A short introduction to Sekki
One of the books I’ve read and deeply enjoyed last year was “White” by renowned Japanese graphic and industrial designer Kenya Hara. In his book, Hara elaborates on the value of white for aesthetics and design as well as the significance of emptiness for humane communication and Japanese culture. One of the manifold cultural phenomena casually brought up in the book –which, again, is well worth reading as a whole– is Sekki (節気).
In ancient China and Japan, when agriculture was the backbone of society and the focal point of everyday life for the vast majority of the regular population, farmers broke down the year in twenty-four Sekki. In contrast to our four long seasons, those “Small Seasons” were not pinned down to calendar dates, but based on environmental phenomena and the rhythm of nature instead. Basically, each Sekki is linked to a specific climatic shift, lasts for about two weeks, and is often described with almost poetic language to visualize the outlined changes.
Because I grew up in a city –seemingly disconnected from agriculture– seasons never held that much importance for me to begin with, but as a grown-up, that segregation even got worse. And as if that wasn’t enough in and of itself the ongoing pandemic has flattened life brutally last year; Trips can’t take place, events have been postponed or are canceled completely, leisure activities are on hold and most human encounters are reduced to strictly digital gatherings.
With weeks passing by in an instant and months blending together seamlessly I’ve found some relief in the idea of small seasons. It’s somewhat therapeutic to have a fine-grained time measurement to hold on to and it’s refreshing to have something to look out for in nature — even though living on a different continent means that nature has a different rhythm to varying degrees of course. It’s a welcome variety to this Groundhog Day-like array of dim repetition most of us are currently trapped in.
If you’re interested in the concept of Sekki, too, and want to break down the upcoming year in small seasons yourself now, I highly recommend “A guide to understanding Small Seasons”. Canadian designer and developer Ross Zurowski has built a simplistic and informative website, a twitterbot, and even some handy tools to add Sekki to your Google or iCal calendar.
And in case you have an idea on how to evolve the whole project further, you can contribute to its Github repository. There are already a few more interesting alternative calendars from different cultures referenced over there.
Approximately today –as mentioned before dates vary– is the “Start of spring”, called Risshun (立春), so it feels very appropriate to use this as an introduction to my renewed blog. More about that in another blog post soon, but for now: Hello world!
“Ground thaws, fish appear under ice.”