Saturday, September 6, 2014

42. 禾乃登: "Grasses Go To Seed"

(BGM: Appelle Mon Numero by Mylene Farmer)

Shichijuni-kou (72 Seasons) Calendar Listing
初秋, Shoshu: Early Autumn
Season No. 14: 処暑, Shosho
The Limits Of The Heat

Rice kernals plumping under the watchful gaze of Jonenji Temple (Takehara, Hiroshima).

Climate No. 42: 禾乃登
Kokumono Sunawachi Minoru
Grasses Go To Seed
(September 2 -September 6) 

Before I learned about the Shichijuni-ko calendar, I always took the grasses beneath my feet completely for granted. Now that I'm more aware of these essential members of our biosphere, I can enjoy them from a whole new perspective. A typical patch of weeds by the roadside becomes a universe of textures and colors. Apparently my favorite haiku poet experienced a similar fascination with the most overlooked of our fuzzy, tufted friends.

The sun tucks itself behind Mt. Ibuki after an early harvest (Hikone, Shiga 2012).

 "So many grasses
  Each with its own
         Brilliant blossom."   -Matsuo Basho

Flower Of The Season: コスモス, Kosumosu, Cosmos

Triumphant cosmos brighten an Ohmi Hachiman flower field (Shiga Prefecture 2012).

Cosmos originate in the Americas but the Japanese love them as if they were native to the archipelago. Every year I get asked if there are cosmos where I come from, and every year I have to break a few hearts with my reply. The locals use cosmos as a rotation crop, painting the landscape in washes of pink, magenta and green.

Cosmos field in Higashi Ohmi, Shiga Prefecture (2012)

Critter Of The Season: イナゴ, Inago, Locusts

"Hitchin' A Ride" (Nagahama, Shiga 2012)

I have pleasant memories of leisurely cycling down the endless bike trails of southern Ibaraki's Tone and Kokai rivers. Almost like clockwork, during the first week of September, the trails become litered with hundreds of leggy green locusts warming themselves up on the asphalt. Sometimes they're paired up and can't maneuver efficiently away from my tires, the poor male being thrown onto his back as the female tries to escape into the grass with a pitiful flop. It's a good time to practice my steering, to say the least. Fortunately, I haven't hit any, yet.

Up close and personal with Mr. Greenlegs. (Fujishiro, Ibaraki 2003)

Inago (locusts) fried in oil, mirin and soy sauce are a regional delicacy in prefectures like Ibaraki where rice is a major crop. Back in the days when I would try almost anything for novelty's sake, I once crunched on a spoonful of inago no tsukudani . It had the texture of Cajun popcorn shrimp and the flavor was a cross between potato chips and Vietnamese peanut sauce -definitely something I would call 'delicious.' I can easily see why much of the world's inhabitants consider these insects 'good eating.' But as tasty as they are, I'd much rather see them sunning on the bike trails instead of on my plate.

Critter Of The Season: 海蛍, Umi Hotaru, Sea Fireflies

"Small Life, Big Light" (Mihara, Hiroshima 2014).
My brother once spoke of bioluminescence in the waters off the coast of Alaska. I never dreamed I'd be lucky enough to see such a living miracle with my own eyes while in Japan. But surely enough, while talking the sun down with my Hubby and a dear friend from England, there on the beach glowed an eerie electric blue light, streaking in time to the gently breaking waves. I bent down to touch it and the tiny lifeform leaked a luminous fluid, as if someone had broken a glow light tube. I gently picked it up along with its clump of wet sand and inspected the phenomenon with a flashlight; it looked exactly like a kernal of translucent shortgrain rice, but only half the size (and probably not as tasty. I'm terrible. I know).

Playing with sea firefly light trails using the Slow Shutter (TM) app.

Sea fireflies, aka Vargula hilgendorfii, inhabit the clear crystal waters of Japan's Seto Inland Sea, snoozing in the sand by day and darting up to the surface by night to feed. The first week of September is peak season for viewing these aquatic magicians of light. I've heard tales of locals swishing around in the waves causing millions of sea fireflies to illuminate the seawater like a neon sign. But I've only seen scatterings of these tiny creatures floating solo with the flotsam, washed up on the shore like lost sailors in the moonlight.  Oh how my imagination races when I spot one! What an amazing world we live in, where lifeforms grow and glow! Just imagine what else is out there! :-)

Copyright 2014 Robynn. 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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