Hazy Days of Summer and the Coming Change

Travis Kern, L.Ac.

Here in the Pacific NW, it takes a while for the weather to reflect the season. In fact, it's common wisdom in Portland that if you schedule an event outdoors before the 4th of July and it rains, well, you should have known better. It rains a lot here. After the 4th though, you're golden. Work and play outside to your heart's content. It will be dry, warm, and the sun will be shining. It is extra interesting to me then that the last moon of summer is today, July 12th. For the next thirty days we will experience the final moon cycle for this season that seems to have just begun. What is going on?

Chinese Cosmology

The way that the ancient Chinese understood the universe is incredibly complex. Like all developed ancient cultures, the sages of the past looked to the stars to understand what was happening on the earth, and they took cues from the cyclical movement of the cosmos. Over millennia, this observation developed into understanding and eventually into concrete systems to explain current events, guide healthy activity, and even predict what might happen in the future. The ancient Chinese were masters of patterns and applied what they found to all aspects of life. 

Based on ancient observations and teachings, the Chinese divide the year into four seasons which each have 3 moons. A moon is counted at the new moon, when the sky is dark and no moon is visible, and progresses through the full moon until the next dark sky and its new moon. This gives us 12 moons per year (roughly, there are exceptions like with everything).

Each of these moons is also divided into two qi movements or "qi nodes" that give us further insight into the movement of the qi during that part of any season. That gives us a total of 24 qi nodes for the year. Keeping track of these different movements throughout the year can help us dive more deeply into matching our food and activites to what is happening in the broader context of the season and the stars. 

How Does It Work?

To create some context for all this moon and qi node stuff, let's look at some broad strokes first:

Every season's first moon is when the nature of that season is just beginning to take hold so it always still feels like the season right before. Then every season's last moon is when the season feels like it is finally in full bloom. So it takes the course of the three moons for the qi of a season to build up enough to push out into our environments. Of course one way to decide what season you are in has to do with the temperature of the air and the amount of rain or snow a place gets, but we all know that the weather is not the same everywhere in the world. But the nature of season is constant in every part of the planet, even if there might still be snow on the ground in Chicago in April. That is, there are other factors that describe any given season beyond the temperature and the amount of sunshine. We know, for example. that Spring is the season for renewal and growth (the plants come back, the flowers bloom), the Summer is a time of activity and change (it's generally warm out, the days are longer to get more done), the Fall is a time of harvest and preparation (an abundance of crops, a time to prepare and preserve for the lean months coming), and of course the Winter is a time for going slow, preserving your energy, and contemplating. And of course cuddles. Never forget about the cuddles, though they work well in any season.

Each season has is own nature that shapes what we do, what the plants and animals do, and finding harmony with that cycle is one of the paths to good living.

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. 


3rd Moon of Summer

The warmth of Yang Qi is everywhere. The season is in full swing.

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Qi Node: Greater Heat (Da Shu)

July 22nd marks the culmination of the summer energy and the last build up to the Full Moon, when the qi will begin to descend to Fall.

Things to Eat:

Peaches and Stone Fruits
Citrus of all kinds
Snap peas and Green Beans
Tropical Fruit
Fresh Cheeses like Mozzarella and Chevre
Fish and Seafood

Things to Do:

Eat lighter meals
Enjoy a nice lager
Sit on the back porch
Keep getting up with the sun
Bake something sweet and delicious
Start gathering your canning supplies

Things to Cook:

Fish Tacos with Pineapple Slaw and Chipotle Cream

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12 oz firm white fish (Hake, cod, halibut, or sole)
2 slices of fresh whole pineapple, ½ inch thick (no need to core)
1½ cups cabbage, shredded
1 lime, zested and cut in half
½ cup plus 1 tbsp sour cream
¼ cup diced onions,1/4 inch dice
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tsp sugar
¾ tsp sea salt, divided
½ tsp freshly ground pepper, divided
½ tsp red pepper, divided
¼ tsp cumin
½ - 1 chipotle, finely diced (according to taste)
8 Corn tortilla's

1. Heat grill.
2. Season fish with ¼ tsp pepper, ¼ tsp sea salt and ¼ tsp red pepper.
3. Squeeze juice from ½ lime over fish. Set aside.
4. Place cabbage, onions and cilantro into a medium sized bowl. 
5. Add 1 tbsp sour cream, juice from ½ lime, 1/2 the lime zest, sugar, ¼ tsp red pepper, ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper, and ½ tsp
sea salt. Mix all ingredients together. Then pour over the cabbage mixture and toss to combine.
6. Place ½ cup sour cream, chipotle, and cumin into small bowl. Mix well to incorporate all ingredients. Set aside. This will be your chipotle cream topping
7. Lightly oil a piece of aluminum foil for the grill and place fish on top of foil (prevents the fish from falling through the grate).
8. Cook fish for 10- 12 minutes, turning once during cooking time, or until fish is white and flaky (time is dependent
on thickness of fish fillet).
9. At the same time the fish is cooking, place pineapple slices on open grill, the amount of time to caramelize is
about the same time for the fish,10-12 minutes. Turn once half way through cooking.
10. Warm corn tortilla's on the grill (if there is room), or wrap them in aluminum foil and place in the oven to warm at
350 for 15 to 20 minutes.
11. Once fish is done, remove from grill and cover with foil to keep warm.
12. Remove pineapple from the grill and allow to cool a few minutes for handling.
13. Cut pineapple slices away from the core and chop.
14. Add pineapple to cabbage mixture and toss to combine.
15. Assemble tacos, evenly dividing the fish, pineapple slaw, and chipotle cream onto the warm corn tortillas.
16. Serve immediately.

