January 31, 2011
I may not forget
the beauty winter permits:
seeds in brave design.
The last day of the month becomes a latch in ring composition* to complete the circle and connect back to the first day of the month. It is a reminder as we consider “ends and beginnings” that life and time are circular and even in the dead of winter – when it is difficult to imagine the garden in bloom – seeds for that garden in bloom grace the snow-packed yard, connecting in the present the past with the future.
* This month of haiku as a whole has formed a ring and each haiku talks across the circle with another haiku:
January 1 speaks with January 16
January 2 speaks with January 17
January 3 speaks with January 18
January 4 speaks with January 19
January 5 speaks with January 20, etc.,
until January 15 speaks with January 30, and then today’s haiku is the latch closing that ring.
Each month will create a separate ring, but each day will be a part of other larger rings that make up the year. More will be said about the larger rings toward the end of June and the start of July.
January 30, 2011
A drop hesitates.
Should I stay? An icicle
too needs warmth to grow.
An icicle is formed by a balance of opposing forces. Too much heat and the icicle becomes a puddle of water; too much cold and the rooftop snow remains frozen snow on the roof. Heat needs cold; cold needs heat.
Majestic mountains are formed by a titanic tectonic battle of colliding forces. We too grow by the interplay of opposing forces. Our struggles to find harmony between these forces, to find balance in our lives, is the catalyst for growth, just as the interplay of heat and cold helps the icicle to grow. If we are too willful, we drive others away; if we are too docile, we get trampled. And your friend can be your enemy if he/she doesn’t inform you when you have gone out of kilter; your enemy can be your friend if he/she wakes you to your failings. We must find the balance.
Perhaps you have noticed for those moments when you are in balance, there is no hot or cold; there is just temperature. And there are no friends or enemies; there are just people.
January 29, 2011
An uncertain sun
looks askance at the cold world
and keeps its distance.
Winter is a sun without confidence. It is interesting to watch light shifting in our house as Earth makes its seasonal tilts on its journey round the sun. During the short days of winter, the light can reach only so far and for so long before it recedes and fades into night. Why does it seem that the sunniest of winter days provide the least warmth?
It takes time for the sun to once again gain its confidence, let itself slowly get closer, give of itself, and provide its soothing warmth to the world. May we do the same.
January 28, 2011
The snow is a sleep
that heals with soft white hands and
wakes to dreams of green.
There is a Zen saying, “When you eat, eat; when you walk, walk,” which speaks to the importance of being fully present in whatever we are doing at the moment. A person should not sleepwalk through his/her life and wake up some distant day wondering, “How did I get here?” Life, to be lived, must be lived mindfully.
True sleep, however, is also important. It helps to restore and re-balance body, mind and spirit. So, if I may play with the Zen saying, good advice might be, “When you sleep, sleep; when awake, wake up!”
January 27, 2011
Have I seen this day?
The snow though is finer now
and the wind more tame.
The difference is in the details. I had always heard that no two snowflakes are identical. With all the snow that as fallen just in my lifetime, it seems incredible. How do we test the validity of such a statement? It is comical to imagine scientists scrambling around in a field collecting flakes in a snowstorm, peering at them through a microscope, and making diagrams before they melt. Well, that is what Wilson Alwyn Bentley from Jericho, Vermont, did. His early attempts failed, but when Bentley attached a camera to his microscope in 1885, he was able to photograph the snowflakes before they melted. After photographing over 5000 snowflakes, Bentley came to the conclusion that no two snowflakes are alike. Scientists since have supported Bentley’s theory.
Bentley snowflakes 1902
So while it may be true that there is “nothing new under the sun” (Ecc. 1:9) — after all, the snow is just part of the ongoing water cycle –, it is also true that nothing is the same. The proof is in the details.
January 26, 2011
Snow muffles my steps.
I surprise a cardinal -
myself – on a branch.
What is surprise?
According to its etymology from my old Webster’s (1985): [ME. surprysen < OFr. surpris pp. of surprendre, to surprise, take napping].
I love this etymology. Surprise is to “take napping,” sleeping to the wonder that is the world. Here walking in the snow, coming around a corner in this gray winter world, I think that I surprise a cardinal who was perched on a branch of the maple tree in our backyard. But the surprise is mine! The cardinal is all awareness, spotting food, friends, danger in the blink of an eye. I am the one caught napping, thinking this is just a gray world. I am the one caught napping, missing this world that is full of such red wonders.
January 25, 2011
Look out this window:
a world less alive without
cold upon my cheek.
Here is a photo taken from our living room looking out on a portion of our backyard. When I later that day went outside to refill the birdfeeder, I was struck by the qualitative difference between looking at this snow landscape from our warm house and becoming a part of it: feeling the cold on my face and in my lungs, hearing the cardinals and finches at a safe distance, smelling the wood burning in a neighbor’s hearth, and seeing nature breathe as I breathe with it.
The living room view is photographic: beautiful, removed, inaccessible, safe. The outside view is not a view but an experience: sensual, connected, and vulnerable. It cannot be duplicated.
Which space is the living room?
January 23, 2011
Does the world begin
with a bang or a stillness?
with sound or silence?
Here again we return to a choice and two opposites: stillness or sound. Must we choose one? Can we choose both? How does one reconcile stillness and sound? Does the ultimate stillness lead one to the ultimate sound?
Consider the sound OM which, according to the Mandukya Upanishad that explains it, represents metaphorically the Self which is beyond all words. Jospeh Campbell, in an interview with Bill Moyers in 1987, explains the meaning of this sound: “‘AUM’ is a word that represents to our ears that sound of the energy of the universe of which all things are manifestations. You start in the back of the mouth ‘ahh,’ and then ‘oo,’ you fill the mouth, and ‘mm’ closes the mouth. When you pronounce this properly, all vowel sounds are included in the pronunciation. AUM. Consonants are here regarded simply as interruptions of the essential vowel sound. All words are thus fragments of AUM, just as all images are fragments of the Form of forms. AUM is a symbolic sound that puts you in touch with that resounding being that is the universe….To be in touch with that and to get the sense of that is the peak experience of all.
“A-U-M. The birth, the coming into being, and the dissolution that cycles back. AUM is called the ‘four-element syllable.’ A-U-M — and what is the fourth element? The silence out of which AUM arises, and back into which it goes, and which underlies it, too. That is what we would call the immortal.”
Within the Great Silence resides all sound. The Mandukya Upanishad ends, “Accordingly, the very Self is OM. Whoever knows this enters the Self by his/her Self.” This is what Buddha figured out. This too is what Jesus figured out.
January 22, 2011
Winter goes deeper
into itself into me
quiet and watchful.
“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson “Self-Reliance”
D. T. Suzuki, again in Zen and Japanese Culture, stated “Haiku is loneliness” [p. 254]. Loneliness here, however, is not a pejorative term. It denotes a certain solitariness and a necessary resolve, a resolve not to follow the crowd, not to let life happen to us, but rather create our life purposefully with the gifts we are given. It is a loneliness that is a loveliness, sublimely portrayed by Robert Storm Petersen in his Tilbage til Naturen (“Back to Nature”) which graces our dining room wall as a constant reminder that Socrates’ examined life or Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “original relation to the universe” [Nature] requires a solitude (not an alienation) that puts ourselves in contact with that which is, that we may live and act therefrom.
Winter, with the “distractions” of leaf and flower gone, is symbolic of this solitude when animal activity slows and the season is passed in meditation. Everything pares down to the essential, but, while the season is undeniably desolate, some of the most important work is being done.
Storm P.'s Tilbage til Naturen 1945