For the past several years I have kept a daily journal in a three-ring notebook in which I save thoughts, haiku, tanka, events, e-mail messages, dreams, orders, cards, letters, artwork, sketches, photos. The diary parts have been written in calligraphy which I have often felt slowed my mind and forced me to be more brief than my typing hand would be. Also, these notebooks get very heavy and have to be emptied monthly into a string-bound book.
Since recently posting my Journal Journeys and keeping the "On the Beach of Stars Every Grain of Sand is a Soul" up to date, it was a small step to shifting the rest of my journaling online.
Independence Day, and the lunar eclipse, seemed to make this a proper time for the switch to be thrown.
(If you are doing a blog, let me know so I can make a link.)
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All night I remember being very busy with dreams. It seemed lots was happening so there was even more to forget. When I awoke there were no images in my mind or my memory bank but only the words "the cupboard was bare". As my now-awake mind played with the phrase wondering what it mean, the two of them (my mind and the phrase) slipped off into a series of memories.
1. The main meditation at the last drumming session a month ago with Kaye had been to journey with a stone – the one each of us had designated to be the south stone in our medicine wheel – to see what message it had for us. I had gotten no communication with my stone except a choking fit that made me break off the journey to sit up and find my water bottle. I resisted the desire to think I had ‘failed’ in the experiment and just let it go.
2. In an email advertisement from Stone Bridge Press they announced a book, Suiseki – The Japanese Art of Miniature Landscape Stones by Felix G. Rivera which I surprised myself by wanting enough to order.
3. I read the book through rather quickly, mostly just to figure out what a suiseki was and was I interested in pursuing the subject. The idea of going out to see if I could find any such stones never occurred to me. I somehow knew the stone was in this house. Yet I did not start looking for it – I was comfortable just letting the idea lay fallow in my mind.
4. Even while I had no stone, my mind was working on how to use clay to make a base for the stone I would find. In the book are instructions on making the display stands out of wood but I already was thinking of how it could also be done in clay. To try this I needed a stone.
5. The other morning, before coming downstairs, I stopped at the bowl with stones we have collected over the years. I had faintly remembered a stone Davina Kosh had given me that was petrified wood she had gathered at Pyramid Lake. As I searched for the piece I remembered, I was surprised to find seven pieces. I laid them all on my desk and asked them what they wanted. Not only had I forgotten how many I had, I had forgotten how lovely they were. I found myself, when I sat down to do my prayers, handling the stones instead. As I moved them around, the largest stone seemed to want to be stood upright but the ends were both rounded so it could not without cutting it. The very idea of cutting into the stone was repugnant to me.
6. Then I remembered that another way of displaying suiseki is to place them into flat bowls of sand. This I could do. I got a baking dish from the kitchen and filled it with sand that I had gathered just before moving from the barn. There was actually a joyfulness among the stones as I began to set them together in the dish in different combinations. After a several sessions a day and many combinations, there were three of them that seemed to make the most happiness together, so I put the rest away in the desk drawer. I know true suiseki are made of one stone, but in my typical abundance, my display had three stones. It looked perfect (to me) but the white container was slightly distracting.
7. Yesterday while in the garage making more room on the shelves for the newest pots I picked up a bowl I had made by draping clay over a stone from Moat Creek. As if I had been slapped on the side of the head, it came to me that this was a far better container for the stones. And it was.
8. In the evening, I continued working on a project I am doing with Barbara Douglass in which we "alter books". The plan is that each person gets a no-longer-worth-keeping-book and we put our own artwork on the pages. This gives the project a cover, a connection and is then easily stored on a bookshelf. Each person does four or five facing pages and then passes the book on to the next person for their addition. The book she had picked, which had been withdrawn from the Florence, Oregon public library for lack of use, was Annie Dillard’s Teaching the Stone to Talk. Even though I was supposed to be only adding my artwork to the pages, I first had to read the book. In it, Dillard relates the story of a man who lived alone in a cabin on the Pacific northwest coast who had a stone he was teaching to talk. Somehow she knew he kept it on a shelf under cloth and several times a day would take it out. She admitted she had never seen how he did it so she only made some smart-alecky comments about wondering what the stone’s first words would be: mama? papa? cup? As I read this I felt so wrong about her attitude but the exact reason for my feelings eluded me.
9. This morning, with the "cupboard is bare" thoughts in mind, I realized that the fool in Dillard’s story was herself. I know that stones do talk and the idea of using a stone for a meditation practice was excellent. Suddenly I was eager to get out of bed, to get to my altar, to clear off the angel, the candle, the jade plant, the shells and the incense and to put away the thick books of liturgy. I would simply sit before the stones who had assembled themselves for me.
10. Even as I did this, I recalled a quotation June had sent with the packet of bookmarks just the other day. I dug the paper out of the stack of unanswered mail to read it again. "This is my simple religion. There is no need for complicated philosophies, not even for temples. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple. The philosophy is kindness." The Dalai Lama, The Path of Compassion.
Already I wonder how long I will need the stones for my meditation and how soon my religion will become completely bare.
February 23, 2002
I had just arrived in a huge hotel complex and had finally found my room high over the city. As I stood looking out the lace curtained window and down over the metropolis, I thought, "This is the wrong place to be for Christmas." It turned out that the reason I was here was because my mother had gotten the idea that she wanted to have the family together for Christmas so she had rented rooms for all of us to join her here for the holidays. I thought the idea of the family being together was a good one and I really enjoyed having days of our living so close. I went shopping with Heidi – she was into buying, but I just sort of went along for the trip, and while being on her fringes, I was able to have such good talks with her son, Shaun. Even while we navigated the crowded streets he and I walked with our heads together as we chatted.
