We have now entered the month of November.
The fields have all been mowed and all the hay has been baled. The local apple orchard is closed for the season, and pumpkin patches have all been cleaned out. We successfully moved into the micro-season of “The Maple and Ivy Turn Yellow”, which means we are coming to the end of the mini season of Frost Descent.
Frost Descent is one of the mini seasons identified by the traditional Japanese seasonal calendar. There are 24 mini seasons and 72 micro-seasons. The micro-season for this mini season 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)
As the name of this micro-season suggests, we are highlighting the change in foliage that occurs with deciduous trees. As the trees prepare for winter, the chlorophyll that is used to produce the carbohydrates through the process of photosynthesis recede back into the branches and the trunk. This allows the leaf pigments known as carotenoids and anthocyanins to be revealed. These leaf pigments produce the oranges and reds that are prominent at this time of year. (1)
By early November, northern Vermont’s foliage season has passed. The foliage season for this region starts in mid-September and usually ends before October 31st. However, if you travel to southern Massachusetts or parts of Cape Cod, you may still be able to see some bright colors on the trees.
In contrast to what is happening in the Northeast, Japan has just entered their peak foliage season. The northern regions of Japan, including the island of Hokkaido, begin their foliage season in late September. By mid November, peak foliage season has reached Kyoto. The foliage line that continues down the island to Tokyo in late November and then Fukuoka in early December.(2)
Even though our foliage seasons may be out of sync, both parts of the world are experiencing the transition between fall and winter.
For me, what is perhaps the most noticeable about this transition is the increased darkness and the drop in temperature.
“In the moonlight that filtered in between the pine trees, the white sand in front of the sanctuary glistened as if covered with frost.” --Basho from The Narrow Road to the Deep North
As the daylight diminishes, and we can’t rely so much on our vision, the other senses seem to engage.
About a month ago, my dog and I would encounter the rising sun as we took our morning walk. Now we meander the dirt roads in the dark, noticing the smells of the skunks or feeling the moisture on the wind blowing down from the north.
the alter lanterns are blown out again autumn wind --Issa
Sometimes, during the early morning, I think about how quickly the summer seemed to pass. Often my thoughts towards the greater shifting of time and how the human experience moves like the seasons.
Days and months never take their time. The four seasons keep bustling each other away. Cold wind churn lifeless branches. Fallen leaves cover long paths. We’re frail, crumbling more with each turning year. Our temples turn white early, and once Your hair flaunts that bleached streamer, The road ahead starts closing steadily in. This house is an inn awaiting travelers, And I yet another guest leaving. All this Leaving and leaving--where will I ever End up? My old home’s on South Mountain --“Untitled” T’ao Ch’ien (365-427)
Recently, I was listening to Pádraig Ó Tuama discuss Andrés Cerpa’s poem “Seasonal without Spring: Autumn”. In his final reflection, Ó Tuama began talking about melancholy. He says that “melancholy isn’t something to be avoided; that, actually, both melancholy and happiness can lead us into a certain sweet kind of reflection”.
T’ao Ch’ien’s poem seems to embody this type of reflection. Ch’ien states that the guests are all leaving and he wonders where he might end up. Yet, in this reflection he knows his home can be found on the mountain. His home can be found in his connection to nature. Perhaps this finding of home in the midst of the passing of all things is that “sweet kind of reflection” that Ó Tuama is referencing.
- University of Vermont: Fall Foliage: the How and Why
- JapanRail Pass, Autumn in Japan: 2021 Fall Foliage Forecast
- Poetry Unbound: Andrés Cerpa “Seasonal without Spring: Autumn”
Matsuo Basho’s quote was taken from his book of travel sketcher titled, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
T’ao Ch’ien’s poem can be found in Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China. Selected and Translated by David Hinton
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