Sunday, September 25, 2011

25/09 VOX POPULI: As the days get cooler, we should rest tired minds

Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a daily column that runs on Page 1 of the vernacular Asahi Shimbun.


Old cherry trees that line a street in my neighborhood had their routine "health checkup" on Sept. 23. Apart from losing leaves and some small branches, they all survived Typhoon No. 15. According to the tree doctor, roadside trees won't come down in a storm so long as their roots are protected and their branches are properly trimmed.

The severe midweek typhoon brought autumn in its train. Summer's residual heat is finally gone, and the mackerel sky reminds me of a fine watercolor. A haiku by Mori Tajima goes: "Sunset glow/ Surfers ride red waves." Vestigial images of summer are beginning to fade in the cool of early morning and late evening.

This year, however, we apparently need to watch out for "aki-bate" (autumn lethargy) because of the beatings our bodies have taken during the brutal summer. It certainly wasn't easy living with minimal air conditioning. Our gastrointestinal organs are suffering the consequences of an overload of icy drinks and cold foods. There was also the stress of living in fear of another big earthquake, which must have affected our minds and bodies in ways we do not understand.

Now is the time to cool the overheated body and heal the tired mind. The weather is neither hot nor cold. We are done with the nervous energy of spring, and we are off the sort of hope-disappointment cycle we experience when the seasons change.

In my opinion, the next few weeks are the best time of the year to get our "emotional temperatures" stable.

"Aki no Kehai" (Signs of autumn), a hit number by the folk group Off Course, has these lines: "The winds die down at dusk/ The broken-up clouds become one again."

Kazumasa Oda, who wrote the lyrics, depicted the end of a romantic relationship against the backdrop of his native Yokohama. The mild sense of loss is typical to autumn. The song continues: "Like a broad river/ Time flows/ There is no going back."

During this year's "higan" Buddhist holiday, many people in the Tohoku region must have prayed before photos of loved ones who perished in the March 11 quake and tsunami. Some family graves remain untended.

I should imagine that those people's sense of loss will only intensify with time.

The quake occurred in spring. Summer came and went, and now it's autumn. I have resolved to live each day in deep appreciation of the glorious clear skies.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 24

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.

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