Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Field Notes--In Defiance

My husband doesn't like fall--it means the end of summer, the coming of the cold.  He hates the cold;  I hate the humidity.  It's a standing disagreement, albeit a friendly one.

I discovered today what I actually love about Fall.  It's cooler, yes, and the leaves turn colors.  And I never see a pile of leaves, whether gathered by hand or by wind, without wanting to scuff through it.  I love the smell of crushed leaves.  But I realized today that those things are not what makes Fall special.  It helps to think through what the other seasons are about.

Winter is about death, sleeping, waiting.  Plants decomposing into the ground; animals sleeping through the cold; breath hanging in the air, waiting.

Spring is rebirth, midwifed by the wind. Winter's offal, washed away by the rain, pushed aside by the living shoots it fed.  Shinryoku--  new green, spring green, the color that lightens the hillsides.  The cherry blossoms are Japan's Janus--presiding over graduations and entrance ceremonies.

Summer is life sounding forth in every register.  A stately, decadent symphony accompanied by cicadas, and snowmelt; storms and silence; crawling, twining, straining upward, bursting open.  A thousand colors, some at the ultraviolet end of the spectrum that only bees can see.

Fall is the season of Defiance.  Death and cold are coming, but Fall sees the harvest of grain, of fruit, of vegetables.

Grain-heavy rice plant heads droop, awaiting harvest.
The leaves are still yellow-green,

...but grainheads gleam golden in a stray sunbeam.
Pink cosmos, purple asters, yellow goldenrod grow strong and tall, and the Asian Comma can't decide where to land.
 (Kitateha--Polygonia c-aureum, fall form)

Fall is when Mardi Gras ought to be held--the last jubilant dancing, feasting, drinking before lent.

 Akahoshigomadara (Red Ring Skirt, Hestina assimilis ) resting between flowers, just as if the cold were not coming.
(somebody got a great closeup at Maioka park in our area)

 An okra flower, which looks white in this photo, but is really a pale, creamy yellow with a deep burgundy red center.
 The fall eggplants are still blooming, growing, hanging pendulously beneath the wide leaves that shade them from the sun.

 Summer plants,summer colors mingle with new plants thrown up in a final frenzy of autumnal confetti--ineffably blue summer morning glories and brilliant pink fall cosmos.

 The color morning glories ought to be, if they can manage it...


Still, in spite of the tumultuous tangle of vegetables and vines...

...of flowers and grasses attended by various representatives of Lepidoptera...

(Kitateha-- the Asian Comma-- accompanied by BeniShijimi, Lycaena phlaeas--Small Copper-- in a diplomatic meeting concerning the health of field grasses...)

Alight, Mesugurohyoumon gleams chrome.  Only the female looks like an old photograph;  the male is burnished copper and dark sepia (Damora Sagana).'s cloudy, and the wind occasionally reminds me I ought to have brought a jacket.

 A lizard glances up... the break in the clouds.

 When I go walking I never know what I'll find--always something,though,  never nothing.  A window in the roadside foliage reveals a field full of pink and white cosmos.  This is the sort of thing I live for.  Cosmos, in spite of the fact that it is a fall flower, is my adopted Birthday flower because somebody had the temerity to appoint Gladiolas for August.  Gladiolas!  Never planted right, always out at elbows-- just who exactly is in charge of birthday flowers, please?  I'd like a word.  In advance of speaking to management about it, I've chosen Cosmos for August.  In Defiance.



  1. Friday field notes is becoming the highlight of my blog-reading week! And your prose is getting better and better, too, btw. Tell your Husband I said he's right though. Brrrrr...

    What's started striking me is how normal-looking so much of the flora is. When you watch natural-history programmes about foreign places, they always concentrate on the more exotic items, whereas your wide-view shots always show scenes much like those I could see walking out of my own village. Sure, the species may be different, but the general colours and shapes are the same. Fascinating.

