Shichijuni-kou (72 Seasons) Calendar Listing
仲秋, Chuju: Mid-Autumn
Season No. 15: 白露, Hakuro
|Empty Nest Sydrome (Mt. Noro, Hiroshima 2014)|
Climate No. 45: 玄鳥去
(September 17 -September 21)
It might seem as if the swallows have all disappeared. Discarded basket sconces of mud and straw still cling to the undersides of roofs, abandoned and lonely. But this year's chicks haven't graduated from flight school just yet. They can still be spotted imitating their parents, making daredevil passes as close as possible around the buildings where they were born. These repeated passes help the swallows to memorize their nesting grounds before embarking upon their southward migration towards China and the Philippines.
I realize that the swallows' inevitable departure ushers in waves of incoming waterfowl returning from feeding grounds as far away as Alaska. That's a positive thing to look forward to. But seeing the swallows off always causes me to reflect on how I've survived yet another year. What is it about goodbyes that makes a heart really feel its age?
Why am I aging so?
To the clouds a bird." -Matsuo Basho
Flower Of The Season: 鷺草, Sagisou, White Egret Orchid
|A sagisou for sale at our local flower shop (Hiroshima Prefecture, 2014).|
Here's something totally different: a flower that looks like a bird!
|A flock of sagiso fluttering around a neighborhood doorstep (Matsue City, Shimane, 2014)|
Floating suspended in flight like tiny frozen angels, the dainty sagiso (Pecteilis radiata, syn. Habenaria radiata) resembles its namesake (snowy egret) to a tee. Listed as endangered, sagiso were once common in Japan's many marshes and wetlands but shrank in numbers due to habitat loss. Today, nearly all the sagiso you'll encounter in Japan come from cultivated bulbs. (Botanyboy gives the low-down on how to care for your very own sagiso here).
Just when I learn about these awe-inspiring lifeforms, I find out that our planet might not have them around for much longer. May this fascinating flower experience a revival in the near future.
Taste Of The Season: イチジク, Ichijiku, Fig
|Ichijiku (figs) with just a few more seconds left to "live."|
Japan's subtropical climate is ideal for fig cultivation and every fall, these relatively inexpensive, sumptuous fruits explode both on the market and in the mouths of millions of happy people.
I usually devour them raw: After carefully peeling off the thin outer skin, I mercilessly rip open the flesh with bare claws and dig into it like a hunger-blind macaque. The seeds pop pleasingly between the teeth and the slippery, stringy pulp tears off easily with the tongue. Ichijiku's exotic texture and delicate sweetness make this nutrient-dense fruit an ideal addition to a morning menu. Savoring a fresh, ripe ichijiku fig is definitely one of the more sensual pleasures of autumn that brings out my inner animal.
|Mine! I'm not sharing! :-)|
Critter Of The Season: 羽黒蜻蛉, Hagerotombo, Calopteryx atrata Damselfly
|A trusting female hagerotombo on my finger near Ryuosan Spring (Higashi Hiroshima, 2013).|
Unlike their dragonfly cousins who zoom for long distances up high in the open air, hagerotombo damselflies gracefully flit much lower to the ground, never far from a running source of fresh water. Their lilting, free-falling flight brings to mind butterflies and spiraling maple seeds in the wind. Damselflies appear slow to the eye, yet are surprisingly difficult to catch. (It's much better to coax them into perching willingly on your finger with a gentle forward approach. Less trauma for them).
|A striking black-winged hagerotombo (Calopteryx atrata) damselfly (Maibara, Shiga 2011).|
What fascinates me more than anything about this particular insect is the freakishly odd, hypnotizing power it possesses over me. Whenever a hagerotombo male slowly, teasingly spreads open its wings and then suddenly slaps them closed again, my heart literally (I'm not exaggerating!) skips a beat. I'm helplessly drawn to it, watching in suspense like a cat following a ball of yarn. An insect that can cause arrhythmia without biting or stinging is one for the books, indeed! I had plenty of toys as a child and being an adult, I should have more control over my faculties, I know. But these elusive, taunting creatures always tempt me into trying to chase them. Why they pick on me, I don't know. Nature is like that, sometimes.
|Two pairs of mated hagerotombo strategizing their egg-laying plan (Hiroshima Prefecture).|
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