so many ideas
churning in my brain — I don’t
have the time I need
so many ideas
churning in my brain — I don’t
have the time I need
How many haiku
have I composed while in bed
and lost by morning?
I’ve been a bad, bad haiku blogger in the past month. After February and my one-haiku-each-day pledge, it must seem to any Haiku By Two readers that my haiku muscle siezed up. But that’s not necessarily true. I’ve composed many haiku in the days since NaHaiWriMo ended. It’s just that I never got around to posting them online, and now, I fear, those never-recorded poems are hopelessly lost. Yet some things have been changing in my life recently. My husband and I are preparing to become parents. This will be our first child. In preparation, I’ve left my job. March, it seemed, was one big rush to “tie up loose ends.” And now I’ve got some time on my hands. I guess one could say I’m currently living in the calm before the storm. I’m hoping haiku can help me through this waiting game.
Bargain bins in book stores always catch my eye. Many months ago I came across a book in one such bin called Painting Chinese. The author was Herbert Kohl.
The book jacket description intrigued me. The book, it said, had been written by a retired teacher and was the story of how he learned to stop being a teacher and be a student instead.
One day, while wandering about San Francisco, Kohl came across a school of Chinese art. He registered for a painting class and assumed he would be placed in a class of adult learners. But when he showed up on the first day, he was the only adult in a room full of children.
In his professional life, Kohl had been highly respected as a teacher of kids and as a teacher of new teachers. Yet when he signed up for Chinese painting classes, his reputation did not proceed him. He knew little of painting, brush strokes or Chinese landscapes.
Kohl was used to thinking of himself as an accomplished and educated individual, but when it came to Chinese art, he was an utter beginner. Even the kids, his fellow students in his class, knew more than he did.
The book, Paining Chinese, is about Kohl’s attempt to accept this new circumstance in his life. It is also about his struggle to grow old with grace and dignity.
I enjoyed the book immensely, but I found I couldn’t read it for long stretches of time. Brief snatches of time seemed to help it sink into my mind better. Even after I had set the book down and moved on to other things in my day, I found myself thinking about it, for Kohl’s attempts to learn how to paint Chinese landscapes reminded me of my own attempts to learn how to write Japanese haiku.
Towards the end of the book, after three years of learning, Kohl wrote about the daily walks he had gotten into the habit of taking and how the process of painting Chinese landscapes had altered the way he looked at nature. He wrote:
“On the walks, I discovered how much my perception of nature had been transformed by painting Chinese. I looked at the ocean as a force, alive and active. Trees had become individual beings, establishing their place in a crowded natural environment … All of this had been around me for over twenty years, but I hadn’t seen it with such detail and specificity. I was fully there, living that moment and not distracted. I let the environment take hold of me rather than just walk through it … the world suddenly became light, beautiful, and most of all more visible.”
Haiku, in many ways, has done the exact same thing for me. Now that I am ending my third year of posting on Haiku By Two, I am finding that I see my own natural environment differently.
Because traditional haiku requires a kigo, or a nature reference, I have been been paying attention to natural cycles in ways that I wasn’t before I started writing haiku. For example, I have been watching the big cottonwoods by my driveway for three years now. I know that, come fall, they are not the first trees in my yard to loose their leaves. I also know that a family of squirrels has built a new nest among their branches. In the spring, I know how to look up into their canopy and judge whether or not their cotton-ball seeds are going to start dropping tomorrow or next week. These trees have become individuals to me. And, for me, there is value in that.
I don’t know how long Alison and I will keep Haiku By Two going. But I do know that learning how to haiku has changed how I view the natural environment around me. And that’s I lesson I intend to hold on to.
flies circle my head –
Is this haiku?
perhaps that black bird
at the top of the pine tree
has haiku to share
sunshine on my skin –
I forget which day is mine
to post a haiku
paralyzed by my
own overextendedness —
the sun rises late
piles of unfinished
quilts litter my closet – I’m
The leaves are turning, it’s getting chilly and I’m craving all things cozy.
This means it’s tea time – and often. My ritual is to make a cup first thing in the morning and my husband always serves me a cup late at night before bedtime.
Green tea just happens to be a favorite of mine. It’s earthy, slightly grassy and provides just the right amount of caffeine. If steeped properly I feel a nice little pick me up without the neurotic edge that coffee gives me. A nice cup of green tea and I feel both placid and alert.
So I was excited to receive a package of Sencha Green Haiku Tea in the mail from Kelly. I love Sencha – it’s the most popular Green tea in Japan and is renowned for it’s health benefits. I’ve been drinking Sencha for nearly 20 years so I can be, ahem, a bit picky about my tea. Too many tea companies get green all wrong and end up leaving me with what tastes like a cup of warm dish water. So I wondered while preparing my first cup of Haiku tea – will this tea live up to it’s poetic name?
And I’m not giving the glowing review that I am about to give because of any sort of haiku bias – I care about tea far too much. Sencha Green Haiku Tea truly makes for a most fabulous cup of tea. With a fresh green scent, the aroma of my Haiku cup of tea was intoxicating. Robust and complex with a subtle sweetness, I thought to myself – now that’s a cup of tea! I was honestly amazed. I had never had such a good cup of green tea that I so easily prepared with a simple tea bag. And so I wondered, why is Haiku Tea so good?
Is it because Haiku Tea is organic? Is it because it is grown on a centuries old tea plantation in the Uji River Valley in Japan, a region long famous for growing the best green tea in the world? Or is there some sort of magic within it’s haiku namesake which gives this tea a feeling of balance and serenity?
I am a tea drinker and not an expert, so I may never know the secrets behind why Haiku Tea is just so much better than your average green tea. But I do know that I am very inspired by tea once again so expect many more tea haiku from yours truly!