Tuesday, March 20, 2012

when the moon is dark this moon is full

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occasional clouds
one gets a rest
from moon-viewing

blue seas
breaking waves smell of rice wine
tonight's moon

Now I see her face,
the old woman, abandoned,
the moon her only companion


Matsuo Basho seems to have many haiku mentioning the moon. I don't know what these haiku would be like in the original, nicer probably, as translation is always a tricky business.

Not the right time of year for this but Tsukimi refers to the Japanese tradition of holding parties to view the harvest moon. The custom is thought to have originated with Japanese aristocrats during the Heian period, who would gather to recite poetry under the full moon of the eighth month of the lunisolar calendar, known as the "Mid-Autumn Moon." Since ancient times, Japanese people have described the eighth lunisolar month (corresponding to September on the contemporary Gregorian calendar) as the best time for looking at the moon, since the relative positions of the earth, sun, and moon cause the moon to appear especially bright. On the evening of the full moon, it is traditional to gather in a place where the moon can be seen clearly, decorate the scene with Japanese pampas grass, and to serve white rice dumplings (known as Tsukimi dango), taro, edamame, chestnuts and other seasonal foods, plus sake as offerings to the moon in order to pray for an abundant harvest.

I know it says aristocrats but I wonder if it caught on with all classes of society. It sounds like a civilized business, and strangely not the sort of thing people are interested in doing here in the civilized west.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

the woods in winter/spring

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Up on the misty hill the small plants and flowers are beginning to stir; they have noticed that the sun is getting higher and is now warming up again. The sun is warm when it's out but the air and the wind are still cold with winter and all is cold in the shadows. The woods are quite empty. Apart from the evergreens there are no leaves on the trees and only the earliest signs of bud. Many of the leaves from last year are still on the beech and will remain hanging on, waiting to be pushed off by the formation of the new. The woods are quiet and there is not much about in the way of animal life. Many of the birds have not yet returned from their southern migration so it is quiet of their song here. The mist and fog passes and leaves a trace of water upon all the bare branches, the grass is now wet and the spider webs visible.

In the last photo are many snowdrops, appearing on both sides of the fence. The snowdrop is of the first flowers to appear here every year and are a very welcome sight after a long winter. They are soon followed by the primrose and the daffodils, all songs of hope and renewal. The flowers do not recognise the false and arbitrary division of our humanly placed fence and rightly ignore it for the folly it is. They seem to say; "You put your futile and silly fence up and pretend to own this place but you will soon pass, and with your passing will also go the thoughts you have of ownership of anything in the world, as such thoughts are a delusion" There, the flower has spoken, spring is coming, and we must get on.