[FOUNTAIN]Summer is a-winding down"July is the beginning of fall, when the season enters ipchu or cheoseo.
Summer may still have one last burst of heat, but how long can it hold off autumn's progression?
Rain does not pound, but falls in gentle drops, and the wind feels different.
And with what foods did those cicadas fill their stomachs / So they can burst with song in the clean air?"
That is how the lunar month of July is described in a Korean folk song, the Nonggawollyeongga. The lunar July, which runs from Aug. 8 through Sept. 6 on the Western calendar this year, marks the beginning of autumn. The summer's heat has lost its spite; rain falls softly and in smaller amounts. Winds are cooler with the new season. Last Friday was cheoseo, the day that the heat of the summer begins to subside.
From time immemorial, the 15 days from cheoseo to the next seasonal division of baengno are split into three parts. The initial five days is when hawks hunt and stockpile their prey of birds; during the next five days, the sky and soil become cooler; and in the final five, rice ripens in the field. Folks recommend the yellow melon called chamwoe during jungbok and watermelon during malbok. But peach becomes the must to enjoy around cheoseo.
Cheoseo also ushers in other changes. As the saying goes, "Mosquitoes' mouths twist when cheoseo is over," meaning that mosquitoes and flies disappear with the cool winds of fall, and crickets appear to herald the beginning of autumn.
A funny exchange between two insects begins with a cricket asking, "What happened to your mouth?" The mosquito replies, "My mouth ripped open from laughing. People realize too late that I've sucked the blood out of their legs and they hit themselves in the area that itches." Then the mosquito spies the cricket's front legs and asks, "Why are you carrying around a saw?" The cricket replies, "This is to break the simmering nerves of widows who can't fall asleep during long night hours without a man."
During cheoseo, people usually take advantage of the dwindling rays of sun and cool winds to dry their clothes, which have become damp during the summer. This summer has been especially wet, meaning there is even more to dry out. But weather forecasters predict still more rain. As the ill-auguring proverb goes, "When it rains during cheoseo, the stockpiled grain diminishes." With our society bursting with do-or-die conflicts, it seems fitting for nature to be capricious and take away our chance to hang out our "dirty laundry" to whiten in the sun.
The writer is a deputy international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Noh Jae-hyun