Mother was ecstatic over the professionally done Christmas decorations in every part of the hotel. And there was no way one person could have put together such marvels of dreams and fantasy done surely by teams and yet she acted as if she was personally responsible for the magnificent displays. In the various public rooms were scenes and programs for each aspect of the holiday. One room was a Victorian street scene with shopkeepers in costume, a fairytale land for children with areas where stories were being told with animated characters. In the atrium was a snowy old-fashioned farm scene and it was here I found Bambi. She was very excited because she had decided to make for each of us as her Christmas gifts, wreaths of evergreens which she had brought with her. She thought it was so great that here on the rural scene she could put her boughs! She asked me to help her make the wreaths and I was glad to have something to do besides just look at what others had done. When we started to work, I asked her if she had brought wire and ribbon and it seemed she had forgotten to get these, so we pushed the branches into a pile and started to walk away to go buy the things she needed. As I looked back I saw two snooty women attendants quickly pushing the evergreens under a table covered with red felt. I realized that because we were guests they had tolerated our activity but saw that they truly felt we were desecrating their scene with our ideas of a homemade gift.
Later the whole family joined some activity in a lobby where everyone sat in a circle around a Christmas tree that was so tall one could not see the top. There was music, and performers and it seemed staff and guests were working hard to enjoy themselves. Our family was sitting in a line and I was the end one in our row. Next to me was a stranger. He was dressed as if he had just come in out of the cold and was used to living in an artic climate. He had a white beard and very brushy eyebrows. In his mittened hands he held a paper which he was trying to read but was having trouble holding it. I saw his problem and asked if I could help him and he handed me the paper. When I got it folded the way he wanted it to be, he asked me to read it to him, so I leaned over to speak into his ear (below the noise of music, announcements and laughter). While I was still engrossed in doing this, the program evidently ended and people were standing up to leave. So rejoined my family and as I did, I realized my mother was not with us. I asked someone where she was and they said she had grown tired and had gone up to her room. With a sigh of relief I realized that she had taken care of herself and had not expected me to be responsible for her needs. I asked one of the kids how she had gotten up to her room alone and they laughed at me saying that she tips the staff so generously they fight over the opportunity of helping her.
Suddenly I felt so free I gathered my children around me and said, "Let us get out of here for a breath of fresh air!" Laughing and joking and bumping into each other with our eagerness to get out the door, we stumbled into a long narrow passage. I took a deep breath hoping for "good air" but this tunnel was even stuffier and filled with the smell of plastic things. We began to run down it (it did slope downward) thinking that at the end would be a way outdoors. The whole tunnel was decorated for Christmas with each section done in another style. I began to feel I could not stand one more example of this fake nostalgia.
Just then I noticed a little side shop with a signboard over it with the word "Poetry" on it. "Ah," I thought, "maybe I can find something there that will make all of this worth while." I told the rest to go on and I would catch up them. A very perky young girl greeted me and tried to wait on me by showing me various things she seemed to think I should buy. I could not believe what she was putting before me she could see as being poetry. They were cheap wind-up toys! I kept telling her, "No, this was not poetry" each time she demonstrated another noisy, jerky contraption, but she was so strong with her desire to sell me one of these toys that she would not or could not listen to me. Finally, I realized that I had to write my own poetry so I asked her if she had any ring notebooks. Her excitement grew even giddier as she pulled out this big blue notebook. Without letting me touch it she began to open it up. She pulled back the left cover and there was another cover. This she pulled to the right and there was another ‘cover’. This she dropped downward and still there was another cover. When she raised that cover I was looking into a small pop-up paper scene of a beach and palm trees with ocean waves scudding over the dark sand.
When I woke up from this dream, my first thought was one of elation that finally I had overcome this lifelong need/desire to do what my mother wanted even though it was not good for me. I thought that she had released me from this set-up by her going off to bed to rest quietly by herself without demanding anything from me. As the sky grew pink with dawn I was so happy that my dream had showed me I was over this. I even thought that maybe there was no need to write down the dream because the lesson was accomplished.
Only as I finished typing the dream did I realize that the whole dream was about my mother getting me to spend Christmas in place I did not like in a way that went against all of my needs! She suckered me again! Again, in my desire to be a good daughter, to be with my family, to be the good Christian I accepted a situation that I knew was totally wrong for me. I do not know whether to giggle at the cosmic joke which is my life or to howl. I suppose I will get back to work on the book.
February 11, 2002
I have truly missed being able to write up my blog, because I had turned my complete attention to working on the book. Yesterday, however, I figured up the pages (I’m done with three of the six chapters and found I have two-thirds of the number of pages) so I need not push so hard in the next few months but feel I can do both the blog and the book if I give a little to each project each day. We will see how this goes.
Last night was the drumming circle which had taken a new turn. A few weeks ago it was revealed in the local weekly paper that a large multi-armed corporation had plans to take water from the Gualala River, pump it into a plastic bag 1,000 feet long and 250 wide which would be towed down the coast to San Diego where they would sell the water. The company already stated that if the people of San Diego didn’t need all the water they would sell it in Mexico. The locals first reaction to this plan was a loud, derisive snort of laughter. While we have during the winter several months of heavy rainfall, we also can have 5, 6, or 7 months of no rain at all. During these times the water in the Gualala River becomes so scant that the fingerling salmon and steelhead fish barely survive. In fact there is an organization that scouts the deep pools, scooping up the small fish to raise them in tanks until the river fills again. Also the water for the town of Gualala is taken from the river and from wells along the river. Because the state now monitors the level of the river (it didn’t before), and it now levies finds to the Water Company for removing water when the river is too low. Thus many of the people here have water bills of $50. to $100. per month to cover these charges. The idea that someone had a plan to take water from this river that is already under such pressure from the usage by the people who live here seemed too incredible and worthy only of laughter.
But we are no longer laughing. We have learned that the state (or The State) owns the water and thus, it is the politicians in Sacramento who will decide whether to give this company a permit to take water from the river. The permit sets no limits on the company either for amounts or times during which the water would be taken. Meetings are being held and we are learning the parameters of our voices – which at times seems mighty small. Basically, all we as individuals can do is to write letters of protest to the Water Management Board Members – which we have all vowed to do.