    About Mardi Gras. Our local carnival circuit does take place in autumn. It's a festival of lights type thing, so they hold it almost as soon as it gets dark early enough, but before it gets bitterly cold. The video doesn't really do it justice, btw.

  2. Really? Awww...thanks. I just try to write how things look to me. I never think what I write is much good, so it's actually a big step for me to post things and let other people read it. I think I always start off solemn, and end in jokes or irony.

    So you agree with my DH about the heat vs the cold, do you? I think I know why--you don't wear a brassier. If you did, you'd not be so fond of humidity and heat. At least a body can get away from the cold--go inside, wrap up in a shawl and warm socks, make tea, look smugly out the window at the cold...especially if it's snowing.

    Some plants are different, but I think most are just local species of common genera found on mainland Asia (China, Korea, Siberia, elsewhere). When I first came, literally when the plane touched down, I was disappointed that the grass looked the same. The nerve! Don't you know this is supposed to be Exotic Japan? Everything should look different and exotic to fuel my overheated imagination! What's really a bizarre feeling, though, is when you start seeing Japanese people on the train who look exactly like someone you know in America (or Europe, as the case may be). I saw a guy once who was a dead ringer for my brother-in-law, except he had black hair and was Japanese and my BiL is blond and American. But other than that, they could have been twins!

    Is your Carnival actually a Mardi Gras carnival? Why is it in autumn (although I think that's a good time for it:))?

  3. I know middle age spread has started, but I'm pretty sure I don't need a bra, as yet...

    Shawl.. check (well, a blanket)
    Warm socks... check
    Tea... che– Tea? 'orrible stuff. Coffee, though... check
    And a huge shapeless woolly jumper.

    Our local carnival isn't so much a mardi gras as a spectator event. There's prizes for various categories of float and so on, and they do a circuit over several weeks covering most of Somerset. That and Guy Fawkes Night (much bigger than halloween, here) make a ice end to the warm times, and make a necessity out of digging out the winter-clothing. Sadly they also mark the beginning of the full-on xmas advertising campaign.

  4. "make a nice end to the warm times"

    A strangely apt typo...

  5. The christmas advertising seems to come on earlier every year. How do they expect to advertise for Halloween if they're already promoting christmas? I say that, even though, like Tim Minchin, I Really Like Christmas.

    What is Guy Fawkes Night?

  6. Guy Fawkes night is our yearly fireworks/bonfire celebration (or some might say commiseration) of the failure of a catholic plot to blow up King James I (VI of Scotland). An effigy of Guy Fawkes, one of the culprits, the man who was to actually light the fuse, is burnt on a bonfire. Fireworks are let of, and briefly illuminate the almost inevitable drizzle. Toffee so hard it glues your jaws together is consumed. It's really much more fun than I make out :-)

    I love Christmas for all the usual family-related reasons. (And I'm certainly not one of those who'd rename it, any more than I'd change the equally religion-based names of the days of the week.)

  7. Mercy! What a convoluted history... So...Guy Fawkes Night (or Bonfire Night, right?) is celebrating the discovery of the plot and the preservation of the House of Lords, and thus, presumably also of parliamentary democracy in England? Is that about right?

  8. Just about right, yes. The major point at the time, I think, was that it saved the protestant monarchy. At the Lewes, East Sussex, celebration they still burn a pope-effigy, I think. (Unless the PC crowd have finally got their way.) Now, that's something I can see getting more popular, after recent events...

    There's a rhyme:

    Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
    Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
    I know of no reason
    Why Gunpowder Treason
    Should ever be forgot.

  9. Ooh--a rhyme! Now I'll remember for sure:))

  10. I love mnemonics, though my favourite planetary one (mother very thoughtfully made a jam* sandwich under no protest) has too many words now.

    *Or jelly, if you're a benighted colonial.

  11. I learnt it as "My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzapies", which could, I suppose, but adjusted to "Served Us Nutcakes".

