Haiku

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Photo by Chad Greiter on Unsplash

I’m an avid Happier podcast listener! Sometimes it’s practical and helpful, other times merely interesting, but always funny.

If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a weekly conversation between two sisters; one who lives in New York city and writes books about human nature and happiness, and the other who lives in Los Angeles and writes TV shows.

In one episode, they introduced the idea of making up a daily haiku as a little mindfulness moment.

And… if you’re not familiar with haiku, it’s a breathtakingly simple Japanese form of poetry that can also be done in English.

Often about nature, a haiku is simply a thought expressed in 3 little lines; the first line is 5 syllables; the second line is 7 syllables; and the third line is 5 syllables again.

That’s it.

Here’s an example by Gretchen Rubin, one I heard on that podcast episode:

Central Park in bloom.

This year, I made sure to go.

Spring passes too fast.

Here is a link to the podcast notes for that episode.

And if you want to check out some haiku by other Happier podcast listeners, take a look at this hashtag on Twitter!

The idea isn’t to write a masterpiece, just to compose a thought in a mindful way.

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Inspired by this, I found this lovely little haiku book at the library…

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What’s interesting about this tiny volume is the way it brings together the works of traditional Japanese poets (translated into English), and throws in a few classic English poets.

Here are a few I liked from Japanese poets.

Today’s moon;

Will there be anyone 

Not taking up his pen?

-Onitsura

 

This ramshackle house, 

And me just the same as ever-

The first day of spring.

-Issa

 

My life,-

How much more of it remains?

The night is brief.

-Shiki

 

Along this road

Goes no-one

This autumn eve.

-Basho

 

In the icy moonlight

Small stones

Crunch underfoot.

-Buson

And here are some haiku-like lines written by western word artists…

 

I will touch 

A hundred flowers

And pick not one.

-Millay

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(me touching, but not picking a flower 😉

A violet

By a mossy stone

Half hidden from the eye.

-Wordsworth

 

not seeing 

the room is white

until that red apple

-Virgil

 

I was puzzled by the way the haiku poems collected in this anthology  are so loose in their ‘syllables per line’ structure! I wondered if it had something to do with the translation…

Then I read (in the foreword) this explanation by Peter Washington, the editor:

“Everyone is familiar with the notion that haiku have seventeen syllables, arranged in a pattern of 5-7-5. What matters more is the combination of subtlety, force, economy, and technical refinement…”

That clarifies for me how great poets can get away with having a very fluid relationship with the rules. I think I’ll just stick to the standard form. Maybe one day I’ll graduate to the level of haiku composition that can afford to flout the rulebook, but not yet! I may not have a professional grasp on subtlety, force, economy, and technical refinement, but I can make up a symmetrical little poem with 17 syllables. Here goes:

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fresh green fir branches

reach out friendly hands to me

earthy smelling woods

-Leah

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That’s from Sunday afternoon; it’s a sweet and easy way for me to remember my walk up the riverbank trail with my husband.

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Have you ever tried making up a haiku?

What else do you like to do for little moments of mindfulness on busy (or slow) days?

Thank you for reading with me,

Leah 😉

Becoming Mrs. Lewis

 

“What on earth would become of me if I should ever grow brave?”

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What a heartbreakingly beautiful true story.

I was vaguely aware that C.S.Lewis had been married late in life to an American woman in ill health. That was about all I remembered from the film, Shadowlands. Then I happened upon this book in a library e-reader app last week, and could hardly put it down until I came to the inevitable end.

From the first page, it compels.

Who knew that the woman who would one day become Mrs. Lewis started out as a highly intelligent, atheist Jewish child in New York City?

That she lived and wrote as a communist, and graduated with a masters degree from Columbia University?

That she endured years of infidelity and abuse with an alcoholic  husband before fleeing with her two little boys to save her health and hope…?

Not I…

Early in this historical novel (which reads more like an autobiography) Joy had a totally unexpected experience when she fell to her knees in desperation and fear on the floor of her baby’s bedroom one night. She was surprised to find herself uttering a prayer, which was answered by an immediately overwhelming sense of comfort and peace. She could never look at her life the same way again.

“Much of what I’d done — mistakes, poems, manipulations, success and books and sex — had been done merely to get love. To get it. To answer my question: do you love me? . . . From that moment on, the love affair I would develop would be with my soul. [God] was already part of me; that much was clear. And now this would be where I would go for love — to the God in me. No more begging or pursuing or needing.” (‘Joy’) 

She was an award winning writer in her own right, and knew other writers; one of her friends had spent time in England with the well-known author, C.S. Lewis (known to his friends as Jack.) She wrote to him, searching to understand her spiritual experience and gain clarity as a Christian convert.

They did have some things in common, most importantly their incredible intellect, and their surprise at being forced by their own undeniable experiences to forsake their atheism for Christianity.

C.S. Lewis The Kilns, His Oxford Home

~The Kilns, Lewis’s home

(photograph: awesomestories.com)

Joy met her match in Lewis, an Oxford professor 17 years her senior, who worked in a world of academics (of which she was undoubtedly one) and men (of which she was undoubtedly not one.) The college where he worked wasn’t even open to women students!

Little did he know then that this was ‘the beginning of the end’ of his life as a confirmed bachelor. He was originally from northern Ireland, and when Joy stepped into his life he lived contentedly in the English countryside with his older brother, Warnie (who was a dear, and loved her as a sister.) But alas, Jack’s friends didn’t approve of her, especially not for him. It really is amazing that they ever got together.

