SNOW AND THE LAMENT OF AN ABANDONED HUSBAND

Denver got hit with another snow—I enjoyed it. It started last night and snowed all night, there was heavy wind making it a blizzard—but perhaps not as bad as they expected. It snowed off and on all day today too, but the streets were clear fairly early in the day—-a spring snow so temperatures were not as cold as if it would have happened a month or two ago. But for that, here are some more winter haiku:

 

入り船まち也

遠島の

雪の月

 

irifune machi ya

toujima no

yuki no tsuki

 

Waiting for the boats to return!

the moon and snow

on a distant island.

 

Japan has numerous fishing villages all up and down its coast. The term 入り船まち (irifunemachi), means to wait for the boat or boats to return. But there is the usual wait for family and friends, when they expect boats to return in the late afternoon or the evening. And then there is the real wait—when a boat or group of boats are late in returning to port.

January 1st, 2010, I composed another fishing village haiku. I have mentioned several times that at the beginning of the year—the first time you do something is very special. A fishing boat in a fishing village, is not only a source of livelihood, it is is also dependent upon to protect your loved ones while they are using it to earn that livelihood—so the first time of the year that you go on a fishing boat, is not only special—they make a ceremony out of it with the village—to pray for good luck and a prosperous and safe year. This ceremony is called 乗り初め (norihajime), or First Boarding—-and you do not just come (kuru) to the boat, you ceremoniously-come (Mairu) just as you would to a shrine:

 

波と風も

お参り

乗り初め哉

 

nami to kaze mo

o-mairi

norihajime kana

 

the waves and the wind too

ceremoniously come

the first boarding!

 

Speaking of New Years, and doing things for the first time—-today I rewrote an old haiku that was a bit sloppy—-thinking it over I felt it was better expressed through a tanka. I was thinking of so many poor souls in Japan—–there are many of them—–often they are products of broken relationships, who go on quietly, doing their jobs, living their mundane lives—broken down loners in a very group-focused culture:

 

妻の捨て櫛

と着物に

忘れられた鍵

淋しき

初湯の音也

 

tsuma no sutekushi

to kimono ni

wasurerareta kagi

sabishiki

hatsuyu no oto ya

 

the wife’s discarded comb

and in a kimono

a forgotten key

how lonely

the sound of years first boiling water!

 

Is everyone depressed enough now? Here is one to bring you back up to an aesthetic reality from november 2008:

 

山道也

露霜は

月にちらちら

 

yamamichi ya

tsuyujimo wa

tsuki ni chirachira

 

the mountain path!

frozen dew

sparkling from the moon

 

There’s that moon again—I have written numerous times about the philosophical significance of the moon. For example, you may go back to HOME ALONE ON A WINDY NIGHT WITH A CHINESE LUTE if you forget it—-or not, and just enjoy it at an aesthetic level.

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HOME ALONE ON A WINDY NIGHT WITH A CHINESE LUTE

I am at home alone (the wife’s exercising and I think everyone else is at a movie). There is a strong wind blowing outside, and I have a CD of Chinese lute (Pipa) music playing. Whenever I put on this CD I feel like I can almost taste a very nice cup of Jasmine tea. I would go make some, but I’d have to look for it, and I’m too lazy—I will add another haiku post to this thread instead. The Pipa is known as a biwa (琵琶) in Japan. The CD has such titles, poorly translated as, ‘Chen Hsin-yuan to Pacify the Barbarian/Fall into Courtyard,’ ‘Playing Xiao and Drum Under the Setting Sun,’ ‘A Tyrant in the Difficult Status,’ and ‘A Blossom of Plum.’ These songs are generally classic pieces that were played on the pipa. The title of the CD, is ‘Shi Mian Maifu‘ which means, ‘Ambushed From Ten Sides.’ It is also the title of the 3rd song. This song and most of the others are listed on Wikipedia under Pipa as traditional classics for this instrument. The authors that put out the CD translated Shi mian maifu as ‘An Overall Ambush.’ But shi mian does mean 10 sides, or 10 fronts.

Anyway—-it’s a great CD if you like stringed instruments, and want to set that perfect mood for a cup of Jasmine Tea. Some of the songs are played solely by a pipa, others are accompanied by other traditional instruments.

