Mini Season -White Dew

Dewdrops on a blade of grass,
Having so little time
Before the sun rises
Let not the autumn wind
Blow so quickly on the field
 --Dogen Zenji

Dogen Zenji is the founder of Soto Zen School of Buddhism and provides us with a perfect reflection on the mini season of White Dew.

The mini seasons were originally created by the ancient Chinese and then adapted by the Japanese in 1685.(1) 

The White Dew season runs from September 7 until September 21 and is made up of three micro-seasons.  These micro-seasons are:

  • White Dew on Grass (Sep. 7-Sep 11)
  • The Wagtail Calls (Sep. 12-Sep 16)
  • The Swallows Leave (Sep 17 -Sep 21)

White Dew marks the transition from summer to autumn. It is a time where the days are still hot, but there can be a chill in the air. The name White Dew originated because people thought that the dew forming on the plants at this time of year had a cloudy appearance.(2)

Grasses

The haiku and kigo

One way that I like to honor and celebrate the ever changing seasons is through the writing of haiku. 

Haiku, which originated in Japan in the 17th century, is described as “one breath poetry”. (3) Traditional Haikus are short in form, concise in their wording, and have a seasonal reference known as a “kigo”.  The role of the kigo is to place your haiku in a certain time of year. 

The potential list of seasonal words is vast and can be tailored to your own location.  The New Zealand Poetry Society’s article, “Seasoning Your Haiku” provides links to a couple of kigo databases that can be very helpful when writing a haiku.  These databases separate the kigo into different categories including: Seasons, Earth, Humanity, Plants, Animals, and Observances.  One database is aptly titled “Five Hundred Essential Japanese Seasonal Worlds”. So there are a lot of words to choose from when writing of a seasonal haiku. 


The producers of the Season by Season podcast provide us with a somewhat shorter list of words related to the mini season of White Dew.  There list includes:

Autumn grasses, the seven flowers of autumn, quail, dew, traveling, journeys, new beginnings, back to school, darkening days, autumn sunsets, autumn vigor, crows, ripening fruits, mushrooms, grapes, the harvest moon, horse chestnuts, roadside flowers of cosmos and goldenrod, respect for the aged day, Bilbo Baggins’s and Frodo’s birthday, grapes.

As you can see from this list, some of these kigo are tailored to a certain location or culture. As a result, I might not get the Bilbo Baggins birthday reference, but I do understand the use of goldenrod as a kigo.

The kigo in haiku

Using the kigos of crow, moon and wind as a guide, I found several haikus from the early masters that correspond with the season of White Dew.

Crow

On a withered branch
A crow is perched
An autumn evening.
--Basho
They end their flight
one by one--
crows at dusk
--Buson

Moon

Really fragile
The old mother cries alone.
The friend of the moon.
--Basho
Yellow autumn moon . . .
Unimpressed the scarecrow stands
Simply looking bored
--Issa

Wind

Cruel autumn wind
cutting to the very bones . . .
Of my poor scarecrow
--Issa
One by one
Everyone has left
Autumn Wind
--Issa

I am really drawn to Issa’s haiku about wind. These two examples convey a bit of sadness with the changing season. These haikus offer a different tone than what is found in spring or summer haiku.

Do you have a favorite haiku that might fit this season? Feel free to share below. 


Special thanks to Lisa from Tao-Talk.com who provided me with a link to the Five Hundred Essential Japanese Seasonal Words page. That page was the beginning of the this post.

Resources

  1. Noticing the 72 Seasons
  2. 72 Seasons App
  3. Haiku: A Short Introduction – An Old Pond Comic by Jessica Tremblay
  4. NZPS: Seasoning your Haiku
  5. Season by Season
  6. Poetry Foundation: Basho
  7. Poetry Foundation: Kobayashi Issa
  8. Poetry Foundation: Yosa Buson


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17 thoughts on “Mini Season -White Dew

Add yours

  1. A wonderful post, Mark! I love the fact that everything here is about nature which is certainly following in the spirit of the original ancient verses! Modern haikus seem to include much about anything, even sex and technology, which for me goes against nature and the earth. 🙋‍♂️

    1. Hi Ashley, Thanks for the comment and I am glad that you enjoyed it. What I have recently learned is that there is a short form of Japanese poetry called Senryu that follows the same construction as haiku, but is more focused on the human. It seems like the Senryu is a way to provide for this distinction in focus. This is something that I still need to learn more about.
      Thanks again for the support!

  2. Haiku at its soul is a salutation to nature. You’re really coming along with making this blog work for you, Mark. Kudos! I am too much the artist and not enough of the entrepreneur, but I’m learning.

    1. Hi Melanie, Thanks for the kind words and the support. I have started to see this blog as my own education into the role of words and language in nature connection practices. I was in a workshop once where the presenter said that she was attending the college of YouTube and coffee shops. I like that! I am leaning a little more towards libraries and audiobooks, but the concept is basically the same. I hope all is well!

  3. Like everyone else, I love this post and accompanying links. Each of your posts is like a mini-magazine with so much fascinating and enjoyable information to follow up. Thank you for the time and effort you spend to bring this to us. Your joy in nature and literature is motivating and infectious. Thank you, Mark.

    1. Hi Lesley, thank you very much for those kind words! I am glad that you are enjoying everything. It is a joy to be able to put share my adventure of learning with everyone!

  4. fascinating stuff , Mark. Must earmark and come back for more. Funny, how i fell into what I came to learn of as haiku – through the WHR founder, around 2002 – he had previously complimented on 2 or 3 haibun. I clearly took to what was then/there described as existential/experimental haiku. Might write a piece about meeting the chief some day. It resulted, in any case, in me falling out of love with that kind of writing for a while. Right now, I feel it will be good for me to go back to the season references – yet not forget my home territory of the existential, even philosophical. Thanks for broadening my mind

    1. Hi Barbara, I would be interested in hearing what made you fall out of love with the form. I’ll keep an eye out on your blog. Along with keeping an eye out for the paintings. Thanks for sharing!

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