(This post was originally published in Islandia blog.)
It’s midway into my residency at Fullers Afterword Café, and a stunning Saturday in Spring that’s perfect for a ginko.
For the last four weeks I’ve been giving classes on the Art of Haiku to a keen group of people interested in learning about this classic form of Japanese poetry.
We’ve looked at the roots of haikai in ancient Japan, the work of the four renowned masters – Basho, Buson, Issa and Shiki – and their influence on poets and painters in the West who discovered Japanese art in the early twentieth century. We’ve explored the beginnings and growth of haiku in America and how it spread to other countries including our own. We’ve reflected on the haiku movement in Australia and ways in which this eastern form of poetry can be adapted to our own landscapes, with their particular flora, fauna and culture.
Along the way we’ve studied and practised the techniques of writing haiku, and on this first sunny Saturday in Spring we set out for St Davids Park to lose ourselves in its green and fragrant oasis, bordered by the noise of traffic and the smells and sounds from Salamanca Market.
A ginko is a haiku nature walk, usually conducted in silent meditation. It is a time to quietly observe the natural world around us and to take notes that will form the basis of poems we may later write. The group leader signals stopping points along the way by striking a bell, and striking it again at a suitable time for moving on to the next rest stop.
One of our group sets the mood by reading aloud a selection of haiku by the masters. Then, at the sound of the bell, me walk across the lush grass to the area between the two huge pine trees planted to commemorate the coronation of King George VI in 1937.
clear blue sky
pulls knotted conifer branches
from the ancient trunk
on the green lawn
a deeper green
Each time we stop our group disperses to focus on the rich and vibrant life going on around us. It is amazing how many miniscule details reveal themselves as we quiet our minds and pay attention with our senses attuned.
beneath the pink azalea
brown upon brown
the naked tree
casts a long shadow
across spring grass
Finally we gather by the memorial wall that bears gravestones relocated from Hobart’s first cemetery on this site. Someone unexpectedly finds her family name on one of the stones. It records an infant’s death at nine months.
etched in stone
loved ones rest
upon the wall
The sandstone walls trap the sun’s warmth. We share our thoughts and the poems we’ve drafted and make plans to meet again in a month’s time to continue the haiku friendships we’ve begun.
The haiku path, on which the group is making its first tentative steps, can be a practice that allows us to take a deep breath amid the busyness of life and to become more aware of the interconnections linking us to the complex, multifaceted cosmos of which we are a part.
beneath the canopy
of the giant conifer
the toddler’s careful steps
a beautiful time out to tap into the veins and roots of life that shape our history of our wonderful
Island …and the kindness of trees