Here is the song Shi Mian Maifu (Ambushed from Ten Sides) on a pipa:

 

 

But if that is a little too wild and violent for you, here is, White Snow in the Spring Sunlight:

 

 

It’s spring, but Colorado can still get a lot of snowstorms this month (today was over 70 though…). Regardless, winter and fall haiku are my favorites. Here are some more from 2006—I’ll stick a Spring one in there:

 

夜の闇に

寝る町

大雪おこり

 

Yoru no yami ni

neru machi

Ohyuki okori

 

In the darkness of the night

the sleeping village

a blizzard arises

 

At night, as most of the creatures of the day, including man, sleep, they are completely oblivious to the storm brewing up outside their homes. But it wouldn’t matter, we are helpless and weak against the fury of mother nature’s storms. Nothing we can do will arrest its development.

 

夜の森

水の音

みみづく鳴き也

 

yoru no mori

mizu no oto

mimitzuku naki ya

 

Forest in the night

the sound of water.

A horned owl cries!

 

The seasonal word hear is the horned owl—but I cannot say for sure what season that is off the top of my head—-I’d have to look it up.

 

山深し

森にかくるる

冬の月

 

yama fukashi

mori ni kakururu

fuyu no tsuki

 

Deep in the mountains

hiding in the forest

the winter moon

 

~ruru is an older verb conjugation. Here is another one–a spring one–along the same lines:

 

古池に

隠りょうとする

春の月

 

furu ike ni

kakuryou to suru

haru no tsuki

 

in the old pond

it tries to hide–

the spring moon

 

Whenever you use ‘furu ike’ (old pond), it probably calls to mind the most famous haiku of all–especially outside of Japan: furu ike ya/kaeru tobikomu/mizu no oto, or, ‘The old pond!/frog jumps in/the sound of water.’

The moon, as I have mentioned numerous times before, has a lot of meaning to the Japanese. It is a symbol of enlightenment for example. The moon trying to hide in a pond, is an aesthetic interpretation of an experience when, at least for a moment, one has been gripped by nature. It becomes much deeper though if we think of the old pond as a metaphor for the consciousness, and under its surface—the subconscious. As I have stated before, I am not Buddhist, but rather an animist, so I could interpret the moon in ways other than Buddhist enlightenment—such as a deep knowledge of spirit, or the connection to the other side, or even that animating force (what the Japanese would call 神 kami) within each living thing. And the pond, rather than, consciousness, could be that veil between physical reality, and the hidden reality of spirit. There are so many ways that one could experience this haiku—some perhaps, at least for me, touching on that special feeling of 幽玄 (yuugen—-See my post, YUGEN—A SPIRITUAL FEELING TOO DEEP FOR WORDS).

AND—-this is the Spring moon that is hiding, and spring is a time of new beginnings…

The Chinese pipa music however, has got me to thinking about haiku regarding the biwa. Maybe next time I’ll have one or two haiku on that theme.

THE LITTLE STONE JIZO-SAMAS

Here is another tanka I composed in 2006:

 

冬の夜
松の間に
地蔵菩薩あり
ほう覚えろよ
と風がなくの

 

fuyu no yo
matsu no ma ni
jizobousatsu ari
hou, oboeroyo
to kaze ga naku no

 

In the winter’s night
between the pine trees
sits Jizobousatsu
‘Hey remember… remember…’
the wind cries

 

In my previous post, THE LITTLE STONE BUDDHA AND THE LONELY FIFE OF THE RAMEN SELLER, I talked a bit about the jizobousatsu–the little stone Bodhisattvas.  You find them in mountain temples and shrines, and other sacred places in the mountains and countryside. You can buy ones that are anywhere from a few inches tall to maybe a foot or so. Then you can place it yourself on one of these spots with your own prayer. However they are generally considered guardians of children, and children especially need to be guarded in the afterlife. Most of them are placed with prayers for a stillbirth, or an aborted child (which is fairly common in Japan). There is something certainly tragic and sad connected with many of these little statues.

I have seen very old jizobousatsu that are so old, the stone carvings have lost most of their details. Generally each one looks more like a phallus–correction, many of them look just like a phallus.

 

谷風や
そこの地蔵様の
思い出

 

tanikaze ya
soko no jizosama no
omoide

 

The valley wind!
reminding
of the Jizo-sama there.

