Wednesday, September 01, 2021

4 Seasons? Why Not 24?


                                                                              Japanese Seasons 

1 Great is thy faithfulness, God our Creator;  there is no shadow of turning with thee; 

thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;  as thou hast been thou forever wilt be.

Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see;

all I have needed thy hand hath provided - great is thy faithfulness, ever to me!

2 Summer and winter and springtime and harvest, 

sun, moon, and stars in their courses above 

join with all nature in manifold witness to thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.  R

A few weeks ago I read about the seasons in Japan and was surprised to learn that while the country observes four,  as North Americans do but with different dates, there are actually 24 in the traditional calendar. These micro-seasons of about two weeks each are further broken down to 72 -- 24 times 3  -- of about 5 days each. The 24 were borrowed from the Chinese many centuries ago and they recognize the subtle changes in the natural world. For example

The 24 sekki

Dates can vary by one day either way.

  • Risshun (立春): February 4—Beginning of spring
  • Usui (雨水): February 19—Rain water
  • Keichitsu (啓蟄): March 5—Awakening of hibernated (insects)
  • Shunbun (春分): March 20—Vernal equinox, middle of spring
  • Seimei (清明): April 5—Clear and bright
  • Kokuu (穀雨): April 20—Grain rain
  • Rikka (立夏): May 5—Beginning of summer
  • Shōman (小満): May 21—Grain full
  • Bōshu (芒種): June 6—Grain in ear
  • Geshi (夏至): June 21—Summer solstice, middle of summer
  • Shōsho (小暑): July 7—Small heat
  • Taisho (大暑): July 23—Large heat
  • Risshū (立秋): August 7—Beginning of autumn
  • Shosho (処暑): August 23—Limit of heat
  • Hakuro (白露): September 7—White dew
  • Shūbun (秋分): September 23—Autumnal equinox, middle of autumn
  • Kanro (寒露): October 8—Cold dew
  • Sōkō (霜降): October 23—Frost descent
  • Rittō (立冬): November 7—Beginning of winter
  • Shōsetsu (小雪): November 22—Small snow
  • Taisetsu (大雪): December 7—Large snow
  • Tōji (冬至): December 22—Winter solstice, middle of winter
  • Shōkan (小寒): January 5—Small Cold; or Kan no iri (寒の入り)—Entrance of the cold
  • Daikan (大寒): January 20—Major cold

This fascinates me because while our seasonal changes are quite different, they too happen in stages which are not adequately represented by our conventional equinox and solstice dates. Yesterday we were kayaking on a river north of town and seeing the first signs of those changes in foliage even though Autumn is officially three weeks away. I've been watching for the departure of the ospreys which usually happens about now, but I saw one by the Bay of Quinte during this morning's cycle. The hummingbirds are migrating now, and the pesky wasps are getting ready for Winter. Of course in the Spring we await the trilliums while we are seeing plenty of white water lilies and cardinal flowers as we paddle these days. 

One of the gifts of the pandemic (yes, there are some) is that many of us have been outside far more and observing these subtle changes with a sense of appreciation and wonder. I continue to repeat the three words, Reverence, Attention & Awe as we are outdoors as a way of  consciously honouring Creation and Creator. I wonder what our 24 and 72 seasons might be? Unfortunately we would have to include mosquitoes and blackflies and ticks in the mix. 

I think of all the hymns from another era which noted the changes of the year with reverence and attention and awe. One of the classics, Great is Thy Faithfulness, does so beautifully and I love the phrase "join with all nature in manifold witness." 

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