"Winter woman", by YOKOMITSU Riichi

A woman, alone, gazes absently over the fence into the yard next door. In the yard, a few winter chrysanthemums have run wild and covered the ground. Smoke emerges from under the swept-up pile of fallen leaves and rises to the sky.

Ask her, simply: "What are you thinking?"

She folds her hands over her breast. "A song of autumn."

If that was how she replied, then you must stop her. Gently take her hand:

"You must think of spring's arrival. Perhaps you would like to go back inside and brew some tea? And are your spring clothes ready? I beg of you, sit by a bubbling bronze kettle and sew. Your husband will be home in no time, hands red from the cold, no doubt. You must not wallow until then in thoughts of the autumn just passed. There is no happiness in autumn. Come, let us return indoors. If you dislike putting your hands in the charcoal box, I shall lend you my gloves. The water may be cold, but think of your husband soon to return. The flowers in the florists' windows have not yet withered. Dust off the vase over the fireplace and grace it with a single narcissus. No doubt the verandahs are filled with cats lulled to sleep by the warm sunlight, while elsewhere puppies frolic gaily with their shadows. But you must not look upon the camellia. It is too lonely a flower. In the shadow of the toolshed it silently blooms and scatters itself to the wind. Come, breathe out in good cheer a puff of white -- like the bird that takes flight, startled, when those petals fall. Open your eyes wide and take up a daikon in the kitchen, smiling. Your new shawl, I am sure, will leap out of the bundle your husband brings. But spring will be here soon. The sound of honeybees will buzz around your kitchen basin ladle. More cars will travel from the village into town every day. The shrikes will return to a distant land, and buds will spring afresh from the bare branches. You will see young lovers holding each other's hands as they stroll around the outskirts of the village. At such times, take your husband by the hand and say: 'Well, spring is certainly here, isn't it? isn't it?' But your husband's spring coat must not smell of mildew."

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Thanks for that. It seemed appropriate since yesterday was 初雪.


And cold as hell. And, let's face it, I think everyone could use some harsh reminders about our slacking off on the sewing-by-the-kettle front.


Bah, I say. Spring is mud and dead grass coming out of the dirty snow. Insects. Autumn is harvests, beautiful colors and friends gathering by the fire with warm drinks and memories. Give me autumn any day.


I had the autumn versus spring debate in the office a few months ago. I ended up having to quote Endo Shusaku's housewife about how the ginko trees weren't dying, but just going to sleep.


How about we alternate?


I have to admit that I am more of an autumn man myself. As I grow older and gradually feel the seasons more I have come to appreciate the relief from winter that spring brings, if nothing else.

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