The forest in late autumn, when most of the leaves have fallen from the branches, is the perfect hunting world.
Hunting for… not animals.
A gently hunt for dried grass and branches.
The woods behind the mountain cottage is wild. The underbrush is nearly unmanaged.
-The best place to find my “prey”.
Wearing my long boots, I start out with an empty paper bag and a pair of small scissors.
Entering the woods, I find the ground covered with dried grass.
I need to pull my legs up high with every step I take.
The leaves and branches make a crackling and crunchy sound As I walk over them step by step.
An exciting secret walk through the forest,
With no one in sight,
With only the sound of birds tweeting in the air.
The forest floor is warm, with sunlight coming though the bare branches.
Looking up, I find chocolate vines winding around the trunk of a tall tree.
Dry akebia fruits hang from the vines.
Akebia vines are strong and beautiful,
But are too thick and hard to manage.
Too difficult for the weak hunter, they belong to a category for skilled hunters.
Giving up on the chocolate vine, I turn my eyes to the ground.
A short Atractylodes japonica stands nearby.
The Atractylodes japonica is a truly plain flower that looks dry even when it is alive,
But this one is really dry.
Gentians also stand beautifully, their flowers completely dry.
In sunny spots with more space,
Rosehip are everywhere.
My hunter spirit is ignited.
Taking out my scissors, I cut a little of each plant take home.
Shaped like hooks turned downwards,
The thorns cut quite easily.
I am obsessed with the task of struggling with the thorns, scissors in hand.
By the time I am finished, my fingers and palm are bleeding from splinters.
But that does not keep me from hunting.
The golden skunk vine berries are also beautiful.
Strongly, but carefully, so as not to let the berries fall off,
I pull the vines that are randomly wound around the dry Japanese silver grass or the branches of bushes.
What an abundant catch!
My paper bag has become quite full.
I cannot get enough of beautiful berries on dry vines.
China root, Japanese honeysuckle, Japanese bittersweet…
These woody vines can all be bent into beautiful wreaths.
But first, I must take them home for drawing.
I head home in high spirits with a bursting but very light paper bag.
Just as my bag filled with treasures, my heart is fulfilled.
Walking home down the river bank, the wind carries the scent of a bonfire from the fields in the valley.
This is the nostalgic smell of autumn at dusk.
Illustrated and written by Emiko Hirano
Illustrator and essayist. Born in Shizuoka Prefecture in 1961 and raised in Yokohama. Has published many illustrations and essays on mountain hiking, travels and lifestyles.
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