Here we measure seasons by small changes in temperature and for one, heavy rainfall.
We are the calendar reliant, otherwise left to look at the moon and count to ascertain roughly
what month it might be, but we now live in a solar calendar world so our lunar efforts are necessarily doomed to failure.
And holidays are different here, Christmas has no snow, so we decorate our palms and perhaps have inflatable snowmen or reindeer, and hang icicles from our gutters as a reminder of what winter is for so many other than us.
The Japanese invented haiku certain that a painting of great beauty could be completed with only a few strokes of the brush.
The Japanese have no word for what we claim is higher order poetry, academic and pedantic are two other English words which easily apply. And the Japanese are hard put to comprehend so much of what we deem experimental, the result, a friend named Yoshi said, of what seems the odd scraps of a dictionary torn apart by an unexpected tornado.
In Tokyo every tree knows that at least four poems lie within it, each awaiting the appropriate season.
The finches sweep from bush to feeder in a gentle inverted parabola appear head high with a pride reserved for those who fly. The chain link fence is for them no barrier but a honeycomb of perches, full on a warm February afternoon, their song threatening to silence the heart of winter.
I was honored to have this recently published in Arena Magazine: A Magazine of Critical Thinking, Issue 162 from Victoria, Australia
This river has for endless time flowed from the distant hills on its winding path to the waiting sea. The river has no need of clocks, cares little whether the Sun, Moon or clouds shimmers on its surface. The river counts seasons as passing moments ever new, ever shifting, and our lives, and our dams are minor diversions. I sit along the banks and watch the clouds flow gently down stream seeking the solitude only the ocean will afford.
It’s the little things, she says, that bite you, and while he truly doesn’t want to believe this, for it ought to be the big things that cause the problems, he knows she is right. He recalls that a simple thing like an address everyone knows is 123 3 X Street is true for all save the power company which says it is still 98 Y Street, although they cannot hope to explain why this is so. How many other addresses for this place are there, how many things go wrong because someone wants it to be this while everyone else assumes that. So you sit and wait for the power company to bring light into your world and warmth into your life with winter closing in rapidly.
The sun has slipped back into its familiar failure mode lighting the sky, seeming to set the trees aflame, but offering precious little warmth. It is just practice for the season we all know is lurking just beyond the horizon, beyond our too short sight. We hope not to be here to greet it, having fled south, escaped to a place where the sun maintains purpose, where it says lakes and ponds ablaze and we shield our eyes from its intense, overpowering presence.
As you stoop to pick up fallen leaves are you cleaning spring, summer or autumn? What seasons are deep within the winter branch? How does your work and that of the tree truly differ, and what leaves do you shed?
A reflection on case 83 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)
She isn’t used to the cold, she never will be, and she hates it with the sort of passion she once reserved for people of a different political philosophy than hers. She grew up here, but she left. She has never regretted the departure. She visits only in late spring or in the heart of summer, or early autumn and is here now only for a funeral, which she hates more than the cold this winter. She wishes that the death could have occurred in late spring, early autumn, the heart of summer. She is certain she will die in one of those seasons, or at least in the deep enough south that no one attending a funeral will have to freeze and curse the winter. She has no intention of dying anytime soon, for she has a great deal left to do and some of that clearly involves cursing winter and hating the cold with a passion.