Free Haibun Workshop on Zoom

Santa Fe Community College Library Presents

Haibun Workshop with Miriam Sagan

Haibun is the prose and haiku combination first developed in Japan. It can be considered the original hybrid form! We’ll learn about haibun and write pieces that include timed writing, diary entries, and flash memoir. We’ll practice with placement of haiku, contrast, and metaphorical thinking. For writers at all levels. Background material and resources will be sent to each participant before the workshop

Tuesday, October 5th from 6-8pm (Mountain Time)
Haibun (haiku & prose) Workshop via Zoom
Free and open to the public but space is limited, and participants must register.
To register: write msagan1035@aol.com

Mesilla: Haibun by Miriam Sagan

Mesilla

An alcove in an adobe wall, filled with clay churches, right behind the real church on the plaza. Chickens cluck all day, and the rooster crows at will—no alarm clock he. The dog barks at any imagined trespass.
A bar band is playing “Papa was a rolling stone,” and I dance on the sidewalk. I’ve heard almost no live music in a year.
The lavender plant is full of bees.

white hyacinth,
church bells—the smell of spring
up from Mexico

You say I’m always happy here, no matter the season.

Christmas tree
still in the window—
daffodils

To arrive at a border, to attempt to cross it, is to start suffering in a particular way-—well-known to my four grandparents who crossed an ocean of the imagination. Personally, I cannot discount any faith that helps.
On Sunday morning, mass is broadcast from the church and parishioners listen from the courtyard, sitting on the adobe walls. A woman walking a dog crosses herself.

a man kneels
in the street, facing
the priest’s voice

Michael G. Smith Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton took a fifteen-day trip to the northern California coast and high New Mexico desert in May 1968. He hadn’t spent much time away from the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky during the previous twenty-six years. However, his books were bringing more people to the abbey to see the celebrated Trappist monk. His hermitic life disrupted, he needed the offerings of a different topography. In preparation for his journey to Our Lady of the Redwoods Monastery and the Monastery of Christ in the Desert he wrote

Presence and witness but also speaking of the unfamiliar…speaking
of something new to which you might not have access.
An experiment in openness.

Charitable to the unknown within himself, Merton’s seeking echoed astrophysicists’ search for dark matter, the hypothetical undetectable glue holding the universe together. With no measurable physical attributes, you look for its consequences. Standing at the Pacific Ocean, gazing towards Asia, he watched song sparrows in the twisted trees and quoted the Astavakra Gita, “Neither accept or reject anything.” He ran out of black & white film photographing odd volcanic rocks at Ghost Ranch and bought color in Abiquiu. The actions of an enlightened tourist? Perhaps, but they comprise only a sliver of Merton’s pilgrimage. After returning to his Gethsemani hermitage he continued writing field notes.

I dream every night of the west.

Merton had more on his mind than an imagined west. He held a deep appreciation for eastern religions and traditions, including Zen, for their understanding and descriptions of the human experience. With the above line he reached back through time and touched Bashō.

Even in Kyōto – 
hearing the cuckoo’s cry –
I long for Kyōto

I embrace Merton’s dream as the kernel of a koan illustrating experiential longing. The awareness that knows also yearns for the fleeting and passing ­– loved ones, seasons, mountains. The food dehydrator humming – squash, carrots and red peppers for my next backpacking trip – my hunger for the imagined west I dwell in receives the nourishment of memories of landscapes and cultures I pine to return to. My aging body seeks harmony amongst a Utah canyon’s fractured cliffs. This wavering mind seeks ease with the help of dungchens trumpeted by Tibetan Buddhist monks at the Maha Bodhi Temple.

Dried apple slices
skewer me
with temptation

And too, revelation arrives without having to seek. One evening during a Grand Canyon backpacking trip as I looked for fossils a bumblebee tagged along for thirty minutes. With each step she hovered before me. Small puffs of air from her rapid wingbeats alighted on my face. Following when I knelt to examine rocks, she rose when I did. Her compound eyes focused on my relatively limited ones. Curiosity glued us together. Our desire for connection transcended experiment. I do not claim cross-species communication or understanding. Rather, I felt mutual respect and acknowledgment of being seen by something older and wiser than I. She would zip away, only to zip back minutes later. Thinking my red t-shirt attracted her, I returned to camp during an absence to experiment with a change of clothes. As I tugged a gray pullover past my face, the bee found me. I resumed fossil hunting. Neither accepting nor rejecting me, she neither followed nor led.

