully simple image of a very complex idea. It would be easy to imagine that Yin and Yang have moral qualities because of our Western dualistic mindset (for more on that check out this blog post). Yet, the dark and cold qualities of Yin are not bad things just as the movement and activity of Yang are not good things. They have no moral dimension and they are both absolutely required in order for life to move forward and flourish.

What is movement with no substance or earth with no animation? The interaction of Yin and Yang form the essential elements of all things both living and not. They are descriptors of things and of changes between states of being. They can be used as all the parts of speech and each aspect gives us more insight into the complexity of existence. Profound indeed.

But it’s hot where I live. Like, all the time. In every season…

When we talk about the changes in season, the theories we expound on here are rooted in the the patterns and times of Earth’s Northern Hemisphere and a latitude roughly equivalent to central France. If you lived in Australia or Brasil, your seasons would happen in different months but they would still happen. And though most of us think of the change in season as a change in the temperature of the air, the ancient Chinese considered many more factors than the sensation of hot or cold in the air. Spring is the time when new plants sprout and grow powerfully. Summer provides the necessary sunlight to grow the bulk of our food. Fall is the time of harvest and storage. Winter is the season of conservation and contemplation. Regardless of the exact temperature of your particular locale, these qualities present themselves in every place, every year. OF course we have all experienced a warmer Christmas or a really wet autumn, but these weather based assessments are only one aspect of the season. Tapping into how you feel in your body, of what your experience is during any given month in the year is the best way to begin to sense the environmental and cosmic changes that are happening all the time.

This Moon and the Coming Qi Node

Knowing how cosmic changes affect us on our little blue planet is no small feat. I use calendar notes and updates to keep me in the loop and even then I planted my tomatoes two days after a full moon (those in the know are aghast and those that aren't, let's just say you're not supposed to plant things after a full moon). Knowing your seasons can continue to live in the broad strokes but if you are interested, the rabbit hole can go as deep as you like. 


2nd Moon of Autumn

September 9th was the second moon in the fall seasonal cycle. The first moon is when the season’s movement begins and by the 2nd moon, humans start to feel the qualities we associate with the season. By the 3rd moon, the season feels in full swing.


Qi Node: Autumnal Equinox (Qiu Fen)

September 22nd marks the even divide between daytime and nighttime where the cooler days and falling leaves mark the tangible presence of Autumn

Things to Eat:

Pears and Apples
Winter Squash like Butternut and Pumpkin
Last of the veges from the garden
Sweet potatoes, carrots, and parsnips
Medium aged cheese like Brie and Roblochon
The best cuts of beef

Things to Do:

Eat lighter meals, maybe skip a dinner
Switch to darker brews of all your drinks
Start collecting your cool weather gear
Keep your neck covered when outside
Bake some pumpkin bread
Take a canning class in your area

Things to Cook:


broccoli rabe acorn squash.jpg

serves: 8 as a side, 4 as a main

notes: You can make your own balsamic glaze by reducing balsamic vinegar in a saucepan, but I find it easier (and usually economically advantageous) to buy a pre-made, high-quality glaze. If you have dried rosemary on hand, you could substitute it for the fresh by reducing the amount to 2 teaspoons. Last one: I used the fancy, truffled marcona almonds from Trader Joe's for the garnish here and it was spectacular.

2 small-medium acorn squashes
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil, divided
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary (from roughly 1 sprig)
½ cup quinoa, rinsed
1 cup vegetable stock
1 medium shallot, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage (from roughly 1 sprig)
1 clove of garlic, peeled and minced
½ bunch broccoli rabe, tough ends of stems trimmed
3 tablespoons dried currants
2 tablespoons balsamic glaze
3 tablespoons marcona almonds, chopped
Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut the acorn squashes in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and stringy bits with a spoon. Then, cut each of the seeded squash halves in half once more. You should have 8 evenly sized wedges once you’re done with both squashes.

Place the squash wedges facing up on the parchment-lined baking tray. Brush the squash flesh with about half of the olive oil. Season all of the squash with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the minced rosemary over top. Slide the tray into the oven and roast the squash for 35-40 minutes, or until the squash is tender.

While the squash is roasting, combine the rinsed quinoa, vegetable stock, and a pinch of salt in a medium saucepan. Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, or until all of the stock is absorbed and the quinoa has puffed up. Set aside.

In a large pot with a well-fitting lid, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced shallots to the pot and stir. Cook until shallots are translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the diced celery and carrot and stir. Cook until all of the vegetables are slightly soft, about 3 minutes. Add the minced sage and garlic to the pot and stir. Chop the broccoli rabe into bite-sized pieces and add it to the pot.

Stir the vegetables to coat and season with salt and pepper. Add a ¼ cup of water to the pot and place the lid on top. Let the broccoli rabe steam in the pot for about 3-4 minutes. Then, remove the lid and stir in the cooked quinoa and dried currants. Remove the pot from the heat.

Place roasted squash wedges on a serving platter and carefully spoon the broccoli rabe and quinoa stuffing into the natural cavities of the squash. Drizzle all of the stuffed squash pieces with the balsamic glaze and garnish with the chopped marcona almonds. Serve immediately.

Recipe Credit: The First Mess