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  • Writer's pictureJean Linville

Curiouser & Curiouser

The piece of art work that I included in last week's blog (the center image) is still a work in progress, but it is nearing the finish line. This particular piece of art evolved out of my desire, last March, to begin a focused effort to learn more about our little piece of land and its inhabitants. At first, I thought of doing a series covering the four seasons; spring, summer, fall and winter but, upon reflection, it seemed that it would be hard to capture all of the nuances that occur in the landscape within a full season on just one panel. That was when I decided to work on a twelve panel piece, one panel for every month over the course of a year. I figured that there should be enough variation between each month in plant growth, insect populations, etc. to enable me to produce twelve distinctly individual panels. Now, almost a year later and just one month away from completing my last panel, I realize just how wrong I was with this assumption, but not in the way you might imagine. When I began meandering around our yard, seeing what I could see, I may not have found the same level of magical creatures as Alice did as she wandered about, but I have certainly found that our little yard is a true wonderland. Most notably, everyday there are changes occurring some subtle, some not. It was not uncommon for me to notice halfway through working on a given panel that the plants, birds, insects, etc. that I had chosen had changed in some rather significant way from when I first started working with them. What I ended up capturing more accurately represented a few days within the month rather than the totality of the month. Twelve panels were not nearly enough to document all the metamorphoses that I was seeing.

And then, I stumbled onto an article that referenced an ancient Japanese calendar that celebrated seventy-two seasons. Yes, seventy-two seasons! The ancient Japanese calendar recognizes 24 sekki, 15-day seasons, further divided into 72 specific seasonal shifts. The origin of this design is thought to be based on the path of the sun as seen from Earth which creates a zodiac, 360 degrees divided into 24, 15-degree sections, each one given a name to depict the seasonal changes through the year, with each season lasting just 15 days. Each of the 24 seasons is further divided into three sections, creating the 72 season calendar. Each of these 72 seasons lasts just five days or so, and the names of each season beautifully depicts the tiny, delicate changes in nature that occur around us, year in year out.

The more I noticed small microseasonal shifts happening all around me, the more the concept of a seventy-two season year made sense. Although I will continue and finish my twelve panel project next month, I am already hatching a plan for a "seventy-two seasons" work of some sort for the coming year. By morphing my concept of seasons into microseasons, I find that I am much more attuned to what is happening around me every day. One of my most mystifying seasonal weeks happened this month in what I am calling "squirrel pruning maples week". The pile of branches that appear in the left-hand image are a small fraction of what I found strewn around on the ground beneath the maple trees on our property. Closer examination found that each branch had been cleanly chewed off. There are literally hundreds of these "pruned" branches on the ground, buds intact and no other chew marks evident. So far, none of them have been moved other that by myself. Curiouser and curiouser indeed.

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Bethe Hagens
Bethe Hagens
Jan 24, 2020

This really grabbed my awareness. I don't know if I told you, but I extravagantly celebrated my 72nd birthday--delighted to think I was in sync with the sun. It travels 1 degree of apparent precession every 72 years. It felt like the only degree I had really earned! These numbers seem to be everywhere! Beautiful piece. I am inspired to try something here, but will need to spend a few more seasons to figure out what :-)

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