We enter the final harvest time which we call Indian Summer around August 23rd when the back-to-school frenzy begins, declaring Summer is over and Autumn is here. Yet it doesn’t seem like Fall, and Summer is still lingering. Indian Summer has qualities of both, warm in the day with bursts of heavy heat and then cooler in the evening. In some areas like here in Southern California, these are the hottest days bringing wildfires and drought. It’s also the time when many Native American tribes gathered to celebrate a successful hunt and harvest end and that may be the origin of the name for this time period.

The Chinese regard Indian Summer as a distinct fifth season, which relates to the earth element, digestion and the stomach, spleen, and pancreas in Chinese medicine. In parts of old Europe, it was called ‘Gypsy Summer or St. Martin’s Summer.’ During this time many grains are harvested, such as hops, oats, and certain types of wheat and barley. Then in the first few weeks of October, wine grapes must be plucked before they rot in the coming rains.

I remember picking grapes in a country village near Bordeaux in my early twenties (faire les vendanges) and how quickly we had to pick the already fermenting grapes before the October storms arrived. To increase our speed we sang French songs with our picking partners on the other side of the grapevines. It was an old village custom to celebrate the season’s end by stomping on the grapes to make new wine which we then drank for dinner that night until everyone was soused. The next day fierce rains arrived, marking the onset of Fall.

So Indian Summer is the season of bread and wine, the two staples of ancient civilizations, making it a good time to connect spiritually with our agrarian ancestors. Thankfully this late harvest cycle still continues and we can honor it by celebrating with bread, wine, and friends or in delicious solitude. As a meditation, you could recall the vital role these two foods, along with beer and cheese, have played in sustaining our human evolution and have a toast in remembrance. Ancestral Cheers!