“It is not hopeless,” he said with surety. “It is uncertain, and this is the cross God always gives us in life, uncertainty. But it is not hopeless.” (‘Jack’) 

Love conquers all.

Patti Callahan ( author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis) has researched minutely and read extensively; so much so that she’s able to write convincingly in the first person about Joy’s courageous suffering through her ‘once upon a time’ and brave living which propelled her eventually into her own ‘happily ever after.’

Becoming Mrs. Lewis left me craving more about this brilliantly gifted writer who waded through chronic illness and faced down relentless prejudice to produce an impressive body of written work and captivate the heart and mind of one of the most famous writers and speakers of his time (and the author of The Chronicles of Narnia!)

It’s safe to say she was the love of his life, as he said this of her:

“She was my daughter and my mother, my pupil and my teacher, my subject and my sovereign; and always, holding all these in solution, my trusty comrade, friend, shipmate, fellow-soldier. My mistress; but at the same time all that any man friend (and I have good ones) has ever been to me. Perhaps more.”                                                 -Person Jr., James E (16 August 2009). “Books: ‘Out of My Bone: The Letters of Joy Davidman'”. The Washington Times. Retrieved 8 December 2011.

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Joy Davidman (findagrave.com)

I know Joy wasn’t alone in her experience of feeling at first that she had to do or be something, good enough somehow, to ‘earn’ the right to be loved by ‘proving worthy of it’…

I’ve experienced powerful change in my own life, by realizing that I, in my flaws, am and always have been perfectly loved by God.

How about you?

Also, can you recommend to me any other good books or movies about Joy and Jack?

Thank you for reading with me,

Leah 🙂

 

EscApril

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A Spring Sonnet

~William Shakespeare~

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Sonnet 98

~William Shakespeare~

From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April dress’d in all his trim
Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing,
That heavy Saturn laugh’d and leap’d with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odour and in hue
Could make me any summer’s story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew;
Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
Yet seem’d it winter still, and, you away,
As with your shadow I with these did play.

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In this little poem, the writer is lamenting the absence of his loved one; the poor guy finds that spring doesn’t feel like spring without her loveliness and company to breathe life and beauty into the blossoming white lilies and red roses…

When I was about 10, my family moved from B.C. where spring was green and beautifully blooming by April, to Alberta, where we don’t dare plant our gardens until mid-to-late May! My birthday is in early April, and there’s no reason not to expect blizzards just then. It’s happened more times than I can count. So I can relate to the sentiments expressed in this sonnet; feeling like spring is missing something. (A beloved person in his case, greening weather in my case.)

You may have read these poems, by Christopher Marlowe and Sir Walter Ralegh; I learned them in my first year university English class. The first one is pure sentiment; the second one, more than a little bit cheeky. They always make me smile.

The Passionate Shepherd To His Love

The Nymph’s Reply To The Shepherd

So, just for funsies, here’s my response to Shakespeare’s sonnet, and to the month of…

#escapril !

Sonnet 3

I miss the soft and gentle western land
Of soft green grass beneath my free bare feet.
When April comes and warmth is not at hand,
I wonder why I’m here in snow and sleet.

Long gone are February days
With welcome sunshine pouring from the sky.
Why am I here, far from those melting rays?
Wrapped up in wool, I can’t get warm; I try!

When Easter comes, at last I head back west,
Vacation in the place I love the best!

~Leah~

 

 

The Golden Rule

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“DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU.”

Like most of us, I’ve been familiar with this ethic of empathy for as long as I can remember. Because I am a Christian, I learned it from my parents as well as in church.

What I didn’t realize before reading this artfully illustrated book is that the golden rule is found in all the world’s religions… According to author Ilene Cooper,

“Christianity says: You should love your neighbour as you love yourself.

Judaism says: What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow humans.

Islam says: Hurt no one that no one may hurt you.

Hinduism says: This is the sum of duty: to do nothing to others which would cause them pain.

Buddhism says: Do not do to others what would hurt you.

The Shawnee Tribe says: Do not kill or injure your neighbour, for it is not he or she that you injure; you injure yourself.”

This book presents a simple tale of a young boy learning about this universal element of humanity in a thought-provoking conversation with his grandfather…

The little lad likes that the Golden Rule is the same for children and adults. I like how his grandpa answers his how-to query;

“You begin by using your imagination.”

Sometimes it’s too easy for me to interact with (especially my family) just a little thoughtlessly. When I take a little moment to consider first, I’m far more likely to treat the people I love the most in the way I would like to be treated; with kindness and respect.

A couple days ago a man stepped aside, holding the door open for me as I was leaving the post office. He was on his way in, and happened to have his hand on the door handle before I did. It was easy and natural for me then to hold it open for him as he took his turn passing through. It was such a simple gesture, but it brightened my day.

How has someone touched your life with gold by following this simple rule?

Thank you for reading with me,

Leah 🙂

 

Why do we love to read?

“Some books are so familiar, reading them is like being home again.”

-Louisa May Alcott

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Written words have a magical power to transport us to places and times we could never otherwise go, or can never otherwise go again…

This is a photo of my grandparents’ farm, where I lived as a small child. Generations of us played on these “green and golden” 32 acres, this place imprinting itself on our souls; becoming a part of who we are and the narrative of our lives.

When I was first introduced to Dylan Thomas’ Fern Hill in a high school English class, you will easily understand the chord it struck in me. His words, written so many years before my life began, reverberate with me every time I read his immortal poem.

 

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Books, poems, stories; what written words bring you back to your childhood?

Thank you for reading with me,

Leah 🙂