It is the first day of September, and there was a slight chill in the air this morning before six, despite it still being dry outside. The seasons are starting to shift.
Until more recent years, I spent more or less my entire life living by the academic calendar, whether as a pupil, a student, working in universities, or as a mixture of these. It’s no surprise, then, that at this time of year I have always felt a frisson of excitement linked to new beginnings and possibilities.
The traditional Japanese calendar identifies 72 separate microseasons through the year. Around this time of year, September, “heat starts to die down”, “rice ripens”, “dew glistens white on grass”, “wagtails sing” and “swallows leave”. Towards the end of the month, after the autumnal equinox, “thunder ceases” and “insects hole up underground”.
I have kept returning to these seasons throughout the year, enjoying their poetry and their reminder that we are all linked to the seasons and the natural world. I will look forward to when “crickets chirp around the door” in mid-autumn, and when “mists start to linger” in February.
I have also fallen rather in love with the idea of my own – perhaps our own – list of personal seasons. There would be less than 72, and not all would be as focussed on the calendar of the natural world; but they would capture those moments throughout the year where a certain thrill of anticipation rises again, as it did the year before and the year before that, at some feeling that you can’t quite capture in words but which you recognise instantly nonetheless. So far, the only season I am certain of starts at the beginning of September. I have yet to decide on a name, but it should feel like the promise of potential and the delight of new stationery. A hint of “bouquets of newly sharpened pencils”, perhaps. The freshest of fresh starts as the year begins to turn, the heat dies down, and everywhere there is opportunity and possibilities.