Being beginners in shamanic drumming, the group felt this was an issue of threat was something we should address. It was interesting to listen to the group trying to decide on the process and the wording for our bending our powers to the situation in the best way. We talked long about how others living in deserts in misuse the water they do not have and should we work for their education. Somehow we knew we had no right to interfere with the way they live and use their resources. So we began to talk about why this plan bothered us so deeply and came to the agreement that we felt the river was an entity, a member of our family of mountains, trees, sea and people. Instinctively each of us felt as if one of us, who is already overstressed and overused, and even unwell (as evidence of the reduced crops of fish which are truly likely to never recover – even without the additional sale of the water) was under attack. Finally, the idea of sending our love and protection to the river was the one thing we could agree on. Jan kept stressing that whatever we did had to be rooted in love and our love began with each of us loving ourselves, each other, and finally – the land and the river.
The idea came to us that while we drummed we would stretch out our feet so we were touching. As we moved together we made an eight-pointed star with our tiny candle burning in the center. But the room seemed brighter as our faces centered in on the light. When the white-faced drums were in place the radiance was a soft glow in the warm color of love. Jan lead us in a meditation to the awareness of how much love each of us, showed us how to own it and accept it. Then we channeled it to the person closest to us and one could feel the vibrations in the room rising. Then we each held a picture of the Gualala River in our minds as we poured forth the songs of the drums and our love. When the power was at a point many of us felt we could barely sustain any longer, Roberta lead the group in giving words to our love and protection for the river (I accidentally typed "liver" for river). Were we being a bunch of silly women? I don’t think so. There was power and presence among us and it seems even the least politically involved of the group will surely write that letter of protest.
There is no adequate sequel to that, and my dream was totally involved with my own personal task of cleaning up the last shreds of the lessons I had with my parents in this life. Hopefully, having this complete gives me space to take on the more pressing issues of the environment.
I was living or staying with a family who had brown skins. The family was quite large and seemed to consist only of a mother and her many boys. The mother was large and very adequate as was her home and everything in it. Several of the boys and I were given the job of doing the laundry for this crew – which was immense. But in the cellar was a whole bank of washing machines along a wall – like a section from a Laundromat only there was no coin-operation devices. There was lots of laughing as we sorted out the loads – joking about the various persons whose clothing we were handling. One by one the boys, who were teenagers, filled the machines with clothes, I put in the soap and we set them to whirring and grinding. I had enjoyed the job with such merry help and we were feeling so companionable I rather regretted seeing us be finished with this part of it. The boys were glad to be free of the work and ran off together so I went up into the kitchen where the mother was.
I asked her if I could do anything to help but it seemed she had everything beautifully under control. She had a system of cold and heated drawers in one wall. This allowed her to prepare each person’s meal ahead of time. There were timers on the little drawers so that when the person came in to eat, the food was already warmed and waiting for them. All they had to do was sit down and eat. As I stood there admiring this magnificent system some one called from outside that my parents were in the neighborhood and were coming to visit me.
Normally this would set off a nightmare in me, but this time, I turned my face to this marvelous mother in the kitchen and without my asking or her saying a word, she pointed to two of the drawers and I quietly knew the dinners for my parents had already been prepared and only needed me to serve it to them. I waited in the kitchen with perfectly centered quietness just looking out the window for their arrival. I was very aware of my calm, my detachment, the slight sense of waiting to do a job about which I felt perfectly confident I could accomplish.
I saw my parents coming toward me from a distant place. They were frail and old, leaning heavily on each other. I ran out toward them offering them my arms and hands but they refused my help, saying they could manage. Even as I dreamed this I remembered the sting such a refusal could have given me, but was aware of feeling so strong and centered that they may as well made a comment about a passing cloud. I invited them in to eat the meal that was waiting for them. They neither accepted it or said no. They simply continued making their way toward the house where I was staying. Their slow crippled walking was very painful for me to watch and since they were neither speaking to me nor interested in me, I walked ahead to go back into the kitchen. I opened a drawer and carefully took out the fragrantly steaming hot meal and carried it out on a terrace under a grape vine where I prepared the table for their meal.
February 1, 2002
I had just been given a new house. It was so grand, gorgeous and huge! The rooms were enormously high-ceilinged with windows around the ceiling that let in the light and air. The walls and floors were marble – very white with beautiful subtle patterns so that it was a delight just to sit in a room and be entertained by the beauty of the materials. The house was so big that when I went from one part of it to another I had to put the little dog I had on a leash so it would not get lost.
The house was still so very new that not every thing was totally completed. I went to the bedroom where there was a panel in the wall that had not been closed up. One could still see the wiring and pipes in this small area. I debated whether I had to cover this up or could just let it be until the workmen finished it on their own time. I found that by scooting my bed to another corner I did not have to look at the unfinished wall and could then, easily wait for it to close up in its own time.
I was still adjusting the new bedspread when I heard voices in the entrance hall so I went down to this grand place. The entry way was as big as a ballroom, with elegant columns and a staircase opposite the doorway which was as wide as cathedral double doors. When I arrived I met a dark haired man bringing in a box of fruit stacked into a pyramid. He said it was a housewarming gift for me and as I thanked him I saw out of the corner of my eye other people coming in from various other smaller doors, all bringing boxes and baskets of fruit. I was fascinated by the variety of fruits – many of which were unknown to me. As I admired the ornate arrangements and the colors, I began to talk to the people who were setting out this ever-growing area of gifts.
Somehow I got the idea that they were Armenian and it seemed they were all of the same family or tribe. As I talked to them they would point out who else in the room they were related to. As the bounty of gifts piled up, I was meeting more and more people who seemed to be not eager to leave. Normally, this is when I would panic in a dream but this time I calmly offered them to eat any of the gifts but they all refused saying it was all for me. I said I could never eat all of that and it felt better if they shared it with me. If they would not eat the fruit, then, I told them they were welcome to make themselves at home in my new place and take anything which I had that they needed.
