I’ve had one of those weeks. Short-staffed at work and not feeling the best. I’ve still managed to read and write a haiku a day.
Today I’m posting two old Japanese haiku by Chiyo-ni, a female poet. The sunrise photo is mine and near where I live but the violet photo is a borrowed image. I don’t think violets could survive the heat here in the Northern Territory but I like the truth expressed in this haiku.
The last haiku is a modern one and I love how it turns your thinking around and speaks from inside the image. My photo from a few weeks ago.
I’ve played around writing Haiku and other short poems for a few years now but not consistently or seriously learning how to write them well. Recently I thought I’d like to try and write Haiku better and match them with photos I take. There’s no Haiku society in the Northern Territory but I’ve found lots of info on-line from all over the world and many helpful books.
Im reading “Haiku in English: the first hundred years” and in the introduction by Billy Collins he explains the following: “…a Haiku must be very simple and free of poetic trickery and yet be airy and graceful…Haiku is both easy and impossible to define. One can merely use dictionary language to say that Haiku is a short poem, usually three lines that uses natural imagery to evoke a feeling or mood. But such flat definitions fall well short of accounting for Haiku’s mysterious power to cause in the readers consciousness a sudden shift, literally a new way of seeing. Part of this ability lies in the form’s brevity, which leaves no time to explain an experience; instead, the Haiku conveys an experience directly without commentary and with an immediacy not possible in longer poems”.
Below are three I’ve written this week with photos I’ve taken locally…enjoy!
Fasi suggested, many times in the years we’ve lived here, that he could boat me across to Gulunhara Island, commonly known as West Woody. For a picnic or a days peace to read, but I always declined. I couldnt imagine what it would be like, maybe hot sand and no shade? He offered again last Saturday and because the weather is mild this time of year I agreed to give it a try.
That night I cooked spiced banana loaf and boiled some eggs. Easy food to take. I packed my basket with journals and Vanessa Berry’s new book, “Gentle and Fierce”, phone charger and sunscreen, unaccountably (after so many years of refusing) looking forward to the short trip and a day to myself.
Awake at 5am we hooked up our dinghy to the old white land cruiser, packed water and other essentials (and non-essentials) and were at the boat ramp by 6. The early mornings fading full moon glimmered across the water as the men launched the boat. The scene was the palest pink monochrome, almost a wordless poem.
After twenty minutes of a smooth boat ride Fasi anchored in shallow clear water off the islands beach. The sand was covered in corals and pink and grey tiny cowrie shells. Plenty to collect for my friend in Queensland as I’d promised. The island is small, if it wasn’t for it’s rocky edges it would take less than half an hour to walk around.
Fasi and Nurul left to go fishing nearby. I found a white sandy area near large round rocks that invited shelter and solitude and set out a chair and my basket. To the sound of gentle waves and barely visible honeyeaters chirping in the bushes behind me. A whole day of bliss, like a dream. A day of turquoise-water dreaming.
I read and wrote and ate and paddled in the cool water. I filled a plastic black plant pot, washed up on the beach, with the pinkest shells I’ve ever seen. It was a delightful day. Sundays will never be the same. And, to think, I’d refused the gift of it for six years.
There’s a woman who lives in an iron-clad company house, on a red dirt track, at the upper edge of an Aboriginal community in North-East Arnhem land. She’s a nurse in a small doctor clinic a short walk from this house. In Summer she drives a car because going outside from the air-conditioner is like walking into a closed bathroom after a hot shower. Impossibly hot and steamy. It’s winter now and she chooses to walk. The sun is merely warm and the outside air faintly cool on her skin. She feels alive.
The first 100 metres is the red bauxite track covered in tiny marble-like balls, slippery underfoot.
She turns left onto the bitumen, 2,000-steps-to-work road, and the bush warm charcoal smell from last nights cultural burn greets her. It was a cold fire that slowly ate down the undergrowth, overnight, that would otherwise have prevented fresh new growth in the spring. A little further along the smell changes to the sweetness of eucalyptus leaves warming in the morning sun mixed with a profusion of wattle blossoms. Acacia auricululiformis or black wattle. Ubiquitous throughout the Northern Territory it needs smoke or heat from a fire to germinate its seeds. Its flower is paler and smaller than the silver-leafed Cootamundra wattle of her childhood further south.
One of the nurses she works with asked her if she was afraid of the dogs, walking alone without a stick? Dogs of varying degree of dingo heritage station themselves at the edges of the invisible boundaries of their owners homes, watchful but not menacing. She ignores them looking straight ahead and presents no threat to them.
A white sulphur-crested cockatoo screeches out a warning, or a greeting, to others in its flock from the highest branch of a gum tree. Maybe to share or to scare away others from eating the bunches of honey tasting flowers.
The woman approaches the left turn towards the clinic.
Sometimes I feel like a woman in a dream, wandering down this path to work. So far from my family and all I’ve ever known, and yet, by now, so familiar. So many paths to choose from and even on this short walk there are sandy side tracks leading to different destinations. I could take one to the right, amongst the trees and come out at the nearby bay. Sit and read all day. I could take the trodden down bush walk to the left, past the houses and end up at the blue house when the new-born puppies are and play all day with them. But I keep walking on the bitumen past houses and dogs until I reach the padlocked gate of the clinic. I rummage in my bag for the key and with that wake from the dream.
Do you enjoy fragments? I do. A glimpse of a strangers face, a remembered line of an old song, a whispered conversation on a bus, a delicious aroma teasing from someone else’s house, the middle of a movie you haven’t got time to watch till the end, a dream that vanishes on waking, a phrase you just have to copy down…
They arouse my curiosity and imagination more than any completed experience.
Australian writer Elizabeth Jolley, wrote fragments on scraps of paper for years before she was first published in her fifties. She was too busy raising a family and working at an assortment of jobs to have enough time to write at length and at leisure. I was one of her many correspondents whom she encouraged to write short notes about the weather, landscape, overheard conversations, because I too had a full life with little time. She was quoted in 1986 as saying: “If anybody had asked to see a work in progress it would have been lots of bits of paper with scribbles on.”
A fragment is defined as “an isolated or incomplete part”. But, although incomplete, it is at the same time complete in itself because it contains the potential of what it may become…a story, poem, song, healing memory, nourishing meal, something understood, a puzzle solved.
Fragments allow mystery into our lives and curiosity leads us on….
Among the most important things in living a creative life is having a passionate desire for what you love and following it without giving up. Here’s a poem by Hafiz, a 14th century Persian Sufi master that puts this succinctly.
The Vintage Man
Between a good artist
And a great one
Will often lay down his tool
Then pick an invisible club
On the minds table
And helplessly smash the easels and
Whereas the vintage man
No longer hurts himself or anyone
And keeps on
Whatever our particular “tools” are in the art that is our life…may we keep on “sculpting light”…
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape is between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
only kindness that raises it’s head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.