I cycle past the rice fields (does anyone know where we got the name paddy fields from? It sounds nothing like kome hatake and I can’t think of a latin or greek derivation, or am I missing something?) everyday on the way to school. In the morning they’re beautiful, green with mist rising off them and on the further away ones I can catch the glints of water through the stalks. On the nearer to ones I can see the darting flashes of the multi-coloured dragonflies that flit above them. The luscious green has been turning slowly to gold as I’ve been passing the fields everyday and I’m reminded nothing so much as of my walk to primary school when I was a kid.
The lane I lived down was past fields of wheat (Mr. Wilmore later sold them and my walk to the bus stop for secondary school/ the beginning of my walk to secondary school if I was feeling healthy/had missed the bus was past newly built houses) and I remember watching as everyday the fields turned slowly to that yellow gold readiness.
The rice fields look more like wheat fields than I was expecting, I’m not sure what I was expecting given that the plants are related and all but I can see the rice at the top of the grasses and its like watching wheat kernels(?is that the right word?) ripen. The rice doesn’t seem to get to that yellow gold stage before the farmers harvest them but rather to a green gold. Then, in fields that are much smaller than those in Britain, I can watch as the farmers push machines that look like a cross between a rotorvator and a combine, leaving neat sheaves of rice behind them.
Some of the rice fields are still green, a later harvesting variety I suppose, some are showing signs of wind and rain damage left by the typhoons. And I know these fields and I know when they’re coming ripe because I’ve seen it before, in another country, and its not so very different. The fields are small though. They’re about the size of the medeival fields you still see traces of in cattle pastures over grown with grass, their boundaries marked out across the landscape.
Only 15% of Japan can be farmed and the rice fields are tooked into every nook and cranny, even when they’re not and they spread across the flatland like a blanket they`re still in tiny squares and each field is worked by one farmer. I guess in some places farmers must own lots of fields but on my ride to school I can see the different bicycles and vans and I see the same person or couple of people in the same field day after day.
Lancaster is surrounded by sheep and cows and though they make the landscape a lot prettier and me less prone to hayfever they make it harder to see the harvest coming. I’m a flatlands girl at heart and I grew up watching the fields change colour, from lemon-green to yellow, from blue-green to lilac and from deep green to yellow gold. Here I can see the harvest coming in waves, the fruit ripening on the vines and trees, the rice changing colour slowly in the fields.
I’ve been here for the first of the harvest festivals, and now I’m prepareing for the second. At home Lammas always seemed kind of early, first fruits when you’ve only really started on some of the apples and berries (somedays you can really see where Mr. Gardner just gave us too many festivals and all in the wrong places!). But here I celebrated with peaches and grapes almost straight from the fields and orchards around my home and now I’m watching and prepareing for Mabon which last year was the last festival I really did something for before the pressure started.
This year I’m in a country where Mabon, well the autumn equinox, is a national holiday! I have a day off and I’m planning on spending it properly with my gods. The harvest this year is turning out to be a good one even if the sowing was not always pleasant and did not go to plan. And next year? Well next year I’m planning on repairing some of the damage done by this years storms and as for future harvests, I plan on sowing them in relaxed fields where pressure is minimal.
This year I’m going to make sure I watch the fields, not get caught up in what’s moving through them.