Now, as I went from room to room the spaces were no longer full of echoing hollows (which had been very lovely) but were now decorated with the ongoing lives of these friends and family. There were men and women (very strong Bedouin-types) and the most beautiful children. The children were so sweet and loveable I wanted to pick up each one. Finally I asked one mother if I could hold her child for a minute and she, who was busy stirring something in a pot, said I could. The child was so light and fragile – so beautiful like a porcelain doll that I was relieved that it was still whole when I handed it back to the mother.
Just then a very robust man with lots of dark curly hair came to me and began to tell me how they raised their children. He said that instead of spending so much time with the mothers, as soon as child could walk, it came under the constant charge of the father. This way the children did not have to work through so many lessons and issues with their mothers. I smiled at him and said, "Then they can have issues and lessons with their fathers!"
January 29, 2002
I guess I should finish the saga of the broken pot. Monday is the full-class day so I went up to the top of the ridge early hoping to be able to be alone to clean up the mess and my feelings, whatever they might be. As it was Bill was there ahead of me and from his comments he had read Kaye’s note to me propped on the shelf, he had already seen the imprints of cat paws in the drying recycled clay and seemed to know that another pot, not knocked down, was also broken. Someone had swept up the shards and put them into a bucket (thankfully) so it was fairly easy to dump them into a plastic bag and carry out to the car what no longer seemed to be me or my sculpture. I even congratulated myself on ‘handling’ the situation well as I put my other tall pots into hopefully cat-proof boxes for drying.
On Mondays, when the hysteric cackler comes, I try to work outdoors sanding to save my ears and nerves that woman’s nervous laughter that penetrates to the sinus cavities, but today it had begun to hail so huddled in the farthest corner where I glazed the tea-ching cups. When I saw Kaye up on the step ladder holding my greenware plate by its rim I asked her if she needed help loading the kiln and she said she did, so I pushed my stuff aside and went to rescue my plate from her. I put a few pieces in on the lowest shelf and then she came over and rearranged them her way so I went back to my work. Just as I was washing the glaze out of the brush she calls across the room, "Oh, Jane, your pot just broke!" She was holding up one of my little "people pots" with the body in one hand and the head in the other. Without thinking I walked over to retrieve little broken self (again). As the whole class stared at us I said, "Eight broken pots in eight days is a bit much."
As if to excuse her action, she said, "I just picked it up and the head broke off."
I was shocked to hear myself say to her, "You picked it by the head or it never would have broken like that."
"I did not pick it by the head." she mildly protested but too many persons in that room have had their pots broken to believe her so I had to say nothing more. I did not know what to do with the broken pot – whether to crush it into recyclable dust now or later. I think I must have set it on my shelf.
I had prepared myself to accept the loss of the big sculpture and had felt fairly peaceable about it, but this six inches of broken clay caught me by surprise. I needed a drink of water and had forgotten my water bottle (the water in the studio is undrinkable). I was so rattled that I, like an auto-robot, I started on my next job. I took down one of my large leather-hard wheel pots and calmly started to cut it into pieces. I had planned to do this because I want to fire the pieces in the woodstove so they get different smoke patterns and then to glue the pieces back together. The class got very quiet with the in-sucked breath that accompanies ritual. Wordlessly, I finished, picked up the pieces and put them back on my shelf. Suddenly I was afraid I was going to cry and I desperately wanted a drink of water.
I picked up my scarf and walked out into a gentle snow of huge flakes.
January 28, 2002
The other day, in response to my dream about my mother showing up at the resort when the kitchen was out of order, I got the following message from Ed:
"It means a lot more, too; including this is one monster you won't have to face again, in the Bardo or after. You've just erased a lot of karma you don't need (who does?) any longer."
He was referring, I think, to the fact that in the dream, after the chef laughed at me for my trying to get him to please my mother, I realized I could not and should not try to give her the outlandish meals she demanded. I thought a lot about his comment but felt that to be truly ‘over’ this problem I have taken on as lesson in this lifetime, that it would have been better if I had told her, in the dream, that the kitchen was unusable, I was making simple meals for myself and if she wanted to eat here she could do the same.
Yesterday I got a call from Kaye, who owns the studio where I do the clay work. Her news was that evidently a cat got in through the dog door, had been on my shelf, and had toppled my big (over two feet tall) self portrait sculpture. It had fallen to the floor and was totally smashed. All evening I tried not to think about it and kept pushing away the sadness I wanted to feel. Then I had this dream:
I was on my way to the circus but I thought before I went off to enjoy myself I would stop by the studio to turn the pots and to check on them. There I saw smashed on the cement floor my lovely self portrait. I felt very sad to see her-me so broken up and I was a bit angry at the cat for destroying my sculpture even though I completely understood that she goes there because of the mice. I decided it was not her ‘fault’ and was in fact, just something that had happened and I might as well get along to the circus and enjoy myself instead of fussing over the loss.
While waiting for the main event in the big tent to begin, I was lured into one of the sideshows. Very quickly I realized that the ‘show’ I was watching was so sleazy and demeaning that I did not want to see any more of it, so I made my way to the edge of the tent and squeezed myself out a small gap in the canvas. Once again outdoors my view of the whole circus seemed gaudy and depressingly fake so I decided I would simply leave. As I walked around the edge of the compound looking for a road that led away from it, I found a slender cinder track. As I got closer to it I realized that it was a track for athletic events but since it was the only exit I had seen I decided to take it. As I walked out on to the track, I could see a man, a young muscular athlete, in the grass preparing to run a race. In my eagerness to get away from the circus, I started walking the raceway he intended to use. Very soon I came to an extended hurdle and realized that the race was not just the hurdles, but the high hurdles. But at the same instant I realized that I was not involved in hurdle leaping so I could simply walk around them. The first one I had to shove off at an angle so I could squeeze around it (and I replaced it carefully for him – it was his race). As I came to subsequent hurdles, it got easier and easier to get around them until at the last one, I saw and felt my face smiling, was pushed aside so it seemed an opened gate and my way was totally unobstructed. There were no more hurdles for me.
