When people live in close contact with the natural world and depend upon it for sustenance and shelter, they must stay in touch with the way things come and go, with seasons of abundance and times when the things they need can’t be found. Technology has divorced us from the natural cycles of life, but in the life of nature (and in traditional European life), winter brought a halt to growth and there were less animals and plants around that could help provide ancestral peoples with their sustenance. But then, winter breaks and new life emerges; saplings grow, so we can make new tools and rebuild huts; tubers become available in the ground, for quick and easy meals; the other animals come out to play and our dietary range expands with the new life. But it’s not just about winter lack and spring plenty. There are countless different types of seasons, when plants and animals come into fruition or grow plump, as well as when conditions don’t suit growth and some animals go into hibernation, or drop leaves or lose weight to adapt.
When we live in close contact with nature, we have to be alert to signs of health and deterioration, flourishing numbers and more lean times – as well as how to survive and even learn to thrive in them. We need to keep an eye on what the signs of nature mean – if a particular type of tree isn’t flowering this year, will there be honey in that valley? If those birds appear earlier than usual, does that mean there will be more bears around? To live with natural cycles of growth, we must be attuned to the ways of the natural world as well as to the signs we already know so well, which come with an urbanized way of life. And relearning how to do these things gets us back in touch with a deep, ancestral part of ourselves that is nourishing and refreshing.