Friday, October 1, 2010

Friday Field Notes--Summer is Vorbei

  The cicadas are gone; there remains naught but decaying corpses, and the occasional unnoticed empty pupal skin, still clinging to the back of a leaf , not having made it's way into anybody's pocket during the summer.  Their loud "Mi--mi-mi-miiiiii" that makes you feel hotter just to hear it, is silent, replaced now by the cool evening song of the crickets.

The last defiant morning glories creep up netting draped over a second story window....

 ...while another twists its way up the first purple aster of fall, which is itself an intruder in the carefully planted border along the road.  A seed blown over by the wind, or dropped, maybe, by a bird.  Nevertheless, a welcome, familiar sight--asters grew all over the Field at the end of the road I grew up on.

The pink morning glories are still blooming fitfully all along the fence here, and but for the incongruous splash of pink blaring out from the middle, a passer-by wouldn't know the aster was under attack.

 The spiders have appeared, seemingly from nowhere, suspended in midair between branches and wires and buildings. (more about them later...:))

At the temple where I pick up the keys to the nearby community center, the Higanbana are up, bereft of leaves, which came up and died back last June.  These are white, but more often they're brilliant red.  This is Lycoris Radiata, probably a native of China imported to Japan.  In English it goes variously by Surprise Lily, Resurrection Lily, Magic Lily, or Naked Ladies, although those are actually Lycoris Squamigera, a related species lacking the lovely spidery stamens  that surround Higanbana like the afterglow of fireworks.

The Japanese name is "Equinox Flower" since it blooms very nearly right on the equinox.  As they say, "Atsusa mo, samusa mo Higan made!"--neither heat nor cold lasts beyond the equinox.  Which was just last week, and it has cooled off considerably, so score one for the old saws:))  It's a flower people expect to see in the fall--in fields, on hillsides, along roads, in gardens.  Children draw pictures of it at school; grandmas do watercolors of it on postcards.

And though the Itchou (Ginko) trees are green yet for a while, the edible nuts are already clustering.  Those Ginan (ginko nuts) look cute now, but come November when they are all over the ground in the park up the road--mercy, the smell is almost overpowering.  Fortunately all the Obaasans (grandmas) around here like to collect them to cook into Chawanmushi (savory steamed egg custard).  Given the smell in the park, I haven't been able to bring myself to eat them yet...
And that butterfly up there?  You have no idea how long I chased him today waiting for him to sit still.  He was *supposed* to sit drinking nectar from the vine I always see him on (the subject of next week's field notes), but today, apparently, the ginko tree was the place to be.

Mata asobou, ne!


  1. I really liked "makes you feel hotter just to hear it is silent, replaced now by the cool evening song of the crickets" (though there should be a comma after "hear it". Ahem) and "the lovely spidery stamens that surround Higanbana like the afterglow of fireworks."

    Lovely poetry!

  2. It really does make you feel hotter, hearing them! The sound sort of drags, like they feel as oppressed by the heat as you do!

    Amy, you ought to have been a poet!

    You are sneaky though... putting that spider photo right smack in the middle of lovely flower photos.... eeks! ;-P

  3. --comma fixed:)) After some waffling--was it Mark Twain who said he "spent all morning putting a comma in, and all afternoon taking it out"? And just day before yesterday I read a quote from...a feminist writer? I think? (My mind is going...going...)--which said "I've given up on commas. Let the reader draw his own breath."
    Those pesky things!
    Thanks for the kind words--I love Higanbana, and I was trying to describe how they look to me:)

    ann--cicadas are beautiful if you can see one up close (the wings especially--veined and lovely, like the separations in a stained glass window), but that sound? It makes the heat worse! And Shun *loves* it! Because he spent summers in Kyushuu, he says. He doesn't like fall, because it means winter is coming and it's going to get cold, which he can't stand. This is a standing disagreement we have:))
    Poetry? Nah, I stink at poetry. Can't write fiction either. That's you:))
    Spiders--hee, hee!

  4. Sounds like Twain, yes. I tend to over-use the things myself. I'm currently being investigated by the Royal Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To The Common Comma, on charges of overworking them.

  5. I, on the other hand, am a Dastardly Dasher--they have fewer rules than commas, and can thus be used according to personal taste:))

  6. Hey--Ezmirelda, if you're reading this, that proverb about the equinox I quoted up there is very common (meaning, everybody knows it). Memorize it (if you're learning Japanese), and if you come over here to study, pull it out and use it on unsuspecting Obaasans! They'll be all, "Waaa! Sugoi! Nihongo yoku wakaru, ne!" Seriously, I heard it from a lady I see at the pool just last week, and when I looked up "Higan" (I've seen that kanji, what does it mean?--oh yeah! Equinox!), that proverb was listed as part of the entry.

  7. I have used a few proverbs on our unsuspecting Japanese friends, and they're always shocked! It's fun to find a good place to use them :-)

    amy-- so maybe poetry isn't for you, but you sure can turn a phrase!

  8. Grrr! Thanks Ann! I've just spent a whole hour trying to find the origin of the phrase "to turn a phrase." No luck whatsoever. Anyone got any ideas?

    And they *were* very poetic phrases, Amy.

  9. Awww--thanks guys...(looks at ceiling).

    "to turn a phrase"--tough one. Shakespeare? He contributed over a thousand words to English, so it seems plausible. Need the OED here...

  10. Maybe it's the verb "turn" used in the woodworking sense, as in "to turn on a lathe"? Spiraled table and chair legs are called "turned" legs, right?

  11. Thanks, chris:)) I looked up after taking the photo of the dead cicada (top photo) to see a car waiting for me to move out of the way so he could get by on that narrow road. I'm sure he was wondering what the heck that crazy foreign lady was doing, taking pictures of dead bugs on the ground...