I recently learned, from Dosankodebbie, of a Japanese poetic pastime called “finding a tiny autumn,” in which you seek out the subtle changes in nature as summer ends. This expression is not used once autumn is in full swing, and these “tiny autumns” are usually subtle and hard to find.
The summer this year has been surprisingly mild in Washington DC, making me seek out these little signs of autumn much earlier than usual. Yes, we’ve had a few weeks of 90 degree days with high humidity, but those have been interspersed with pleasantly warm days, even with some chilly evenings.
I painted a few sunflowers that I’ve seen that are sort of drooping, losing their petals, or being bowed over by the cool winds. In the first, I use the Japanese words 風の音 (kaze no oto), or “the sound of the wind.” The words I chose are inspired by a poem by Fujiwara no Toshiyuki, from the Kokinshuu, the first anthology of Japanese poetry, collected in the 10th century. Fujiwara’s poem, in English, is: “It’s a fact: autumn’s / here. To the eye it’s still not / quite apparent, but with the sound of the wind, I suddenly become aware.” (source: Oriori no Uta: Poems for all seasons, edited by Ooka Makoto, translated by Janine Beichman; Kodansha 2002)
For the second, I chose the words “there goes the sun.”
I’m off to hunt for more “tiny autumns”!