Storms of catastrophic scale are upon us, and I don’t just mean the latest hurricanes. Perhaps we are tracking these storms as they build and approach on digital maps, turning counter clockwise as they gain mass and power to undo what may have seemed, until recently, quite durable. Once again, the question is called of how we will respond, and whether our response will address a larger pattern of causes and not just the particulars of “this time.” It will also test our ability to see unity and continuity and inequity and exclusion where we have allowed them to be made invisible.
Reminding ourselves of our connection in nature and our connection as humans is a step in making those larger patterns evident and urgent in this moment. Haiku, the Japanese poetic form that is now as widely known as sushi and karaoke, establishes those connections by placing us intimately in nature, usually by evoking a season in some fashion. Here is one of my favorite haiku by Kawahigashi Hekigoto (1873 -1937), who is writing about baseball, a shared pastime among Americans and Japanese dating back nearly 150 years.
While playing ball
it becomes time to go home
ite yuban ni
Jane Hirshfield has produced many fine translations of Japanese poetry, including the Ink Dark Moon: Love Poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikubu. However, here is one of her short poems, not technically a haiku, but…
How empty the counter,
all her medicines,
“Lines of Thinking,” a monthly feature from College President Tom Manley. Each installment features a poem selected for its powers to transport us to some higher, lower or common ground, and, possibly in the process, provide fresh perspective and insight on the ground we occupy daily.
Find links to more editions of Lines of Thinking on the Office of the President page.