 

This is actually a summer haiku. The valley wind is a wind that rises up from a valley in the summer. This Jizobousatsu could be sitting in the valley below, or this haiku could be metaphoric for a memory of some sort rising up from the subconscious that reminds one of other, more hidden things, or perhaps that tragic thing one doesn’t want to recall, or at least recall directly…

 

冬霞
谷懐の
古神社

 

fuyugasumi
tanibutokoro no
furu jinja

 

Winter’s mist
the old shrine
at the bottom, deep in the steep valley

 

tanibutokoro refers to deep within a steep valley that is surrounded on each side by steep mountains. Shinto shrines are always painted a bright reddish-orange, and are very ornate and detailed in texture. Can you imagine, deep in a green mountain valley, still crisp and cold from the winter, and snow still sitting in spots, mist rising up everywhere, that somehow the bright (but fading) colors and bits of details peek through from the old shrine—probably abandoned…? Or, perhaps once again this refers to a spot deep in your subconscious–a forgotten spot—-a sacred place.

Maybe it is not even your own sacred place—but that of your ancestors, still sitting there in your personal collective unconscious. It was this part of the psyche, the collective unconscious, that Jung said held the truths, traditions, wisdom, and cultural motifs of all our ancestors. A shrine is a very old structure that goes back even into the distant paleolithic. Even the Neanderthal built shrines with the bones of Cave Bears. If you go back far enough, we all have those same indigenous roots. There is a connection between those messages, symbols, and archetypal meanings buried in the ancient cave paintings, that returns in the myths and symbols of Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt, Mohenjodaro,  Ancient China, Japan, or even North and South America, and Australia; and that still resonates in the organized religions of today.

Many do not realize it, but that long forgotten, ancient, abandoned shrine buried in the bottom depths of the collective unconscious, is still just as significant today, as it was when our distant ancestors actually used it.

SOME MORE WINTER HAIKU

I thought of putting in some Spring haiku, but we are getting some light snow today, and it has been overcast all day—very wintery looking out there. Here are some haiku from 2006 – 2007 (I don’t think I have shared any of these ones yet):

 

雪雲り

夕方に

町の光や

 

Yukigumori

yuugata ni

machi no hikari ya

 

Snow clouds

in the evening

the village lights!

 

I love how the lights of a village or town contrast against the darkening gray overcast sky of an early winter’s evening. Or in the late evening, after the sun has gone down, glow against the low hanging clouds, heavy with snow. Yukigumori could also be translated as, ‘threatening to snow.’

 

雪雲り

日暮れに

遠寺の鐘

 

Yukigumori

higure ni

toudera no kane

 

Snow clouds

at day’s end

a distant temple bell

 

 

雪の朝

流れ星の

静かさ也

 

Yuki no asa

nagareboshi no

shizukasa ya

 

snowy morning

the stillness

of a shooting star!

 

Most likely this would be in the very early morning before sunrise, though potentially it could be a brighter one in the early light. I have experienced the quiet hiss of a shooting star that many people report (and science can’t quite explain). That hiss is a silence of its own. On the other hand, when they are completely silent, there seems to be something special about that silence too. As it plummets towards earth, you know that a rock travelling at a very high speed, is melting under intense heat into nothing but minute particles of black iron, and yet this climactic event (climactic for the rock), happens in utter silence, and it lasted for only a brief moment.

I actually composed this one after watching a large shooting star fall towards snowy peaks across a mountain valley, when I happened to walk out on a veranda at 2:00 in the morning, while visiting my mom & dad’s condo up in Breckenridge Colorado. This was in October 2007, and I half expected to see one. Because, the year before I had stepped out onto their condo veranda on a Sunday night in October, about the same time, only to see a shooting star. A week later I was up in Breckenridge again and on a Saturday, about the same time, the same thing happened again. That was three times in a row, so I began stepping out more often—but alas, it has never happened again.

 

大雪の

人もなく道

神さびた

 

Ohyuki no

hito mo naku michi

kamisabita

 

A big snow

the road void of people

serene

 

Or another translation:

 

A big snow

the empty road

touched by the gods

 

There are a lot of ways we could say kamisabita, and I don’t know if any of them do justice to the word. Kami is god or gods, sabiru can mean mature, or mellow, but it can also mean to rust, and to be lonely. But it can be a very special loneliness connected to the Japanese appreciation of simplicity and the rustic. Sabi, in the latter case, is one of those words that does not have an English equivalent. Another translation for kamisabita is hallowed. Or, I could also use, ‘filled with the gods,’ for the last line.

 

重い雪雲

支えるか

老い松也

 

Omoi yukigumo

sasaeru ka

oimatsu ya

 

the heavy snow clouds

does it hold them up

–the ancient pine tree?!