Walking meditation
past fading gravestones
accompanied by
footsteps of others

Author’s notes: Merton’s journal of his western trip was the last he approved for publication. Accompanied by his photographs, the journal was published as Woods, Shore, Desert, (Museum of Santa Fe: New Mexico Press, 1982). The lines quoted are from the Prelude (p. 5), and the May 13th (p. 14) and May 22nd entries (p. 42).

There are many translations of Bashō’s haiku. I quote Robert Hass’.

Field Notes by Michael G. Smith: Back Country

Yellowstone backcountry, early July. Green abundance. Snow remnants in north-facing mountain peak ravines. Blue sky. A poem from A Zen Forest: Sayings of the Masters sparks a realization.

No sharp sword
can cut it open;
No iron hammer
strike it out.

Our destination six miles down the trail is a rare campsite in one of the park’s Bear Management Areas. Extensive tracts of wilderness with many elk and bison carcasses the large number of grizzly bears feed on, BMA’s intentionally have few trails to protect bears by minimizing conflict with humans.

Grizzly sighting –
four-inch claws
rake dry mud.

The trail climbs and weaves through meadows and forest understories teeming with wildflowers, Gifts freely and unselfishly given by earth, air, waters and sunlight. Patches of wild iris in lowland sagebrush meadows. White phlox, blue flax, maroon-red Indian paintbrush, stinky Bob, prairie smoke and late spring’s remaining arrowleaf balsamroots in higher elevation, wetter meadows. Shooting stars, purple larkspur, lupine, and summer’s first yellow columbine cluster into the spaces left by pines and firs.

Deep snow
fills yellow pollen
shaken
from pinecones.

Glacier lilies, late spring flowers, surprise us at our campsite along the Gardner River. The bear scat in the tent area doesn’t. Black bear? Grizzly? The size of a salad plate, Bonnie says the scat pile is a little small for a grizzly.

I would know
if only
impatient feet
stopped sooner.

We hang food, cooking gear and toiletries – anything with a scent possibly attractive to a bear – fourteen feet above the ground from the bear pole suspended between two firs a hundred yards from the tent area. Bear spray – a ten-ounce canister of highly pressurized capsaicin designed to spray twenty-five feet or more – is always kept within reach. Tents are pitched. River water is purified to drink. Sweat and trail dirt washes off our bodies into the chill river. We find sunny spots in the meadow to relax and read. We try to fend off voracious mosquitos.

Drunk Ikkyū’s stone buddha
collected birdshit.
This wolf scat is
a corkscrew of fur.

Our backpacker’s simple dinner consists of miso soup, noodles and lentils. Desserts of port and chocolate follow. We brush our teeth. Hang food, cooking gear and every scented item, including chapstick, again. Grabbing our bear spray, we walk up-trail through dense forest to look for wildlife – elk, deer, fox, moose, bear – in meadows away from camp. An old wooden sign nailed to a pine reminds us we are in a BMA. No off-trail travel is permitted. One does not want to surprise a grizzly feeding on a carcass or a sow with cubs.

Hey bear! Hey bear!
Quaking aspens.

We cross a creek at a bridge of deadfall trees stripped of bark. The bare wood slick, a thick branch serves us as a third point of contact with the Earth. Our feet dry, I lay the branch against the logs to use on the return crossing. Minutes later we reach the Gardner River, decide not to splish-splash a trail through it, and return to camp having seen no wildlife.

This year’s
swiftest full moon
fills my tent.

Sunlight summitting the eastern ridge tunnels through my eyelids. I unwrap myself from the sleeping bag, shimmy into pants, long sleeve t-shirt and jacket, and unzip the tent’s door and rainfly. A female elk grazing in the meadow near tree line becomes aware of a new presence and lifts her head. Our gazes meet. I blink. Dark green grasses and firs remain.

Foresight –
drainage to the south
off limits.
Wolf pups.

