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 😉

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.

                      Sonnet_98_1609

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~

 

 

Lagom!

‘It’s a kind of Swedish Goldilocks approach, with everything “just right.”’

Evidently, the Scandinavians have really got some things figured out.

And naturally, the rest of us are lining up- and signing up- to become a little more Scandi-savvy!

In today’s post, let’s take a look at Sweden’s ‘best export’; lagom.

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The word lagom seems to have originated with a Viking term ‘laget om‘ (around the team) which referred to the social custom of passing a horn of drink around a circle and making sure everyone took just his fair share, so as to leave enough for the others to do the same. As one author wittily remarked,

“The Vikings wouldn’t usually be first on my list as a moral compass, but they were certainly on to something.”

Modern Swedes have come a long way from their Viking forbears; so how does Lagom translate today?

Contentment, balance, and doing things in ways that make sense for everyone…

Harmony, restraint, and appreciation for simplicity…

Moderation, sustainability, and environmental consciousness…

As I sit typing this morning at my HEMNES desk (thank you IKEA) I’m hoping you’ll enjoy taking a little peek with me into the timeless, yet trendy Scandi-secret of lagom!

For your scrolling pleasure, I’ve read three books (just triangulating data 😉 on this scintillating subject to share with you. Each one was written by someone in the know…

Elisabeth Carlsson grew up Swedish in Sweden, and is now married to an Englishman raising their children in London. Here is her book, the lagom life.

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Linnea Dunne is another Swede who left the land of lagom as a young adult and is now married to an Irishman, with whom she lives in Dublin, where they are raising their young child. She’s the author of this LAGOM book:

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“Consensus is king and everyone mucks in.”

Honestly, my favourite is Niki Brantmark’s Lagom book; she’s an Englishwoman who fell in love with a Swedish man and jumped at the chance to relocate to his homeland (about 15 years ago) where they are happily settled and raising their children Swedish-style!

Somehow her perspective seems more to the purpose… She’s looking at the culture of her adopted homeland through the lens of someone who was newly (and enthusiastically) introduced to it as an adult, which is closer to how the rest of us are seeing it, with fresh eyes and an appreciative embrace…

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“Perhaps the most liberating lesson of all has been feeling satisfied with ‘enough’.”

Whatever their various emotional approaches are to Swedish culture, they are definitely all speaking on the same subject! Here are some common themes I found running steadily through all three books:

  1. Moderation– while this isn’t a terribly exciting approach to life, it’s certainly a healthy one. And it greases the wheels of social life; greed and bragging are frowned upon. No self-respecting Swede would reach for the last treat on the plate once it had gone around at fika (coffee break) time.
  2. Forangkringsprocessenkvallspromenad (evening walk after supper) or bass bastu (sauna with refreshing breaks in cold water or snow)!!
  3. Balance– famously efficient, Swedish employees mean business about quitting time! Making time for family, health (such as Friskis & Svettis; unpretentious open air group exercise in public parks), self care, and creativity. (Incidentally, friskis & svettis sounds a little to my untrained ear like frisking and sweating- nej?
  4. Allemansratten“He who buys what he does not need steals from himself.” -Swedish Proverb

Lagom at home means keeping down clutter. Simply take a kopstopp (purchasing break) if all else fails. To further ensure home comforts, draw in as much natural light as possible, decorate with plants, and choose furniture for functionality. This is all very important, especially when the weekend comes; Fredagsmys is the traditional Friday night  family veg session with convenience food and TV, followed closely by Lordagsgodis (Saturday candy time)!! Very lagom ways to approach lounging on the couch for some screen time, and consuming candy, ja? 

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I have lots to learn about this moderate and balanced approach myself… I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, and never take coffee breaks (with or without cookies and cake)!

How about you?

Are you Swedish?

Have you been to Sweden, and what do you think of lagom?

Do any of these ideas resonate with you or help you see day-to-day challenges in a new light?

Thank you for reading with me,

Leah 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

The Happiness Passport

“Happiness is a mindset for your journey, not the result of your destination.” ~Shawn Achor

I’m obsessed with a few things; happiness naturally being one of them, because… who doesn’t want to be happy? According to the wise and witty Jane Austen, no one;

“I wish, as well as everybody else, to be happy; but, like everybody else, it must be in my own way.”

Handily, I also find that I have an insatiable appetite for learning. And people, and places. So you can imagine the relish with which I devoured this gorgeous book!

Clearly, no one place or culture has a monopoly on happiness. It’s absolutely fascinating to discover elements of contentment and joie-de-vivre tucked away in all parts of the world.

When I started school, my mom was part of a carpool; parents from nearby farms took turns driving each other’s children to school along with their own. Two of the families in our carpool were from India, and our mother wasted no time learning to cook a delicious Indian vegetarian curry and roti from one of these women. This recipe became one of our family favourites, and to this day we love to make it; only a couple weeks ago our adult son asked me for the recipe so he can make it with/for his lovely wife!

I’m grateful to my mom for this introduction to cultural diversity appreciation!

I’m convinced that we can learn something from everyone we meet. And from people we don’t meet, who find other ways to share their experiences and perspectives with us. For example, because of Megan C. Hayes, PhD., we now have at our fingertips such simple and sweet word/concepts as ‘cwtch’ (a Welsh term for a cozy cuddle), ‘ubuntu’ (Nguni Buntu for the common bond of unanimity between all people), ‘melmastia’ (a Pashto expression for unconditional hospitality and profound respect for guests), and one of my personal favourites -surely coined by someone who enjoys babies and little people as much as I do- ‘gigil’ (Tagalog for an overwhelming feeling, often in the context of wanting to pinch a cute or cherished baby)!!!

You might want to check out Megan Hayes’ program for writing oneself happy!

Positive Journal

What happiness tips have you gleaned from other languages, cultures, or places?

Thank you for reading with me,

Leah 🙂