 

Oimatsu is simply a very old pine, another word would be the aged pine tree. In the initial interpretation of this, it is an aesthetic experience of the tree against the clouds. But old trees and other old things of nature, are especially filled with kami—the shinto gods. As an animist belief system, everything has kami within it, but the old things have come into their own way with there kami spirit. Perhaps we could say that they are so filled with kami that they outwardly manifest that in the gnarls of their trunks and branches and the silent strength such old things portray. To hold up the clouds demonstrates that silent, god-filled sense of strength. We could take it even further though—clear across Eurasia, the tall straight pine trees seem to connect with the World Tree, the Axis Mundi—-the celestial center of the world that pierces from the underworld, into our world, and then into the upper worlds. It is the portal of the divine, where spirit connects to us, and we can possibly connect to spirit. The big giant cedar pines in Japan certainly look as if they could be such a portal and universal center. I have a book called Nippon Shinwa (Stories of the Japanese gods) which has the only true Japanese scriptures—the Kojiki and Nihongi—-in it, and explores and discusses these very old myths. As I recall, there is a Pillar God who is connected with the creation of the structure of the universe—-and seems related to these old cedar pines.

DEATH POEMS (JISEI)

There is another form of haiku that is special in Japan. Well-known haiku poets, the classic poets, and even modern day poets and haiku enthusiasts will produce one of these, sometimes there is some confusion and there may be 2 or 3 such haiku poems—-but the concept is that a person will only produce ‘one’ such poem in his or her lifetime.

 

I am talking about a jisei—a death poem. This is the final poem the artist produces when he knows death is inevitable and soon to be. Fortunately, I am not in that predicament so I will not be sharing my own Death Poem—nor do I even have my own Death Poem. Instead I will share some of the death poems of the classic masters. (These are from a book compiled by Yoel Hoffman, and therefore may be his translations, which I have kept unless I felt it could be translated better).

 

It is Spring now—but we just had a very cold weekend, and plenty of snow—so here are some winter jisei:

 

This one is by the poet Wakyu who died on November 10, 1759:

 

Tsui ni yuku

yuki fumiwakete

fude no michi

 

Heading to the end

treading through heavy snow

way of the brush

 

It doesn’t say heavy snow but that is implied—fumiwakete comes from the verb to step (fumu) and spread apart (wakeru), so it could also be translated as to plow through. The way of the brush, refers to the life of a poet. It implies that the life of a poet is a tough one, but he also suggests that the path he must now go on (death) is also a difficult one.

 

Here is the jisei of Wagin, who died on January 3, 1758:

 

kuse ni natte

nishi ogamikeri

hatsu ashita

 

Its become a habit

bowing to the West

New Year’s dawn

 

Based on Shinto traditions, the Japanese bow to the rising sun on the first morning of the New Years (hatsu ashita–first morning). The West is the direction of the land of the dead, and the Buddhist paradise. As a Buddhist Wagin had become used to bowing to the West. There is a saying in Japan that you are born Shinto and die Buddhist. This doesn’t mean you change religion—if you are born Japanese you are always Shinto, but you also traditionally follow Buddhism. But the Shinto ceremonies tend to be more for the beginning of life—such as numerous ceremonies you take part in at certain ages as a child, or marriage, for example. But a funeral, and the ceremonies on the anniversaries of one’s relative’s death are always a Buddhist affair. But Wagin suggests that he will not bow to the rising sun on New Year’s morning, because he is already ready for the next world.

 

Tojaku, November 8, 1799

 

Mu ni kaeru

mi zo

yuki shimo no itoi nashi

 

Returning to the void

this body!

no longer bothered by the snow and frost

 

A jisei does not neccesarily have to have a seasonal word like standard haiku. In fact it could be a tanka or another form of poem, though haiku are the most common. (I gave an example of a tanka in some of my earlier posts). Here is a haiku without a seasonal word by Toko who died on Feb 11, 1795:

 

jisei to wa

sunawachi mayoi

tada shinan

 

Death poems

are mere delusions.

there is only death

 

Sugetsu died on November 20, 1830:

 

tsumu toshi ni

tabiji e

yuki no kareno kana

 

The years have piled up

on my path

snow on the withered fields!

 

 

The famous Basho, died on October 20th, 1694:

 

tabi ni yande

yume wa kareno o

kakemeguru

 

fallen ill on a journey

my dreams

wander over withered fields

 

Basho’s death occurred after falling ill on one of his famous journeys–his last one—across Japan.

 

Another famous poet–Issho, died December 6, 1688. He was hoping to let Basho, who would soon be travelling through his village stay at his home, unfortunately he did not last that long:

 

kokoro kara

yuki utsukushi ya

nishi no kumo

 

From deep in my heart

the snow is beautiful!

clouds in the west.

