Today, on October 8th we enter the period of Cold Dew (hán lù 寒露) the 17th solar terms of the year. The night temperatures become cold enough to condense the moisture in the air to dew, but not cold enough to create frost. Each of the solar terms are divided into three pentads and the three for hán lù are 鴻雁來賓, ‘The wild swans and geese arrive as guests” (my translation), 雀入大水為蛤, ‘The sparrows go into the big water for clams” (my translation), 菊有黃華, ‘Chrysanthemums all flowery yellow” (my translation). If you have a better one than the one I found which says they turn into clams, please let me know.
Technically, hán lù starts when the sun reaches celestrial longitude of 195° and ends at 210° longitude. Most often it refers to the day when the sun is exactly at 195°. Since ancient times, ecliptic longitude has been measured using the twelve zodiacal signs, each measuring 30°, a practice still found used in astrology. The signs approximately corresponded to the constellations crossed by the ecliptic. The ecliptic is the apparent path of the sun on the celestial sphere. In China, ecliptic longitude is measured using the solar terms, each of which is 15° longitude. The solar terms are used to keep the calendar synchronized with the seasons, very important in agricultural societies.
Why do I think this has relevance in the modern, non-agricultural world? I could pile a two meter stack of medical and scientific research that shows lack of contact with nature is detrimental to physical and mental health. It is not hard to make this necessary connection. It takes just a few moments to stop and appreciate the small beauties that are there if you just look.
I love this time of year for many reasons and one of them is the way the dew turns all the spider’s webs into jeweled nets on my thrubs, the fences of my neighbors and the tall grass at the back of the yard. It’s also one of my favorite subjects of photography. I am not doing much photography these days but I follow and admire the work of many amateur and professional photographers. Dew laden cobwebs are high onmy list of favorite subjects. I also love images of the vast structures of interstellar space but I have far more opportunity in daily life to observe the small things like the cobwebs, a meditating praying mantis or the cardinal pair tweeting each other from the fence.
I have very few of the ailments that plague most Americans, My digestion is perfect and i sleep solidly every night, waking almost exactly the same time every morning without an alarm. I can lift weights many of my contempraries struggle with and rarely have trouble opening stubborn jars. My blood pressure is no higher than it was when I was in my twenties. I do as my cats do. They enjoy their food but don’t overeat (except Mi Sun, no one is perfect), they stretch every day and have not forgotten play is important and importantly, they spend time observing nature, stalking any bugs foolhardy enough to tresspass their domain or watching out the window for the birds and squirrels and the blowing dry leaves, or any other thing that catches their attention. Together we mark the passing of the solar periods and pentads, connecting with nature and staying healthy.
Pomegranates are very good for you and this is the season for them. In China they are popular but may be even more popular in the Middle East and Meditteranean. It can be hard to find good ones. They bruise easily when ripe so commercially they are often picked a little early for shipping. But they don’t ripen further after picking.
To prevent autumn dryness, many regions in China have the custom of drinking chrysanthemum wine. This is a tradition of the Double Ninth Festival (on the ninth day of the ninth month in the Chinese calendar), which often falls around Cold Dew. According to ancient records, drinking the wine made with chrysanthemums, poria cocos and pine oleoresin grants people long-lasting youth.
There is a saying that goes: “It is time to harvest hawthorn during Cold Dew.” Extracts of the berries have long been used in herbal medicine. The antioxidants in hawthorn are thought to boost heart health by strengthening blood vessels and stimulating blood flow. Chances are you will not find them fresh in the United States unless you know a farmer who grows them, but the dried ones are available. Hawthorne is native to the United Kingdom, you may have better luck getting fresh berries there.