    I used to say Jelly, but I've had to switch to Jam, because the Japanese have borrowed both words, Jam for Jam and Jelly for what Americans call Jell-o:)). I figure there's enough confusion in a bilingual household as it is, so I gave up on saying Jelly for Jam. And, come to think of it, I grew up with a book called "Bread and Jam for Frances", so I think I've kind of always used both...( pondering the significance of that...)

  12. We have the same usage here. Jam is a spread and jelly is a wobbly desert, nominally rabbit-shaped, but usually a shapeless mass that fell out of a rabbit-shaped mold.

  13. Desert? I'm sure I meant dessert. Sand-jellies are normal only when eaten at seaside picnics.

  14. Jell-o in America is sometimes eaten as is, but more often than not it's combined with Cool Whip (whipped cream that's not cream, but partially hydrogenated something or other). Or lime-flavor jell-o and shredded carrots and something else and gets called a salad and plays a large part in church-related get-togethers.

  15. I just spent a couple of minutes googling that. One recipe called for lime jello, carrots and peas. I now feel vaguely ill.

  16. Oh lord--you didn't really! Peas? Who on earth puts peas in jell-o salad? I remember now that the other usual ingredient is pineapple, cut up or shredded small. Peas in Jello salad? Must be Methodists.

  17. The Great Pea Schism:

    Following the Council of Saladium (2010), a schsim appeared in the Church, with opinions divided over the inclusion of peas in salad. Advocates for the inclusion did themselves no favours by bickering amongst themselves over what became known as Legumigate; whether the peas in question should be Sweet or Marrowfat. A small sub-schism involved the allowability of a sprig of mint.

  18. I'm laughing too hard to form a coherent sentence!

  19. "*Or jelly, if you're a benighted colonial."

    You know, I rather like that. If I ever move to England and have a blog, that's just what I'll name it. "The Benighted Colonial"--has a nice ring to it, don't you think:-))

  20. I have to agree with daz's first comment here. The Friday field notes are one of my favorite pieces of the week even if I am sometimes late to the comments. I always download your site and adz's onto my iPod to read at work or on the road.
    It's always a wonderful look at life and growing things and these have become one of our obsessions on this side of the planet. In the last three years, my wife and I have plowed up our entire front yard ( we live on a corner lot in the center of town) and planted a variety of vegetable and ornamental beds. My wife has become somewhat of a genius on planting and tending our wide variety of crops. She just completed her master gardener course and is more obsessed that ever. We now have more vegetables in our breezeway than the local grocery. So she has added a canning obsession. Everyday the canner is humming along, and the jars of produce continue to line our shelves. In addition, she often puts a gourmet meal on the table at the end of the day. Sorry to get off topic but I just have to say what an amazing woman I married.
    I also agree with the lack of exoticism. Every photo you post could be my back yard or down the street a bit. I love it. Please keep this wonderful service up Amy.

  21. Guy Fawkes Day? The Great Pea Schism? Damn, I miss all the good conversations. I've always loved the rhyme and the history behind Fawkes. Fascinating stuff. I also love how V for Vendetta is based around the event, rhyme and a modern day revolutionary.
    I just gotta keep up better.

  22. This is how I know you guys must be family--because that's exactly how dinner table conversations go in my family. Listen fast, because topics change fast (although there *is* a thread holding them together:))

    The Great Pea Schism made me laugh so hard I had to retype every word in my reply twice!

    I'm jealous of the big garden, KK--wish I had one! My mom used to can, too, but it's nigh unto impossible in a teeny apartment on the fourth floor:(( We grow stuff on the porch (which I'll probably write about at some point), because I think it's good for kids to grow things. Best way to fall in love with the natural world. Thanks for reading my field notes, such as they are--I've discovered that's what I really like writing, actually. Who knew! Anyway, wait till you see this Friday's notes...the Halloween Edition...KK, your son might like it, too:))