Early Summer・初夏

Poetic Name (Mei)

銘 

Description / source poetry


Babbling Brook

せせらぎ

Seseragi

'Seseragi' is the sound of trickling water in a brooke or shallows of a stream. It evokes a lovely cooling image fit for summer.

Image: @minenomatsu


Water iris

Water shade

杜若

Kakitsubata

水の影

Mizu no Kage

Water irises

Looking just like their images

In the water

 

杜若 / kakitsubata

にたりやにたり / nitari ya nitari

水の影 / mizu no kage

- Bashō

 

A 'kakitsubata' water iris refers to purple irises native to Japan, sometimes referred to as 'rabiit-ear iris' due to their large, floppy petals.

Kakitsubata is the name of a Noh play.

 

A travelling monk is enjoying the luxurious water irises in full bloom on the bank of a stream, when a woman appears. She tells him that this place, called Yatsuhashi, is famous for water irises. She tells the old story of Ariwara no Narihira who composed the poem:

“As my Karakoromo (Chinese robe) moulds to my body after wearing it a long time, my wife and I have grown close,
Coming all this way to the East, leaving her behind in Kyoto, my heart aches to travel so far.”

Narihira had used the five syllables of the word for water iris, “ka-ki-tsu-ba-ta,” at the beginning of each verse of the poem (in Japanese).

The sun eventually sets. While apologising for the simpleness of her residence, the woman invites the monk to her hut to lodge overnight.

She changes her apparel and appears, gracefully transformed, wearing a beautifully shimmering Karakoromo-style kimono, and a diaphanous headdress, known as a sukibitai. She explains that the kimono belonged to Princess Takako and the headdress was owned by Narihira, the Princesses husband. She then reveals that she is the spirit of the water iris.

The highlight of this piece is the visionary dance and chanting of the female spirit of the flower, which plunges her into a profound dream. She connects Princess Takako and Narihira’s brilliant love with the merit of Buddha. Eventually she receives the merit of the Buddha’s law that leads even flowers and trees to Buddhahood. She achieves enlightenment and disappears at dawn.

 Image: @minenomatsu


Catching fireflies

蛍狩

Hotarugari

The pastime of catching, or watching the flickering lights of fireflies on summer nights.

Image: @minenomatsu


Spider Dance at Twilight

蜘蛛の振舞ひ

Kumo no Furumai

"Tomorrow's diary: A visit from my lover, under blue-gold sky. So writes this spider at twilight, weaving my dream into night."

「わが背子が来べきよひなりささがにの、蜘蛛の振舞ひかねてしるしも」

 

- from the 古今集 Kokinshū, translation by Sōmu Wojciński

 

Since antiquity in China, Korea and Japan, seeing a spider weaving a web at night has been considered an auspicious sign that one's lover will pay a visit the following day. 

*This mei can be used all summer.

Image: @minenomatsu


Yin-side of Verdure

 

Dark Foot of Trees

緑陰

Ryoku-in

 

木下闇

Koshita-yami

The verdure of trees has grown lusu and resplendent Yang. Under the canopy is calming shade. Yin.

Where the glow of sunlight can still be felt, 'Ryoku-in' is appropriate.

Where the shadows are so dark the ground is moist 'Koshita-yami' is more appropriate.

Image: @minenomatsu


Bluish Cloud

碧雲

Heki-un

In the high azure sky, the clouds appear to have taken on a tinge of blue.


Blue reed blind

青簾

Aosudare

Freshly made shading blinds have arrived just in time for the summer heat. The thin bamboo is still green, with a lingering scent of bamboo-grove-shade. Hung from the veranda eaves, the sudare distil the intense summer light into calm mystery. The room stills and cools in deep blue shade.


Clean wing

This phrase comes from Pablo Neruda's 'Ode To The Sea Gull' in which he celebrates both the beautiful and ugly nature of the sea gull in the one superb ode. After romanticising images of the sea gull, Neruda abruptly changes his tone, admitting to be a 'realist poet', and balances the sea gulls beauty with descriptions of its uglier side, which cannot be ignored. He synthesis the sea gulls polarising nature in this remarkable passage:

 

"you stalk

decayed

tomatoes,

the discarded

rubbish of the cove.

But

in you

it is transformed

into clean wing,

white geometry,

the ecstatic line of flight."

 

This poem makes me think of spiritual practices that recommend 'breathing out negativity' and similar irresponsible and egoistic fluff. This amounts to moving crap from your house to someone else's house. This does nothing but move negativity around. The real work, as we cannot escape negativity, is to transform it.