 

 

The following Autumn, Basho wrote a haiku of sadness over Issho’s death:

 

tsuka mo ugoke

waga naku koe wa

aki no kaze

 

Move you tomb!

the sound of my weeping

the autumn wind

THE SOUND OF A TEMPLE BELL

人踏まぬ
霞山
お寺鐘の音

 

Hito fumanu

kasumi yama

o-tera kane no oto

 

Misty mountain

where no one steps foot

the sound of a temple bell

 

As I said in a previous post, if you haven’t heard a Buddhist temple bell echoing across a mountain valley, or a rice field, or through the streets of a small village, you are really missing out. It is hard to say what exactly is special about it. It is somewhat unique, it reflects back to a pre-Modern existence. I have heard it said that every time a gong is rung, it has a unique sound, and it will never sound exactly the same as it did before. Perhaps one could say that about a temple bell too. But then again, that might be a bit false in an attempt to be esoteric.

Here is what a temple bell sounds like—perhaps you can get an idea from this how it sounds from a distance. It does not seem that loud, but it is certainly loud enough to carry into the surrounding countryside. And then there is the sound of a very distant temple bell…

But then this haiku is about a misty mountain where people don’t go. So where does the temple bell come from? An echo? Or is it an illusion? Or perhaps from another dimension?

THE TOHOKU EARTHQUAKE

(This was originally posted March 13, 2013, on the other website)

It was around this time—two years ago—March 2011, that Japan experienced the most powerful earthquake ever recorded (at least in modern times). It moved the Japanese main Island, Honshu, Westward so many centimeters and was followed by a horrific tsunami. I have TVJapan as part of my satellite package, and so I got to see first hand a lot of the aftershocks and so forth—at least as good as NHK could broadcast it–as I recall there was a time when even the broadcasts were knocked out—except for the emergency broadcast system.

My sister-in-law happened to be in Tokyo at the time. I mentioned to her before she left, a few days earlier, that there had been an unusual amount of earthquakes recently, “…and I wouldn’t want to go to Japan right now.” Tokyo is still waiting for that next Great Kanto Earthquake. In fact, one of the reasons I decided to come home was that I experienced a large earthquake–over 7—in the Philippines, and I decided that I didn’t want to wait around for a large Tokyo earthquake that even back in the 1990’s was well overdue. Who knows? Maybe this 2011 earthquake released a lot of the stress under the Tokyo plates—-but no one really knows…

Anyway—it scared my sister-in-law so much she wanted to leave Japan as soon as possible. It was several weeks before she could get a flight out. She said that even the water in the hotel toilet splashed all over the floor it was so bad.

If you ever have a chance to watch the movie, The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom, I really recommend it. They talk about not only the pain and horror of the tsunami, but also the coming of spring, and how everyone was looking forward to viewing the cherry blossoms (hanami–literally flower viewing). But after this terrible disaster, the cherry blossoms took on a whole new meaning: of rebirth, renewal, and growth. But the Cherry blossom only lasts a short time, so it is also a deep symbol of the fleeting, temporal nature of life (See my previous post, YUGEN—A SPIRITUAL FEELING TO DEEP FOR WORDS).

On March 16th, 2011, moved by the terrible events, I composed several haiku:

 

春の朝
津波後
まだ死体あり

 

Haru no asa
tsunami ato
mada shitai ari

 

Spring morning
but after the tsunami
Still there are bodies.

 

Spring is normally a cheerful warm time in Japan. People are coming out of their houses, greeting each other, enjoying the sunshine after the cold bitter winter. It is certainly a time of new beginnings. But in the Tohoku (North Eastern) Region of Japan, the Spring of 2011 was an entirely different experience–a stunned realization of the horror that had hit them. Here is another one with a title:

 

地震
 
春の仙台
瓦礫には
答え無し

 

Jishin
 
haru no sendai
gareki ni wa
kotae nashi

 

Earthquake
 
Spring in Sendai
but in the rubble
there comes no answer.

 

However, even as they searched for survivors—March in Northern Japan is still cold—-it did snow within a day or two, hampering their efforts to find survivors.

 

瓦礫が
白く成る也
町の春雪

 

gareki ga
shiroku naru ya
machi no haru yuki

 

Ah! The rubble
turned white!
spring snow in the village

 

See my earlier post, DEEPER INTO THE FOREST for the sacred, and purifying, significance of the color white.