March 31, 2011
Fleecy new-born clouds
roam freely through blue pastures
counting on a dream.
Today’s haiku is the latch that closes the March circle and joins the end of the month back to its start (“In Like a Lion”). It metaphorically ends the saying begun on March 1 and the lion and the lamb lay together.
March 30, 2011
Small deed, great return:
prune back to the essential;
let everything breathe.
My Aunt Agnes taught me how to prune trees. Our backyard butted up against her backyard and she allowed me to learn gardening skills in her garden. Aunt Agnes was an excellent gardener and persnickety about her trees, particularly about the flowering crabapple tree just outside her kitchen window. For a number of years she walked and talked me through the pruning showing me exactly where each branch should be cut for both the health of the tree and the aesthetic shape of the tree. Aunt Agnes explained how trimming the tree made it stronger by eliminating suckers and unhealthy branches or branches that were rubbing on one another and impeding growth.
As we do this spring cleaning for the health of our garden, it would be wise to do the same for ourselves: look at our lives and prune diligently back to the essentials, let ourselves grow strong by eliminating the unnecessaries that get in the way of healthy living. As Henry David Thoreau said in his classic Walden, “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”
March 29, 2011
Smooth mirror-like lake,
your eye reflects a rough world
yet does not move you.
To be this lake – all-accepting, unruffled – that is all I ask. A simple request: to see the world exactly as it is, to let the world see itself exactly as it is through me. To not ignore the blemishes or paint them over, but to be honest and yet unmoved by the terrible loveliness of the world.
To be this lake: that is all I ask.
March 28, 2011
Early spring shower,
water returns to earth:
the karmic circle.
What has water done in its previous lives?
Quenched our thirst, bathed our cares, washed our dirty laundry, cleansed our bodies and our souls, built our beautiful canyons, fed our stomachs, purged our emotions. The list seems endless.
So, Water, if you return, what hope is there for us? You must be a true bodhisattva, denying your surely-earned nirvana. A real bodhisattva, now dripping down my cheek, come back to ease our suffering.
March 27, 2011
Austere, leafless trees
reach out toward the first question:
Where do we begin?
“We have learned the answers, all the answers:
It is the question that we do not know.”
- Archibald MacLeish
Where do we begin? This is always the first question. When we have a task in front of us: Where do we begin? When we wake up in the morning: Where do we begin? When we wonder who we are: Where do we begin? It is the question we begin with, and within this question is a kind of magic.
Where do we begin? This is a magic question because it forces us into action, it will start us on a quest, it will put us on a path. We have to ask the question, but once we do everything else follows. It will not take us to an end; it will take us off our seat. It will move us, and then anything is possible.
Where do we begin? The question will bring us to our Self. We will begin to remember. We will begin to unlearn all the crap we had to learn to discipline ourselves so that one day we would ask the question, “Where do we begin?”
March 26, 2011
Forth from niches now
the Japanese peony
sends soft pink silk shoots.
When we bought our house in 1991, we became the keepers of Josephine’s Garden. Josephine was the first owner of this house and the person who created the lovely perennial gardens in our backyard. When Josephine turned 85, she decided the garden was too much work for her and so with some trepidation she sought someone to become the next caregivers for her garden.
When we decided to purchase her house that mid-autumn, Josephine invited us over – before the closing – to plant bulbs she had saved that would then come up the following springtime. While we drank tea made from her herb garden, she told us about her garden, about the plants she cultivated. My wife and I knew this was her lifework and we understood the responsibility that would now be in our hands. That is why Josephine had invited us into her home before it was our home.
The Japanese peony described in this haiku was a source of great joy and pride for Josephine. She mentioned particularly the difficulty she had in cultivating and nurturing the plant – and gave us helpful hints for its care. So some years later when we decided we needed to add another bedroom and bathroom to the house and this glorious peony was right in our plan’s path, it became clear we would have to transplant Josephine’s prized plant.
To make a long story short, we were successful with the transplant and now it is the centerpiece of the garden we call the “Asian Garden” which we can see so well from our study when it blooms in late May. We have since divided the plant and have repeated its beauty outside our living room picture window.
March 25, 2011
A yellow goldfinch
stops to check the feeder then
flits away in waves.
I love to watch the goldfinch fly and the bright color on the males makes it easy to see as it moves in an undulating pattern from feeder to tree branch or tree to rooftop or…
Its path is truly wave-like as if it were sailing in fast motion on an invisible ocean from island to island to island.
March 24, 2011
This ironic month:
the snow is falling again
while the grass turns green.
We live in the in-between: between the past and the future, the sky and the ground, life and death, good and evil, male and female, war and peace, happy and sad…
It isn’t often comfortable; it isn’t ever easy. The key to the game is keeping balance. Choose the Middle Way. We may imagine that there is more stable ground on one end or the other, but that would be mistaken. That would only throw us off balance. The farther we sway one way, the more violently we will be pulled back the other way. It happens in your head, in your heart, in the world: in education, in politics, in religion. For example, when humans took the “Unknowable Is” and created the All-Good God, we had to create the Devil to compensate and, seeing the “Unknowable” was now male, we demonized women. We have been off-balance for so long that we now think the bizarre contortions we find ourselves in to compensate for our imbalance as natural, as the way things were meant to be.
What is true is that we will always live in the in-between and if we wish to live there gracefully, we need to choose balance. That is the law. If you don’t like it, if you don’t want to follow it, that is no nevermind, for this law has a mind of its own. And it will have its way.
March 23, 2011
according to no schedule,
a squirrel hopped by.
Examine your day. When do you eat? When do you sleep? When do you get dressed? When do you turn on the television? Do you listen to your habits or do you listen to your body? Students use calculators to figure math problems so we have lost the art of manipulating numbers in our head. Adults watch clocks to tell us what time to work, what time to eat, what time to sleep, so we have lost the art of listening to our bodies. We have schedules, programs, timetables, agendas, calendars, to tell us what to do when — and that is what we listen to.
Sometimes - it might be a Wednesday or Thursday afternoon - no matter what the schedule says, we might need to just “hop by.” All we have to do is act naturally.
March 22, 2011
Winter drags its feet,
but the pungent air and earth
smells of momentum.
The seasons have different smells in the Midwest: summer smells of dry sand, sweaty skin, and earth and tar and grass baking; autumn smells of forlornness and leaf-clogged smoke; winter smells of snow-scrubbed freshness and crystal purity; but spring – oh, spring! – smells of the wonder of life emerging from death. It is strong and irrepressible, heart-rending and hopeful. Spring smells of putrefaction and industrious growth. Spring smells of movement and power.
Note: I am publishing these haikus a year later than I have written them, and what a difference a year makes. There is no feet-dragging for winter this year (2012)!