Tag Archives: carpe diem haiku kai

Lost in the Mist Haiku

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This is a picture of the main gate to Honen-in, a temple of the Pure Land Buddhist sect. It is found in the Northeast corner of Kyoto, just off the Path of Philosophy.  Its precincts are relatively small, but a precious, tranquil oasis.


pure land gateless gate

Nirvana on either side

hiding in the mist

Sacred Arrow Haiku

byudo center Kyoto City Budo Center

Whenever I went into central Kyoto, the martial arts center was one of my favorite stops, especially the range for Kyudo–the Art of Archery.

Eugen Herrigel’s book Zen and the Art of Archery was my very first introduction to Zen Buddhism, and I can still feel the excitement I felt as I read the book in the Spring of 1968.  I don’t think it is accurate to call the Zen arts in general, and the Art of Archery in particular, “religious.” The use of the word “religious” is problematic when applied to Japanese culture.  For most Westerners, the word carries the connotation of rigid dogma, exclusivity, and strict moralism.  None of these characteristics applies consistently to Buddhism or Shinto, which from the Nara period (8th century CE) have been marked with a syncretism only occasionally marred by feuds or Nationalistic cooptation. During the six years I taught in a Japanese University, I had a fascinating time explaining why Westerners took Religion so seriously.

Still, as with all things Zen, there is a marvelous ritual and spirituality in the Art of Archery. Practitioners wear special dress and approach the line with reverential short steps. They first kneel sideways to the targets, and, as in the tea ceremony, every movement is prescribed, from the stringing of the bow, to taking aim, to releasing the arrow:

kyudo kneeling

Here is another picture from the Kyoto Center:

girls kyudo

On every visit, I was transported by the grace and beauty of the Art.  It was truly a marvelous dance.  I was also amazed at the distance to the small target:


One day as I was enjoying the artistry of the archers, I noticed a man who seemed about my age (at the time, 72), moving with exceptional grace and apparent lack of control, who hit on or near the bullseye every time.  It was a privilege to watch him, and I felt his centered concentration seep into my own mind and heart.  When he finished, I approached him to offer my gratitude and appreciation.  He was most gracious in return–but then he said “Nansai desuka? (how old are you?)” Nanajunisai desu (72) I answered.”  He smiled.  “Kodomo (a child!)” he said. Pointing to his nose, he said “Kyujunisai desu (I am 92).”   I was swept away by the wonder of artistic mastery and the relativity of age:

grace smoothly flowing

his back straight as an arrow

old man disappears

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First Market Haiku



The dramatic statue holding sway over the campo dei fiori (field of flowers) in Rome is that of Giordano Bruno (1548-1600). He was an Italian Dominican monk who fell afoul of the inquisition about 15 years before Galileo did. Bruno held that the stars were suns like our own, that there could be many habitable worlds, and that the universe was infinite with no one body at its center. He also questioned transubstantiation, Mary’s virginity, and the divinity of Jesus, which really got him into trouble. He was burned at the stake in the Campo dei Fiori in the year 1600. Today the plaza is a thriving market, and one of my favorite places (I took this photo about three years ago). The statue is still a matter of controversy, as some conservatives object to honoring a heretic in this way. He is, however, a hero to progressives.

Giordano Bruno

brooding over first market

tasting bitter fruit

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Sacred Rope (Shimenawa)




On carpe diem haiku kai, one of the recent prompts for creating a haiku is the Sacred Rope, or shimenawa in Japanese.  This is one of my favorite symbols in Shinto, and it always warmed my heart when I passed one–in a shrine or even in the countryside.  It is a twisted rope used to denote the sacred energy of a place–such as Mount Fuji:

shimenawa fuji

It is often seen circling a tree both to honor the soul of that tree and to call attention to its unusual life force:

shimenawa tree

The zigzag strips of paper are called Shide, and are often used in purifying ceremonies, attached to a wand (e.g. a gohei) and waved over anything from a building to a new car.

One of the most famous Shimenawa in Japan is pictured by Chèvrefeuille  on his website:

near wedded rocks

These are the Wedded Rocks, or the Married Couple Rocks, found near the Grand Shrine of Ise. The rocks symbolize the Shinto version of the Creator Deities, as told in the 8th century chronicle, Kojiki.   The story goes that the kami Izanagi and his wife Izanami (She Who Invites) were tasked with creating the Japanese islands.  They were given a heavenly spear, and standing on the floating bridge of Heaven, they swirled the waters of the sea.  As drops fell from their spear, the islands of japan were formed. The story continues with the death of Izanami, but their wonderful creative relationship is commemorated at this lovely spot, and sanctified with the shimenawa:


I will use the following photo for inspiration.  The young woman is called a Miko, a Shrine Maiden who in the olden days was regarded as a shaman.  Today they are young girls who help at the shrine and sometimes perform the sacred dance called the kagura.

Great Shiminawa

a lovely miko.

sheltering shimenawa–

no dogma, just dance

Canyon Winds Tan Renga

On Carpe Diem Haiku Kai, the host asks us to complete a Tan Renga. This is a cooperative creative game where two lines of seven syllables by one person complete the 5/7/5 haiku of another.  Today’s offering is by Jen at blogitorloseit.com.  She evokes the timeless wonder of the Southwestern desert with this wonderful haiku:

ancient laughter
captured in a canyon wind –
yucca leaves, rustling

The host of Carpe Diem, Chevrefeuille , offers this tan renga:

ancient laughter
captured in a canyon wind –
yucca leaves, rustling
 (© Paloma)

whispering of ghostly voices
telling a wonderful story
(© Chèvrefeuille)

These brought to mind this picture of Carolyn hiking in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Southern Arizona:

organ pipe

and the whisper of wind through the Organ Pipes inspired this tan renga:

ancient laughter
captured in a canyon wind –
yucca leaves, rustling
 (© Paloma)

 anasazi ancestors

murmur aeolian dreams 

Straw Haiku


caroling scholars

enliven the Street of Straw


Today’s prompt on the wonderful blog carpe diem haiku kai is “straw.”  My inner eye skittered away to 13th Century Paris, and the birth of its famous University.  The school was first located on the Rue de l’Ecole which quickly came to be known as the Rue de Fouarre, or the Street of Straw. It is even mentioned in Dante’s Paradiso, X.  The name might have alluded to the straw market that was in the neighborhood.  The explanation I have always enjoyed, however, points to the fact that the only person with a chair in a Medieval classroom was the professor.  The students would sit in the unheated room shivering on straw scattered about the floor.  It is no wonder they so enjoyed whooping it up as they are doing in the above manuscript illumination.

Let me take this opportunity to thank Chèvrefeuille, the host of carpe diem haiku kai, for the care and effort he so generously shares with lovers of haiku.  He has been especially kind and encouraging to this beginner, and it is a pleasure to express my gratitude.

Violets Troiku

On Carpe Diem Haiku Kai, the play for the day is to create a Troiku.  This, as the host explains, is “a kind of creativity with haiku … in short you have to use every line of the haiku (three in total) as the starting line for a new haiku. The Troiku is created as you have written three new haiku. I love to challenge you, but remember it’s not an obligation, to turn the given haiku by Richard Wright into a Troiku.”  Here is the original haiku of Richard Wright:


I give permission

For this slow spring rain to soak

The violet beds.

and here is my contribution:

I give permission

to the stirrings of my heart

to pour into life

for this slow Spring rain to soak

into Gaia’s melting heart

nascent flowers wait

the violet beds

heralds of early morning

nature’s reveille