The crows have captured my attention this week. I have been noticing these birds a lot when I have been out in town or at my sit spot. Yesterday afternoon, as I was wandering through the woods enjoy the warm weather, I was jolted by the sound of a crow. This experience inspired me to write this haiku:
- A crow calls in flight
- The silence has been broken
- It’s time to head home
It turns out that the haiku is the perfect form of poetry to capture this experience. The three line, 17 syllable poem often focuses on images of nature and emphasizes simplicity and direct expression. The 17th century poet and Zen practitioner Matsuo Basho is credited as being an early master of the form.
Since Basho’s time most of what makes a haiku unique has stayed the same. However, there have been some debates about the form and some adaptations have been made. The Academy of American Poets comments, “As the form has evolved, many of its regular traits—including its famous syllabic pattern—have been routinely broken. However, the philosophy of haiku has been preserved: the focus on a brief moment in time; a use of provocative, colorful images; an ability to be read in one breath; and a sense of sudden enlightenment.” (https://poets.org/glossary/haiku)
After I wrote my haiku, I decided to do a little research and see if Basho had written any haiku’s about crows. It turns out he did, and some are well-known. I found the following haiku on matsuobashohaiku.home.blog. Here is a Basho’s haiku:
- On a withered branch
- A crow is perched
- An autumn evening
What is really great about matsuobashohaiku.blog, is that the author gives the reader supporting information about the haiku and the context in which it was written. For example, for the above haiku the author writes:
Let us visit for a moment with Bashō in Edo. It is still autumn and the leaves are turning red and gold. Winter is about to come.
Perhaps we can imagine Matsuo Bashō sitting on a log in one of the many gardens of Edo surrounded by his student disciples. He is dressed in black, or they are. It is a cool autumn evening and the leaves are gathering at their feet. The students wait in anticipation of what the master is going to say.
Bashō’s poetry was developing its simple and natural style. The point of view in many of Bashō’s haiku is that life (the human condition) is best described as a metaphor. Bashō died at the early age of 50. Perhaps at the age of 36 when this haiku was written he was feeling both the effects of age and the anticipation of death.https://matsuobashohaiku.home.blog/2019/09/19/a-crow-on-a-withered-branch/
I will say matsuobashohaiku.blog is my new favorite website to read and learn about haikus. If you have a moment, go visit them.
It is quickly becoming clear that haikus and nature connection practices go hand in hand.
I have frequently combined these two practices frequently to record my experiences and observations in the wild. And while it may have seemed like it was a novel idea at the time, there is in fact a long history of this. So if you feel inspired to write poetry after an hour of sitting in the shade of your favorite tree, know that you are not alone in wanting to make this connection.
To close this post, I want to share the haiku that first introduced me to Basho and turned me on to the haiku.
“Sitting quietly, doing nothing,
and the grass grows, by itself.”Matsuo Bashō