Author notes: A Zen Forest: Sayings of the Masters, translated by Sōigu Skigematsu, is a collection selected from Kuzoshi (A Zen Forest Saying Anthology), compiled in the late 15th century by the Japanese Master Toyo Eicho Zenji, and from Zudokku (The Poison-Painted Drum), edited by Genro Fujita in the 20th century.

And, with deep gratitude to Bonnie Rice, my dear friend and backpacking buddy, who generously and untiringly teaches me about the ways of bears and the names of flowers, the latter of which I need reminding of June through August, summer to summer.

Trash Pick-Up Haibun by Michael G. Smith

During long minutes at home in the early stage of the Covid-19 pandemic and being a materials chemist with few real-world skills, I found myself wondering what I could do to help others while minimizing contact. I recalled walking past a wetland behind a chain of stores and seeing its reeds and willows full of trash. Home to ducks, pheasants, Redwing blackbirds and others, the wetland is the sort of landscape migrating Sandhill cranes will stop to rest and feed.

in the brown reeds
a tattered Bible
opened to Genesis

Materials – plastic, chemically-treated wood products, styrofoam – decompose slowly, if at all, within a human lifetime. The decomposition products pollute lands and waters. Overtime an increasing concentration of harmful chemicals threaten all – people, waterfowl and countless unseen beings. A Zen Buddhist, my definition of others including all non-human species, I chose to help the wetland and created a self-volunteer project spending a few hours each week ridding the reeds and willows of human garbage.

told to stay home
I take refuge
beneath evergreens

Behind the Home Depot store bordering a pond I anticipate much of the debris will be that from the construction retailer. And I do find some – pieces of two-by-fours, foam packing, plastic sheets and straps, crumbling sheetrock. But there is also consumer debris – potato chip bags, beer and soda cans, a picture of a young couple in a broken frame, take-out coffee cups and lids, deflated bubble wrap. Surprises too – a $5 bill and picture puzzle pieces.

Sun Face Buddha
Moon Face Buddha
what merit in picking up trash?

My not-knowing if the wetland birds appreciate my efforts does not matter. Instead, as I place each piece in a large plastic bag I think of the many connections between the Covid-19 pandemic and an overpopulated human species whose resource consumption and pollution exceeds the carrying capacity of the Earth. I also think about the uncountable acts of charity and unselfishness happening globally during the pandemic. Humanity’s growing recognition it has very little time to change its behaviors to save itself and all other beings matters now more than we can imagine.

budding willows –
nests of last years’ grasses
take shape

From The Archive #2: Haibun by Angelee Deodhar

Optical Illusion

My paternal grandmother was a rich, generous, large hearted lady and the mother of many sons and well regarded in our village. Since she died when I was only two years old I never knew her. Her equally philanthropic sons decided to give the village its first school, its first hospital, a gurudwara and also a community centre which had electricity.

Several decades later, a well wisher of the family advised my uncles to get their mother’s portrait painted. Since I was well into photography by then, it fell to me to get a portrait painted so that it could be duly hung in the school building.

In Gran’s days there were no photographs, so nobody really knew what she looked like. Somehow a tiny, sepia print of her was found and a famous local artist commissioned to paint the portrait. He took almost a year to complete it and finally, amidst much fanfare, the beautiful portrait was unveiled, garlanded, and placed reverently on the credenza of the principal’s office. My uncles, relatives and friends were very pleased and the artist and I got several pats on the back till a dissident voice from the back of the crowd called out, “Who is that woman?” and my uncles replied, “Why, that is our venerable grandmother, the benefactress who has given you all this school.”

There was a slight pause before the old man, who had been a contemporary of gran’s came forward to peer closely at the portrait and said, “That looks nothing like her. Your grandmother had a terrible squint!”

pinhole camera-
a blur from the past
transforms the present

Hiroshima

Spirits Rising: ひろしま / hiroshima by Ishiuchi Miyako
January 18, 2020 – March 15, 2020 / Garden Hours
Location: Pavilion Gallery & Tanabe Gallery
https://japanesegarden.org/events/spirits-rising/

