I have rediscovered Haiku poetry, a Japanese form of short poetry. In the English language, Haiku is written according to the number of syllables: Three lines with 17 syllables. 5-7-5. Japanese does not have syllables. So, Haiku is written in what are durational sound units, sounds of equal duration. In English, syllables can be of differing duration.
I think I love Haiku so much for a couple of reasons. First, because of my analytical side. The counting of syllables and the effort it takes to fit a moment of life into 17 syllables is very satisfying to this woman whose favorite class in school (way back when) was math. Many poets of Haiku in English think of this 17-syllable rule as a suggestion, and my older self is just fine with coloring outside the lines.
Second, Haiku helps me to reel in my errant thoughts and focus them like a light beam onto one moment, one object, a simple thing. This is a type of meditation for me. It has helped me, especially during these uncertain times.
Noticing the smallest of things and being grateful for them, however fleeting, is what I attempt to hold in my hands as I walk through life now.
Here are a few Haiku poems focusing on grief and gratitude. I hope you find comfort in them.
A Japanese Poem Translated by Takashi Kodaira and Alfred H. Marks
What do I know of how to forge a path forward as the world is once again swept away in the wave of war? What do I know of the significance of my life, a life, anyone’s life during these times?
One man’s dark dream can unleash such suffering onto the world that his name will live in infamy.
Another man’s courage can inspire millions and change the course of history. Both names are written forever in the scarred and sacred journey of humanity.
It is easy to see the influence of lives such as these on our planet.
But what of the rest of us?
Those of us who live quietly? Who will never be globally influential or famous?
What can we do in times such as these?
What is there for us to do?
What do I know of such things?
I know of the beauty of the butterfly on the wind.
I know its life is short and quiet. I know its life is essential to our world.
I know the spiritual teachers of the past and present speak of the imperativeness of our connection to Spirit.
Our own spirit and the Great Spirit, God, Allah, Gaia, whatever name one chooses.
As the past week has sent me into the depths of despair for the suffering that has been unleashed onto the Ukrainians, people I have never met, I sit in the embers of my hopelessness and try to hold tight to that which connects me to Spirit. I pray for mercy and beauty and humanity. I pray that those lost in the darkness of their own soul will find the string that connects them to love and the Divine. I pray that they hold tight to that string. And one by one, we can weave together a new path for humanity and all life on Earth. Then perhaps there will be no more war.
I leave you with this poem by Parker Palmer. Hold tight to your string.