Monday, June 30, 2014

29. 菖蒲華: "The Iris Blooms"

(BGM: "The Woman And The Stone" by Andreas Vollenveider)

 Shichijuni-kou (72 Seasons) Calendar Listing 
 仲夏, Chuuka: "Mid-summer"
Season No. 10: 夏至, Geshi: 
"Summer Solstice" 

Iris with petals slightly curled up at Kikkou Park (吉香公園), Iwakuni, Yamaguchi.
Climate No. 29: 菖蒲華
Ayame Hana Saku
"The Iris Blooms"
(June 26 -June 30) 

The most colorful iris I've ever seen, gracing Kintaikyo Bridge (錦帯橋) in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi.
 "Rabbit ear iris
   Resembles and
      Water's reflection."   
              -Matsuo Basho

Various expressions of the beauty of iris in paint and silk (Nagahama, Shiga).
I can only appreciate the rich, varied cornucopia of species on this planet. I don't claim to be an expert on anything, especially in areas that are particularly confusing. Take for instance, telling the difference between an ayame, shobu and hana-shobu -all words that translate into English simply as "iris."

I'm not about to touch this debate with a ten-foot pole. Instead of pretending to know something I don't, I'm just going to throw my hands up in the air, put aside my desire to be right, leave things to this website and marvel in the regal wizardry of this plant's royal design.

Diabolic or angelic, depending on how you look at it (Iwakuni, Yamaguchi).
Darn gorgeous, aren't they? They make walking in the rain even more of a sensual pleasure! Wild iris are native to both Japan and Alaska. While Alaskans will have to wait another month to enjoy their iris blossoms, in Japan, late June is the best time to spot these beauties in marshes, swamps and alongside rice paddies, so refreshingly elegant in the misty tsuyu rains.

Iris looking lovely in early summer typhoon showers (Toride, Ibaraki).
A decent Japanese garden will always have some sort of muddy, low-lying bed with space for iris to bloom and a dry platform for viewing. Chirping frogs, fire newts, buzzing dragonflies and delicate damselflies make their homes here, as well as mosquitoes. It's best to come to iris gardens armed with an umbrella and already sprayed down with bug repellant.

Iris and Hydrangea (Kikkou Park, Iwakuni)
Flavor Of The Season: 枇杷, Biwa, Loquat

A loquat served with a school lunch. Lucky kids!
A relative of mine who lives in the States has a loquat tree planted next to her house. I visited her once when the tree was loaded with these small, pert little fruits. I asked her if she enjoyed them along with the oranges she picked every morning from her backyard. She surprised me when she said flatly that she just let them drop for the birds and bees, never knowing how to eat them. Were she able to access the Internet in those days, she might have been able to better appreciate this beautiful, health-giving food.

Biwa bushes with little ripening bags tied around the fruit (Akitsu, Higashi Hiroshima).
I got my first taste of loquat in a small gelatin cup I bought for a hundred yen at a commonplace Japanese convenience store. The gelatin was pure sucrose but the fruit was pleasantly bland -like a persimmon with slight notes of pear and apple. For people like me who don't like their sweets too sweet, the cleansing, slightly-astringent biwa is a perfect choice. Eating them is simple: just peel off the thin outer skin and enjoy the pear-like flesh. They take the edge off a heavy, oily meal in a flash.

Tree Of The Season: 合歓木, Nemunoki, Persian Silk Tree (Mimosa) 

Fabulous "fan-fare" (haw haw, get it?) at a park in Hiroshima Prefecture.
I can't help but be reminded of artists' fan brushes dipped in pink paint when I see the playful, frivolous blossoms of this tree of many names. In India it is called, appropriately, "rain tree" for the way it blooms during the monsoon season. In Japan, this tree is called "nemunoki" which means "sleeping tree." But why "sleeping tree?"

The person who named this plant was obviously very aware of the plant's behavior. On dark, cloudy days and at night, the leaves of the nemunoki actually fold inward, as if the tree were going to sleep! Much like the leaves of its cousin, the sensitivity plant, fold up when tickled, the leaves of the nemunoki slowly close and hang limp in low-light situations.

I am always astounded by the sheer intelligence of the lifeforms we share this amazing world with. The more I look, the more wonderment there is to experience! Is there no end to the awesomeness of nature?

Copyright 2014 Genkilee, Gen. All rights reserved. No part of this blog (written or photo content) may be reproduced or reprinted without the expressed permission of the author.

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