So this morning my idea of myself has been smashed and all the gates are open. And now I come to the next lines in Ed’s previous message:
"You'll be nearly weightless pretty soon. If you get motion-sick, do NOT [take on] more heavy stuff for ballast or anchor. Just let go. (Green Tea is nice for centering, also your pottery and writing.)"
January 27, 2002
I woke up this morning thinking of Adri van den Berg and her haiku published in Vuursteen (Flintstone) - the Dutch haiku magazine and the discussions the group is having over poetry and haiku. Somehow her haiku spawned a bunch of ideas that made me leap out of bed and into the dark to write to her:
Thank you so much for the latest issue of Vuursteen but especially for all your work translating parts of it for me. This time I found several items to be very interesting and was pleased to see your haiku -
de motregen ritselt
op oude foto’s
a drizzling rain rustles
on old photos
in the article " Haiku en poozie" (Haiku and Poetry) by Hans Reddingius. I felt the premise of the article was accurate: that merely writing down what one sees into three lines does not make a haiku. From your words I had the feeling that the object of the example haiku in the article was encourage people to say or to write "more poetically". What was missing for me (perhaps it was said in the article in a way I could not translate) was the idea that in Oriental poetry genres the "poetry" comes out of the associations or connections the reader’s mind between the meanings of the written images. This is accomplished through the use of a juxtaposition and or a twist in meanings. Above all else, this is why we admire haiku, tanka and renga, and work so hard to put these techniques into our own languages.
May we take your haiku as an example?
"Flea-market" is an excellent first line because it already sets the poem in an exciting place. But let us look more closely at FLEA market. At some level of association it sounds as if this is a place where fleas are sold (and is probably where the name originated!). So let us stick with the image of ‘fleas’ for the haiku to try to get the reader to make a closer association between the insects, the photos and the rain.
spots on the photograph
Here there is a subtle connection between fleas and their bites (spots) which works with the paradox that the fleas are biting the photographs (or the people on them). By putting the rain in the last line, the twist is revealed that the spots come, not from fleas, but from rain. But the interesting thing, and in your haiku too, I feel, is that the photograph (which is a record of another time and place) is being acted upon by the same rain which falls today on seller and buyer. This leads me to:
rain falls on the faces
of old photographs
I could have said "rain falls on the faces / in old photographs" but by leaving out the "in" the haiku gives another depth (in English) because we speak of photographs as having ‘backs’ and ‘faces’. This is the kind of thing that can get lost in translation but I need you to tell me what the front side of a photo is called in Dutch. My dictionary fails me too often!
I continued thinking of your poem and started working with other names for outdoor markets. I do not know what other names they have in Holland, but I would encourage you to think of them and maybe list them to see how many haiku you could get by taking the same situation (rain and photographs) to them. I also thought of:
rain falls on a photograph
of a family
Not only does this haiku get all the ‘f’ sounds, but the wondrous thing about farmers is their connection to their families. Rain is thought of as a hard thing - not as nice as sunshine - and it "falls" which is more depressing than the joyous upward movement of growth. To have the rain on a photograph is a sad thing because photos belong in albums and not outdoors. To place a family in the photo implies that the family is sticking together, even here, years later in the rain – at least in the old photo.
You may have had other images in your mind when you first saw the scene that inspired your poem. From your word "ritselt" (I love this word, also as it is so apt and feels like rain on the tongue) I am wondering if it was the motion or the sound of the rain that impressed you the most. If so, let us think of ways to reinforce that concept. Is it the rain falling on a photograph more important than the place where you saw the scene? Are you and the rain rustling the photographs?
My negative comment on your verse would be that "mot-" is already a verb (in English) so putting "ritslet" doubles the verbs in that line. In haiku, I try to get rid of verbs as much as possible, so the idea of putting two actions/verbs together (here they are so similar one wonders if one will do) would be something I would try to rewrite. I think that for those who try to use 17 syllables in a haiku fall into the habit of using too many verbs to ‘fill up’ and pad out the haiku. This is the greatest problem in trying to write according to a premise that it is unsound in the second language. But this is another whole bag of worms, isn’t it? Back on subject:
Somehow, for me, "motregen" and "ritselt" calls up images of the sound of sugar falling so I wondered about a photo of something significant made of sugar – a wedding cake! Now, how to get the photograph outdoors so the rain can touch it? Logically someone, unhappy with their marriage throws away the wedding photo. Where is the saddest, most forlorn place for it to land? Does one need a place? or can one simply say:
on the photo of a wedding cake
the happy pair
torn in half
rain drizzles on a photograph
of a wedding cake
I wish we were having this conversation face to face so you could tell me the Dutch words and out of the associations of the Dutch meanings we work together on this haiku. I am surprised how meaningful the inspiration of your haiku has come to be for me! Forgive me if you feel I have desecrated your haiku – that was not my intention. Actually it inspired me to new haiku – an attribute I hope you value in your work! I was happy to see an increase in the number of times your name appeared in this issue of Vuursteen. That tells me that you are finally feeling better!
I do not know if you have seen this article which I am enclosing - it was published in Frogpond and is on my web site now, but it explains some of the techniques of how to form these associations which I think is the basis of Oriental poetry. May it only inspire many more (and better) haiku.
Blessed be! \o/ Jane
January 26, 2002
I am trying to finish up the review of Sanford Goldstein's new book, This Tanka Whirl, so only took time to record this dream:
I had returned to a resort where I had often been very happy. Every aspect of the place was filled with pleasant memories and meaning. The fact that this time there had been a fire in the kitchen so they were unable to serve meals did not diminish my joy in being again at this happy place. I knew the chefs well, and they had showed me where the unspoiled food was and let me take what I needed so it was no problem for me to put together simple meals.
