More than once in recent months I’ve come across this beautiful calendar from 17th century Japan. It was created in 1685 by the court astronomer, Shibukawa Shunkai, who noted 24 distinct seasons based on natural phenomena ranging from Risshun (Beginning of spring) through Daikan (Greater cold) at the end of winter.
These 24 seasons are further divided into 72 ko, a short period of just a few days. The descriptive names are beautiful, such as East wind melts ice, First peach blossoms, and later in the year Chrysanthemums bloom, and Crickets chirp at the door. These seem to be not just an observation of the natural world but also an acknowledgment of a larger set of relationships of which the observer is a part, larger systems to which we all belong: Rainbows hide, Cold sets in, Winter begins.
I had understood that I was affected by the pandemic, and the uprisings for racial justice, and politics which are as vicious as we’ve ever known. But I didn’t fully know how much until I began to imagine the names that might describe this current season for me. What arose were things like…the season when Tomatoes rot; the Basement smells like old dog; Truth and reason are twisted for private gain; Scoundrels know no shame. Yeah…I definitely need to spend more time out where Cicadas sing last songs, and Squirrels industriously bury the neighbors’ pecans.
How would you name the season you’re in? And if you’re noticing the Rot and mildew more than the Strong golden sunsets, and Freshening breeze from the north, what might you do to shift your perspective or widen your view?
The thing is, it can all be true at the same time—the rotten tomatoes and dark spots that creep up the damp doors, right alongside the Blackberry canes that sprout green edged with bronze, and Happy sounds of preschoolers playing while wearing masks. We live in a world of possibilities; what we focus on is what we’ll nurture with our attention. We have choices. What conditions would you prefer to see thriving in the world? Give that your attention so it can thrive.
Even more, when we pause and give our presence to the world, something in the world arrives and climbs into our hearts. And then as we notice these things, love naturally blossoms—for the plants, the animals, the children, for all who suffer in mind, body or spirit. Which then makes us want to find the vinegar to apply to the mildew, and a stick for the new blackberry canes to lean on so they have a better chance to thrive. And then maybe we join a group that registers voters, and we’re able to do that work with confidence and tremendous love.
When we act from the heart it helps to weave the fabric of community. This is how we work for what we love most so it has the chance to thrive. When we listen to what our neighbors tell us they need, we’re able to respond with respect and offer our genuine help. That’s also often the moment when we truly get to feel the strength of September’s thick, golden sunsets. And we are poised to genuinely laugh as the rabbits nip at the fall crop that we planted, but forgot to fence in.
Happy September, a season, yes, when Scoundrels lie, and yet also a time when we Sing and tell stories of love and courage and hope.