Portland Japanese Garden is commemorating 2020 as the Year of Peace in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. Throughout the year, the Garden will be taking the opportunity to stimulate conversation and facilitate thoughtful discussions on the importance of cultivating peace and cross-cultural understanding.
This exhibition will include a selection of the internationally acclaimed photographer’s monumental ひろしま / Hiroshima series, documenting cherished items and clothing left behind by victims of the atomic bomb detonated in Hiroshima at the close of World War II that are now housed at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

U wrote this haibun two years ago, in Japan:

Hiroshima
today it’s just a station
on the bullet train

Or, more than that, it’s a lovely city with great food and shopping. I don’t know why I expected it to be frozen in the past, a smoking ruin. That’s as foolish as expecting to be met by Puritans in black hats at Boston’s Logan Airport. Still, it is a pilgrimage, different than a Tokyo neighborhood of food stalls or the earthly delights of Hakata Station in Fukuoka. We get an AirBnB near the Peace Park.
Everything is an adventure. This is Japan, after all, and I’m traveling with my daughter and son-in-law. I adore them, but they are millennials, and different than me. Three futons are laid out, and we all sleep in one room. I could never have done that with my own mother.

Peace Park
a twig broom sweeps
the wind

One of the more upsetting pieces for me is a memorial to the girls’ school where the students died. Because Japan was still under occupied forces when it was built, the U.S. said that the sculptor could not reference the atom bomb by name in this plea for peace. So “atom bomb” is replaced with “E=mc squared.”

no sleeping
on park benches, pigeons,
the funeral mound

tailless black cat
on its own
mysterious errand

tourists weeping
and snapping
cell phone photos

A giant tortoise, memorializing Koreans, is surrounded by Japanese sparrows.

We’re from New Mexico. An hour from Los Alamos where the A-bomb was birthed, monstrous, into this world. And somehow I feel more implicated by this more than by being an American. Even though these events happened before I was born. But we talk about Robert Oppenheimer and Los Alamos as we enter the museum. And there are shocked to find not one mention of either name. No New Mexico. No father of the bomb. A great deal of accurate and interesting history, and from the Japanese perspective. Melted roof tiles. Photographs of disastrous ruin. But not our own guilt terrain.
I feel I need to apologize to someone but nothing here demands apology. Instead, the greatest focus is on peace.
At the neighborhood shrine after I bow and drop my coins in the box I’m surprised to have a Shinto priest appear and shake a branch tied with white cloth over my head. But I feel better. I can’t just leave the Peace Park and go looking for lunch without a transition.

the word for “gods”
and “paper”
sounds just the same

I buy
origami sheets to fold
cranes for a friend.

Canal Lock Haibun

It was fascinating–a barge as long as two city blocks moving along the river between two Great Lakes. It took about an hour for the locks to fill and the level to rise. But “Don’t condescend and EXPLAIN to me,” a woman hissed at her husband. I myself like to explain, but I knew what she meant.

dark canal locks–
every husband
explaining

7 am. Dawn. Itoshima, Fukuoka, Japan

And the strains of “Blue Blue My Love Is Blue” chime the time over the neighborhood.

Last night we walked home after a lovely party at Kura Studio with artists from South Korea, Italy, and Guatemala, plus our Japanese hosts and two little children playing with tiny plastic dinosaurs. This is “our” walk from House 3 to the office. Down the lane, past two Shinto shrines, earthen embankments above our heads. Then fields and impressive greenhouses. People burning trash at the edge of the fields–it could be home in New Mexico.

Past a little restaurant with a sign of rabbits making mochi. Then on to the road. Isabel started talking about animal spirits and I shushed here–I wouldn’t mention Coyote on a Santa Fe night walk. As we strolled through light mist, time chimed with the resounding strains of “Edelweiss, Edelweiss” from “The Sound of Music.”

Impossible not to love the world at this moment.

lit train
across dark rice fields—
our flashlights

Haibun by Bill Waters

Turtlesong
 
The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of the singing of birds is come,
and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.
                        —from “The Song of Solomon”
 
When I was a child, I yearned to hear the voice of the turtle. Would it warble like a miniature French horn? Would it growl like a tiny tuba?
 
My mother, who knew something of the Bible, told me the turtle of the poem is actually a turtledove, yet still I wondered whether turtles — always silent (in my presence, at least) — ever make a sound.
 
daybreak by the pond . . .
listening
listening