The days have been tremendously hot here this past August. We have had it over 100 degrees F on several days. As a matter of fact, temps between 90-95 degrees feel cool to me now. But little did I know that we have been in early autumn since August the 8th.
Today was the last day of obon. We picked up the inlaws and took them to FIL’s family cemetery. Not far from their home is a little hill overlooking a small wooded area and several rice fields. It holds six or so individual family “plots” which are different from plots in the West.
This is not our family plot-it’s just a photo I found on internet as an example because they are hard for me to explain. MIL banned photo taking at the family plot.
For the first time in a month it rained today. We drove down the narrow little access roads that zig-zag through the paddies and then curve and wind up to the forested area where the little shrine sits near the family plots.
The rains subsided to a light mist and steam rose from the heated asphalt and flooded rice fields. Everything looked dreamy and mysterious blanketed in mist that hung low to the ground.
We helped the elderly folks make their way up the steep, rough concrete slope that led to the plot. MIL arranged the flowers in the stone vases and brother-in-law lit the incense sticks and passed them around. One by one we placed our sticks in the burner that was sheltered inside a glass case.
As the family said prayers my gaze drifted over the granite plots and down towards the misty fields and farmhouses beyond. It could have been a scene from 100 years ago-except for the occasional car or mini truck that crawled through the narrow farm lanes below. I saw the village priest walking towards the shrine dressed in his formal robes. In our area it is customary for the priest to walk to the shrine during special times of the year.
Today, with the mist rising up from the roads and fields he looked otherworldly. His black transparent outer robes floated behind him through the mist.
I noticed that there was a change in the air. The summer cicadas had all fallen silent. I could see that the leaves had lost their brilliant green hue and the rice tassels had begun their change to gold. Despite the zansho (remaining heat) I could see the fringes of autumn creeping in.
I thought about the old Japanese calendar which was based on the lunar calendar. On this calendar August 8th marks the first day of autumn-called risshuu. This is the time in which subtle changes are taking place and the seasons begin their changes-mostly missed by humans. The old-timers were keen observers of the natural world.
As I sat quietly and observed the natural world around me I remembered that the season of risshuu was now upon us and it made sense to me.
This evening I went outside for a few minutes to look at the moon and stars. Gazing up into the heavens I noticed shinryoo (a new coolness) in the air…so unlike the hot breezes of the past few weeks. The tell-tale sound of suzumushi (bell-crickets) came from somewhere in the back of my garden. I suspect soon the koorogi (crickets) and matsumushi (pine crickets) will follow.
Honestly-I would not trade this simple life for anything.