Micro-Season: “Light Rain Showers”

Leaves blowing
in the autumn wind
frost on the ivy
Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) 

As we near the end of October, we welcome the mini season of Frost Descent. This season starts on October 23,2021 and continues until November 07,2021. In Japan during this time, it is said that frost begins to form during the overnight hours.(1)

Frost Descent is one of the 24 mini seasons identified by the traditional Japanese seasonal calendar. In 1685, these mini seasons were further separated into 72 micro-seasons.  The micro-season for Frost Descent are:

  • The First Frost Falls (Oct 23- Oct 27)
  • Light Rain Showers (Oct 28 – Nov 01)
  • The Maple and Ivy Turn Yellow (Nov 2 – Nov 7)

We are currently in the micro-season of “Light Rain Showers”. In describing this season, the authors of the 72 season app state, “There is something lonesome about the rain pattering on the fallen leaves which gives a sense of impermanence.”(1)  

Rain and fallen leaves are definitely prevalent in the northeastern United States at this time.  I have walked on many leaf covered sidewalks where I am visually confronted by the transitory nature of things. The change of the temperature, the change in the sunlight, the dying of the grasses on lawns, are all reminders the impermanent nature of things.

Frost on leaves, Photo Credit: Mark S

Impermanence

Impermanence recognizes that things are only temporary. The Law of Impermanence is one of the foundational teachings of Buddhism, which seems so relevant at this time. Thich Nhat Hahn, a Zen Buddhist Monk, states, “Impermanence means that everything changes and nothing remains the same in any consecutive moment.” (2) So when leaves fall to the ground we are witnessing the impermanence of the natural world.  When fall turns into winter, and when winter turns into spring, we continue to witness the impermanence of things. The shifting of the seasons, and the shifting of our lives, is something that is unavoidable. 

These transitions are also something that captures our imagination, and something that I believe that the haiku is perfectly constructed to put into words.

Haiku and Impermanence

This autumn
why do I feel old?
birds in clouds
Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)

The haiku’s focus on nature and seasonal changes provide a perfect framework to explore the concept of impermanence.. George Marsh explains,  “The strong emphasis on the seasons in haiku means that a sense of the changes in the natural world, paralleled in the human world, is at the core of every haiku.”(3)  Therefore, the haiku can provide us with glimpses of law of impermanence as seen through the eye of the poet. 

Below are a few examples of haiku that speak of change. 

Not for a moment 
do things stand still
color in the trees
Omoda Seiju (1771-1776)
All moving things
must arrive at their end
a knotty willow
Tokyuso Enshi (1734-1780)
The summer grasses
all that remains of soldiers
imperial dreams 
Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)
That which blossom
falls, the way of all flesh
in this world of flowers
Kiko (1771-1823)

Although we are focusing on the passing away of things as a result of our current season, we need to remember that impermanence also means growth. Thich Nhat Hahn reminds us:

“Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible. Life itself is possible. If a grain of corn is not impermanent, it can never be transformed into a stalk of corn. If the stalk were not impermanent, it could never provide us with the ear of corn we eat. If your daughter is not impermanent, she cannot grow up to become a woman. Then your grandchildren would never manifest. So instead of complaining about impermanence, we should say, ‘Warm welcome and long live impermanence.’ We should be happy. When we can see the miracle of impermanence our sadness and suffering will pass.”(2)

So just like fall turns into winter, and what has grown falls away, the opposite is also true.  Winter turns to spring, and spring into summer.  With spring and summer we experience growth and abundance.  Therefore, impermanence also means that everything that passes provides space for new things to emerge.

Within your life and mine-
there lives
a cherry blossom
Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)
The last winter leave
clinging to the black branches
burst into nightjars
Masumi Kato (1726-1796)
My storehouse burned down
now nothing stands between me
and the moon above
Mizuta Masahide (1657-1723)

Maple leaves in the fall: Photo Credit Mark S

Sometimes, the transition into late fall and winter can be hard for people.  But the passing away is only half of the picture. If we are able to see this as a part of the natural order, and the rest that comes with this time is needed for new life, then impermanence is something to honor and to not to fear.  Without the winter, we cannot have spring.  Without rest, we cannot grow.


Resources:

  1.  72 Seasons App
  2. Thich Nhat Hahn, “Looking Deeply With the Three Dharma Seals: Impermanence, No-self, and Nirvana”, Lion’s Roar
  3. George Marsh, “Haiku and Zen”, The Haiku Foundation

27 thoughts on “Micro-Season: “Light Rain Showers”

Add yours

  1. I knew a girl who lived in Singapore who sometimes lamented that there were no seasons there–it was essentially tropical summer all year long (with some minor variations), quite unlike here in the States, where many regions have discernable seasons. To witness the impermanence of the seasons most definitely helps us mark the passage of time and certainly forces us to consider life from sometimes drastically differing perspectives. Even though I sorely dislike winter, I know that spring will come eventually, and when I see the green arrive, the trees budding, the return of birds (and baseball season!), I can’t help but to embrace the impermanence of life. Good writing, Mark, and I loved every one of those haiku. 🙂

    1. Hi Mike, Thanks for the the comment. I lived in San Diego for a bit many, many years ago. I had the same challenge with the minor variations in seasons. I never would have thought that I would miss winter, until there wasn’t one!

  2. The title of your post made me smile, since rain is falling here in Maryland 🙂 Also, I enjoyed reading your discussion of impermanence. Indeed, change is natural — and I like how you say that impermanence is something to honor. A beautiful example of that are the leaves loosening from branches and floating down. In my walks, I love seeing those. They’re poetry. And they tell us change can be beautiful.

    1. Hi Dave, Thanks for sharing your observations, and yes sometimes change is beautiful. It can be hard, but also very wonderful! Thanks for adding to the conversation. Talk soon,

  3. I’m beginning to appreciate winter more the older I become. I don’t know why that should be because it’s more challenging to me! I think that reading about the various seasons (and mini-seasons) helps me to enjoy them all the more.
    I’ve enjoyed this post, Mark, and reading the comments from your readers. Thank you!

    1. Hi Lesley, I am also really enjoying this exploration into the mini seasons. It’s encouraging me to really notice what is happening outside.
      I am glad that you enjoyed the post and the comments. I really enjoy how they add to the conversation. Be well and talk soon,

  4. Hi Mark, a great post again, I think we must be on the same wavelength! Following the seasons is something everyone should do as it “grounds” us and helps us to know what’s happening to the earth. Two books I am currently reading: Lev Parikian’s “Light Rains Sometimes Fall” (it is quietly humourous) and Thich Nhat Hanh’s “The Art of Living”. Your quotes about impermanence are excellent and like you, I find that writing haiku is the perfect way to make nature observations and our place in nature!

    1. Hi Ashley, I think you may be right! We seem to be on the same track. That is very interesting. Maybe we could start a series of “letters” to each other about what we are reading. It could be an interesting way to dive
      deeper into these concepts! I hope you are doing well and enjoying your weekend! Talk soon,

      1. Haha! There is something about a letter that really appeals to me, but let me have a think over the next few days. Do you have a contact page?

      2. Hi Ashley, My email is naturalistweekly[at]gmail.com. It could be fun, and definitely no pressure. It is just a pleasure to be able to interact with others around this stuff in any ways that works. And it could give us plenty blog writing content! in case you need that.

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