Vox Populi

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Tracy Matsue Loeffelholz: This Ancient Calendar Marks 72 Seasons

Adapting to climate change requires close attention to our natural environment.

It’s a rare person who can’t remember a time when a season’s weather was different. Summers used to be shorter, or longer. Or colder, hotter, wetter, drier. Autumn leaves have been changing later in recent years as a result of higher summer and autumn temperatures. A reasonable start for dealing with the climate crisis is to get people to notice their environment and its natural rhythms.

For the past year, I’ve used a phone app called 72 Seasons to help me see more subtle seasonal changes beyond the basic winter, spring, summer, fall. The app follows an ancient Japanese calendar that recognizes 24 sekki, 15-day seasons, further divided into 72 specific seasonal shifts. Every five days, the app updates me with poetic precision on the changes I could be noticing around me.

A calendar of 72 seasons makes sense for a culture steeped in seasonality and respect for nature. Why limit ourselves to only four when seasonal shifts are constantly occurring, from the way light shines on a mountain in April to the feel of morning air in the second week of September? Of course, a single calendar can’t predict changes and dates everywhere in the world. But the point is that microseasonal shifts happen no matter where you live. By being reminded to watch for them and even to name them, we can train ourselves to live in tune with them. Food seasons are an easy way to notice nuanced shifts. In the Pacific Northwest, I watch for the first Copper River salmon to arrive toward the end of May, and the second week in June is when cherries are ripening. You can redefine your seasons by all their microseasonswherever you live.


Tracy Matsue Loeffelholz is the creative director at YES! 

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