Summer and the Command of Yang Qi

Travis Kern, L.Ac.

The Summer season is full of classic images and experiences like beach lounging, hiking and swimming, backyard barbecues, and outdoor fun. It's a season of adventure and exploration, energized by the warmth in the air and by the extra long days that make us forget how late the hour might actually be. Summer is the fruition of a promise made in earliest days of Spring when the long dormant seeds and hibernating animals just began to stir. The ground was still cold, and in some places covered in snow, when the movement of the seasons first whispered the words that reanimated the sleeping Yang. 

Understanding Yin and Yang

Imagine a burning oil lamp. The oil is dominated by Yin. It is substantive, slow moving, tangible. The fire burning on the lamp is dominated by Yang. It is hot, moving, and bright. The place where the fire touches the oil, where the oil transforms into the flame, is the point where we can witness the transformation of yin into yang. This relationship is infinitely divisible such that we can find Yin in things that are Yang like fire and we can find aspects of Yang in things that are Yin like oil. 

Yin and Yang are two forces at play in the entirety of existence. They are words that represent different aspects of substance and activity. Yin and Yang are mutually dependent, mutually consuming, and constantly changing into one another. They are not static qualities but instead are dynamic descriptors that work at the most macro and micro levels. They are not religious terms or even ideas that represent a specific belief system. They were imagined and codified by ancient people trying to understand the world around them, and they have stood the self-critical test of time. 

Summer is the time for doing, for achieving the things you thought about and imagined over the Winter and those same things that you started to make happen in the Spring. Now is the time to bring your ideas into reality and set yourself up for the leaner and colder times of the coming Winter season. 

For now though, enjoy the weather and your outside times! Get grilling. Harvest some backyard veggies or visit your local farmers market. In the summer season you can enjoy your favorite cold treats and indulge in the fruits of the season like Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Eggplants, and Zucchini. Get up earlier and stay up later. This is the time in the year when you can really flex your boundaries and explore the complexity of living. 

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As always, foods in season and grown locally are you best friends.

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Get Outside and Get Moving. Summer is the time of activity.

Things to Eat:

Berries of every kind
Tomatoes and Peppers
Snap peas and Green Beans
Eggplant, Zucchini, and Summer Squash
Fresh Cheeses like Mozzarella and Chevre
Bright herbs like Basil, Mint, and Cilantro
Fish and Seafood

Things to Do:

Eat lighter meals
Build that playhouse
Sit on the back porch
Enjoy a glass of rose
Get up earlier than you usually do
Enjoy the sunsets, even when they're late
Spend time near moving rivers and streams

Things to Cook:

Grilled Beet, Quinoa, and Feta Salad

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2 large red beets*
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2-3 handfuls loose leaf lettuce (like Arugula, Red Leaf Lettuce, Curly Endive)
1 cup cooked quinoa, cooled
¼ cup roasted almonds, whole or sliced
1 ounce feta

2 whole scallions, minced
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar***
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

2 slices sourdough bread
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic

1. Light Grill to medium-low heat.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Scrub beets well and slice off the top and bottom then remove any wispy parts of the
beet. Drop into the boiling water and cook for 12-15 minutes, just until the beet starts to be tender. Drain and rinse with
cold water. Let sit until cool enough to handle.
3. Take the parboiled beet and slice into ¼" slices. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon
pepper. Place beet slices on the grill and cook until charred on both sides, 6-8 minutes per side (depending on heat.)
Remove and quarter each slice.
4. Combine lettuce, quinoa, almonds, and feta in a large bowl. Add cooked beets and toss to combine.
5. In a small food processor or blender, combine scallions, olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Run until dressing has
6. Dress salad if desired or serve dressing on the side.
7. In addition to the salad, to make the garlic toast, brush sliced bread with olive oil. Cut the end off the garlic clove and
rub on the bread. Grill along side the beets but only for 30-60 seconds on each side (if grill is hot.) Serve salad with
slices of toast or cut into cubes and use as croutons.

*Beets are one vegetable that if it looks healthy, I won't peel. However, if you want to peel the beets. Let cool after parboiling
and peeling before cutting into slices.

**This makes a little extra dressing but I find the blender/food processor handles it a bit better. Store extra dressing in an
airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.

***I love the light, refreshing taste champagne vinegar adds to vinaigrette, however, if you can't find it, apple cider or white
balsamic works as well.

Recipe by Naturally Ella at http://naturallyella.com/2014/05/20/grilled-beet-quinoa-and-feta-salad/