Breathing Into Shoulder Season

I often reach a point during summer where everything feels a little much. The days become too bright, too busy—that sun-tired feeling compounds and the pull to fill extra hours of sunlight with activity begins to seem manic. While I don’t look forward to the darker days of winter any more than the next, I do get to a point where my body craves the mellow light and rhythm of an overcast autumn day.

In this issue, many of our writers addressed the topic of the late autumn shoulder season and how to survive (and thrive). There’s also writing from the ski and snowboard junkies who breathe new life at the first frost, no matter how far away the first snow may be. (I’ve thought a lot about not being one of those snow-obsessed athletes the last few winters. It seems like a mental superpower for winter to be your favorite season.) I recently experienced a wave of dread when I remembered the singletrack trails I’d come to love this year would soon be slicked with compact snow and ice. But, as I read over the content for this coming issue, I found a refreshing perspective.

Think of the coming season as an exhale. No matter if you stay physically very active, your body is tuned to the slowing of the season. The dulling of the landscape as grasses turn and branches become bare. The absence of the thrum of insects and lawnmowers. The earlier arrival of dusk. There is beauty and healing to be found in the respite as the natural world settles for winter.

Our writers covered topics like the physical benefits of long, slow distance running and the neurological reset that can be achieved with structured breathing. There are arguments for the lost art of walking in the woods, making your own elderberry syrup (a popular immune-booster in my house with a preschool-aged son), and considering the difference between beauty and the sublime when nature shows her harsh side. Learn how to throw a winter solstice party with your friends to celebrate the darkest day of the year this December, rather than dread it.

These quiet moments don’t mean you should give up getting outside. You absolutely should bundle up and experience all that shoulder season has to offer, pelting rain or not. In my experience, there’s nothing quite as cleansing as standing in an open landscape as a lung-sweeping wind pushes past. (Check out our feature on low-elevation hikes in the channeled scablands for an experience like this.) And then, of course, you can indulge in the stoke about the coming snow: our winter weather predictions, favorite new gear and ski resort experiences, and some one-liners you can keep in mind as you hit the mountain to begin a new season.

This trail runner will be trying to apply the theory of long, slow distance (with headlamp) to multiple aspects of her life and trying not to resent the ice. I’ll be serving up elderberry syrup every week. And I’ve promised a friend I’ll learn to Nordic ski.

Lisa Laughlin, Managing Editor

Cover photo courtesy Lisa Laughlin

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