All was fine until my mother showed up unexpectedly. She had heard my earlier praise of this place and claimed that she had come to see it for herself. But now, with the kitchen down, was not the right time for impressing her – one to whom eating is so important, with the place. Yet I was stuck with having her here. At first I tried to make her meals in the same way I did mine – by going to the resort’s pantry and picking those foods which required little or no preparation and carrying them outdoors to eat. I should have known this would not work for her. She had high-flown ideas of being served gourmet foods in gorgeous presentations and my taking something from the shelf and eating outdoors was not on her menu. After observing several of her anger fits and listening to her incriminations, I finally went to the head chef who had seemed fairly friendly to me in the past, and asked him if there was any way he could help me please my mother. I had hopes that if I could get him to find a small undamaged part of the resort where he could set up a makeshift kitchen he would prepare one of his famous meals for her. He was a large guy and so his unrestrained laughter seemed frightening and rather threatening. At first I felt confused and did not know why he found my request so ludicrous – but then, as if he had planted the idea in my own brain, came the idea: "Your mother decided to come here at just this time, without consulting you or anyone else. She has put herself into this situation. You do not need to take the responsibility of feeding her or fulfilling her desires."
At once I recognized that I was in another scene designed to help me grow out of my desire to please an unpleasable person. I was taking on a task for which I had no responsibility – I was the problem! So I went to my mother and explained again how I nourished myself under these circumstances. I told her she was welcome to join me but if she wanted other things out of the experience it was up to her to get them and not expect me to meet her needs. She became very angry with me, and even more angry with my unusual calm. As I walked away from her I had pains in my chest but told myself these were only ‘growing pains’. I went outside for more fresh air and noticed I was walking around the area where I had had a picnic on my last visit here. What had then been a smooth plowed field then was now covered with bean bushes. The bean pods hung thick and long on all the plants – as if ready for harvest. Again I realized the stupidity of trying to live up to the expectations of my mother instead of seeing what truly is and the incredible richness of the earth.
January 24, 2002
This break of good weather - between storms and before the harsh winds of spring - allowed us to do the pit firing. Not only did I get the pots fired, many haiku came out of the experience.
in the sarcophagus of a kiln
into the cracks
goes prayers for forgiveness
out comes a spider
the many hours
together with pounds of clay
five inches of sawdust chips
holds my children
fuel for the fire
trees in all their forms
as many forms
as the clay pots
layer on layer
clay and fuel
Spirits of the East called
for gentle winds
Spirits of the North
bring your paint boxes
to manifest colors
from the west
the element of Water protects
the fire from us
today is the day
for the South’s great dance of fire
invited – celebrated
Spirits of Earth
in this earthen box find
dome high to hold
happiness – gratitude
who have fired pots like this
teach me more
Spirits of Place
hey! join the party
partake of cornmeal
sun comes in brilliant
blazing from a match
three points of fire
even modern folks circle
the potter dries his hands
over the pit fire
rising straight into the air
the taken prayer
brick and rust
surrounding the fire
speaking in tongues
the roar of the fire
fire so hot
even the smoke
pots so hot
the whiteness of smoke
a fire burns into the sea
the kiln cools
January 23, 2002
Yesterday, after I had gotten the newest pots taken care of at the studio, Kaye and I did a ceremony of making a talisman (tall-is-man) in the African tradition. Having done them by the Jewish method, I found this way also very interesting and a lot more elaborate. Today I wish I had been more active and not so slavishly following her example but perhaps it was important to be correct and therefore more right to follow. Most of my morning has gone into caring for it and preparing for the pit firing which I hope we will do this afternoon. The sun is shining and from my side of the hill there seems no reason we cannot do it. I fixed all the arrangement of wire and steel wool on the pots on Saturday and even photographed them hoping to be able to understand better what works and what doesn’t. Last night I put one pot into our woodstove with a wood ash glaze which did not get hot enough to ‘work’ – so another experiment not coming up to my expectations. Am hoping the pit fire can be made hotter. I need some successes in my clay work as all my pots in the last week have been asymmetrical!
Not knowing what to make of the puzzle that is my life (I got a big puzzle yesterday for my birthday!) I can only record last night’s dream:
I had gone to Holland with a group of people. As part of our experience we were introduced to a man who was rather famous and who lived on a barge-like boat. While we were visiting with him, he introduced us to three couples – fairly young boys and girls who seemed to be his apprentices and friends. I envied them their relationship with this unusual man. He was white haired, a rather Viking type – totally at home on the water, in his skin and with the world. I was overjoyed when he invited us to share his life with him and the group. Staying with him was very rigorous and the other persons with me hated the lack of showers and American junk food, the discipline, the cold and the austerity of it all. I thought all of this was okay but I did go with them on a trip to town and it was I who discovered an American styled drugstore and pointed it out to them. I was rather embarrassed how happy they were to be getting things they knew and loved so I just wandered around watching their reactions. As I passed a rack of paperbacks, I saw on the cover of one that it was about the very man we were visiting, so I bought the book and began reading it right there in the aisles.
I continued keeping my nose in the book all the way back to the boat and was rather surprised to look up to see the reality of the book standing before me. As I watched the man slowly crumpled and died – very quickly and quietly. I still had the book in my hands so I looked to the last page to see how the book ended. To my surprise the ending was not about the famous man but about the three young couples and how they made their lives together using the principles which they had learned from him.
Instead of someone coming to remove the body, our group was hastened away off the boat by some official acting men. We were herded into the city hall. We were given to understand that now we were famous ourselves and were now guests of the city. Suddenly respect and honor were all around us. People clapped as we appeared. We were not allowed to meet the people directly but were lead by a cordon of officials into a great fancy rococo ballroom. On the walls hung famous paintings – mostly of landscapes and still life arrangements of fruit. After looking at a couple I was thoroughly bored with the pictures and began to pass by them faster and faster.
I rounded a corner and there sat a woman with a small exhibit on a stand before her. It was like a shrine with items from Richard Brautigan. I stopped to talk to her and as she talked to me she told me she had the last letter he had ever written. I was suddenly interested in seeing this and was just about to take the letter into my hands, when the official came bustling up and insisted that I look at the pictures because that was what I was here for. I gave the woman my address and asked her to get in touch with me privately so we could work on this matter together. Having done this I was able to go back to looking at the paintings with a calm mind and even some interest.
January 22, 2002
Lying in the spotty darkness of both stars and icy showers I realized that the least attractive job today was chopping the article for The Tanka Journal down to size. How much easier and more fun it would be to simply start all over with a clean screen. So with my hair still damp (I have another appointment for a cranial message), I typed up the ‘surely shorter’ new version in my head. It is different, but it is also 694 words – over 50 more than yesterday. The ideas are like clothes hangers in the back of the closet – they tangle and breed.
2TEN YEARS OF THE TANKA JOURNAL
Poetry is a social phenomenon. One cannot write a poem without having heard or read poetry of another person. It is a kind of information that passes from human to human. Inspiration comes up and through us in a completely individual way but when we are ready to give the feelings and vision a form with words we reach into the basket of memorized poems which have delighted and astounded us in the past to act as guide and example.
In these days, when everything is speeded up so that even poetry is changing faster than it ever has before, it is even more crucial that we poets keep in touch with each other, keep an eye on what the genre issues are and see what others are doing with the form. In as much as this is true for all poetry forms, it is even truer for tanka.
Tanka, which has undergone so many changes over its long illustrious history, is now facing the form’s greatest challenge. As tanka moves from the Japanese language into English it is forced to undergo changes that rattle the very core of its structure and spirit. As much as some people would like to dictate just how the form should be in the new language, the truth is that what tanka will become lies like a seed in the hearts of the persons who now write in both of these languages. At this point none of us can predict what the form will look or sound like in ten years. To me, this is extremely exciting. All we know is that, given the impetus the genre is enjoying at the moment, it will be different. And it is our work that will initiate and indicate, record and respond to the seismographic lines of the changes.
But how will these alterations come about? Each writer will look at what was written in the past, and as more and more translations of Japanese are available our concept of tanka changes and enlarges. In addition we must see and hear what our contemporaries are doing in both languages because, since poetry is a social function, our next poem is going to be a response, an answer, to the poem which we have read today. If we like and admire someone’s work, our own work will bend in that direction so that instead of one person having a style, several persons, by their work, will be attached to that movement. If we feel someone’s idea of what tanka should be disagrees with our convictions, our work will refute the concept and it may wither away. One can write essays of tanka theory but most of these dry up and fade into corners of libraries. What lives and grows and reproduces are the poems which are taken into the rich nourishing soil /soul of persons. For poems to live, for people to live, the need for each other is absolutely vital.
Too often literary magazines are treated as if they are luxuries, whims of the idle-endowed, or mouthpieces of the arrogant. In truth, they are the necessary oil and wheels of the vehicle of poetry. For a culture to reach its optimum, it must take care of even its smallest component – as The Tanka Journal does so admirably. Because the tanka genre is being adopted and adapted by foreigners, it is even more vital that contemporary and ancient tanka be shared in their target language. Thus, The Tanka Journal performs not only the usual needs for furthering contemporary poetry, but acts as bridge between cultures and language in the common pursuit of poetry. Each of us learning to use English for this genre owe a deep debt of gratitude to the Board of the Tanka Club, Editor Hatsue Kawamura, each member of the staff of the journal and a deep bow even down to the unnamed person who licks and sticks the stamps on the envelopes. Without the combined efforts of this group and the poets whose works they have published, the rise of tanka poetry in the West would be greatly impoverished.
January 21, 2002
Last night I reread Sanford Goldstein’s book, This Tanka Twirl and his translation of Mochiko Saito’s Shakko (Red Lights) in preparation for writing a book review for The Tanka Journal. This morning when I started typing up my thoughts I realized I was not writing the book review but was doing the article Hatsue had asked me to write for the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the magazine. She had asked for only 400 so I thought I could knock this out fairly easily. As I finally reined myself in a word count showed I had already overspent my allowance with 638 words:
TEN YEARS OF THE TANKA JOURNAL
Poetry is a social function. Though we have the idea of the poet alone in the ivory tower or the long-haired woman standing solitary by the sea, poetry – the forming of words into a genre – comes only through the association with other humans. All of our poetry grows out of and stays firmly connected with the poetry which was first read or read aloud to the individual. For the non-Japanese, this first source of poetry was often nursery rhymes or children’s songs. For many of us, the phrases of the Bible come easily to the tongue in the security of childhood or as example of the most exalted language to which we were exposed. Later, usually in our teen-age years we learned to love the words of a favorite poet and our notebooks were filled with imitations of that which we admired. It is at this point the non-Japanese joins the native speaker.
Because of the long history of tanka, and its everyday applications; as in the New Year’s game of Hyakunin Isshu, school lessons and daily columns in newspapers and magazines, Japanese children grow up with tanka. Literary expressions, though no longer part of the colloquial language, are still understood and held up as the best way to express certain emotions.
The young poet of any nationality looks first for examples for his or her work among the most popular, or most-published or most esteemed poems. When the lessons one can glean from the ancient works are accomplished, the spotlight of attention moves to contemporary poets. They will influence the new poet either in a positive way (so that the best techniques are imitated) or in an opposite way, which should not be called negative. Very often a poet will see what is being done, and though the poetry maybe done well, but will feel that he or she wants to present an opposing view or movement. In this way, poetic fashions swing in and out in a narrow arc. To be a part of this action, poets who are writing must be presenting their latest work and newer poets must come into contact with this work.
If a beginning poet only reads the classics, his or her work will fail to join the arc at the point at which it is right now today. One of the most vital decisions, which is rarely actually thought about before the next poem is written is: where do I and my poetry fit into the scheme of the work being done today? All too often we think we are simply following our hearts in writing down the words that stream out of our emotions and the images to which they have become attached. Yet, the aware poet will know exactly which poem by which author emoted a strong feeling of either admiration or rejection which has shaped the very form of each poem yet to be written.
Too often literary magazines are treated as if they are luxuries, whims of the idle-endowed, or mouthpieces of the arrogant. In truth, they are the necessary oil and wheels of the vehicle of poetry. Because the tanka genre is not a part of non-Japanese literary, it is even more vital that contemporary and ancient tanka be shared in the target language – English. Thus, The Tanka Journal performs not only the usual needs for furthering contemporary poetry, but acts as bridge between cultures and language in the common pursuit of poetry. Each of us learning to write in this genre owe a deep debt of gratitude to the Board of the Tanka Club, Editor Hatsue Kawamura, staff of the journal down to the unnamed person who licks and sticks the stamps on the envelopes. Without the combined efforts of this group, the rise of tanka poetry in the West would be greatly impoverished.
I printed it out with the plan of just chopping out sentences to get it down to size. This seemed like something to do with tomorrow’s freshness of morning.
January 12, 2002
Unofficially, I am done with Lynx. By Monday I will have found several things to fix and straighten up before announcing it and hooking it into the homepage, but this afternoon I am celebrating my new-found freedom from that job. I think (I haven’t gotten out the old issues) that it was just ten years ago I took the magazine over from Terri Grell. If so, then I have just put to bed the thirtieth issue. My neck and shoulder are giving me fits of spasms and the therapist who fixes it best is out of town so I am trying all my home remedies and exercises with only surface relief. All week I have been trying to stay on my feet until Lynx was done while taking antibiotics for another UTI. Something large and insistent in me wants to just go to bed and play at being sick but I really don’t feel that badly. I am rattling around in the hollow of having finished a job not yet ready to throw myself headlong into something else. There is a sweet boredom in this place. Thus, for a long time I just sat instead of cleaning up all the messes that have accumulated in the past two weeks.
watching the sun
on the cat’s back
I let my mind wander around without its leash of planned jobs and routines. I sat in the recliner that looks out the french door to the sea. We are finally having a period of sun after six weeks of rain. The house smells like summer again – windows are open and the difference between who we are and where we are disappears into a ‘her’. Maybe a goddess? I hope so – she has certainly made a beautiful world.
a day off work
the sun shines and yet
the wind is still
As my mind moved like a cat without its collar, I remembered that earlier in the week I had started to work on a tanka which, in my busyness, I had never been able to complete. I had been touched when a visitor to the clay class mentioned my name while talking to Kaye. I had never met the woman and she did not know me or know that it was I who was sitting at the wheel listening to her talk. As she continued to relate her story of a dialogue with a friend of hers, who I have never met, my name came back to me like something belonging to someone else. I was very touched at the kind things these two had exchanged about me but what impressed me more was the way my name became something fired in clay and passed from hand to hand by mouth.
is it spring yet?
the cold wind blows bright
out of a clear sky
I hear from a stranger
that you’ve spoken my name
Now that I have taken the time to write up the original occurrence of the inspiration, I am tempted to change the poem to:
fired in clay
passed from hand to hand
a stranger has touched
the vessel of my name
dream from an afternoon nap:
Bambi and Hans were still small children – about four and five years old. Heidi was there, too, but she, as she usually was around them, off by herself playing quieting and intensely. As in real life it had been, the two younger children began to squabble over some small thing. Eager to restore peace as quickly as possible, I warned them that if they wanted to fight they each had to go to their own room. The threat of being separated was so great that they instantly forgot the conflict. The next moment I noticed them they were sitting on the couch with Bambi reading to Hans.
This gave me the opportunity to go into a huge closet, one that seemed to go around the complete parameter of the house. It seemed about as wide as a small bedroom, with one door leading into the next section of the closet. The walls only had insulation on them – no wallboard or covering. It was quiet rough but fairly clean and organized. As I moved some of the boxes around I found an old box of toys which I had forgotten that I had stashed here. I carried it out into the living room where I called the kids to come to see what I had found for them. As they began to discover the various boxes of new toys I remembered that after a birthday party they had been sick and I had simply boxed up their gifts and put them away for a day when they could really enjoy them. By the time they recovered we all had forgotten about the toys.
Their squeals of excitement and joy as they discovered each new thing was greater than their muted fun on the day of the birthday party had been. I was so glad I had followed my impulse to save the toys until they could be enjoyed at this level.
Encouraged by my find for the children, I went back into the closet to see what else might be there. As I went from section to section I recognized most of the boxes and stuff and there was nothing I was interested in getting. When I walked around a corner I came out into a room in the basement of the house (I thought) which I had never seen. At first I was very excited thinking I had found another room in the house which I had never seen before. Already I was thinking of how I could use more room. Then as I came around another corner I saw that what I discovered was the space I was already occupying. I had only entered it from an access that was new to me. There was no room for expansion. I was already filled.
Copyright ©Jane Reichhold 2001
December 30 - 22, 2001
December 20 - 10, 2001
December 9 - 1, 2001
November 30 - 11, 2001
November 9 - 1, 2001
October 31 - 21, 2001
October 20 - 11
October 1 - 10, 2001
September 21 - 30, 2001
September 11 - 20, 2001
September 1 - 10, 2001
August 22 - 31, 2001
August 11 - 21, 2001
August 9 - 1, 2001
July 31 - 26, 2001
July 25 - 18, 2001
July 17 - 11, 2001
July 10 - 4, 2001