Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Writing as a path to Spirit

It's been said that if one writes 12 or 15 really good haiku in their lifetime, they are accomplished in this art. It's mostly traditionalists who say this, although one certainly strives to be good at one's chosen art. The recommendations to acquire 12-15 good verses are: write, write, write. Then revise. Then write some more.

As I'd mentioned in my first post, I've read haiku off and on for years -- decades even -- and I'm sure I wrote a few verses back when, but I never kept them. Everything changed in the Spring of 2008, when I made a nine-month commitment to attend a once-a-month group called "A Year To Live," offered through our church. The group is based on Stephen Levine's book by the same name. Both the group and the book ask you to imagine you have just received a diagnosis of one more year of life....what are you going to do with that year? What unfinished business do you have in your life? Who do you need/want to talk with, visit again? What's necessary to bring yourself to peace and awareness with your circumstances?

Karen and I were one of three couples among the 18 enrollees. The group invited speakers to advise us on end-of-life considerations and options, met in different configurations within our group to discuss "our lives so far," wrote in our individual journals, and then wrapped up with a retreat at a resort in the hills west of Bloomington. Man, did we write! One of our co-ministers facilitated the group, and she suggested haiku as a positive addition to our contemplative tools. That's what really got me into this latest incarnation of writing.

I love to walk in wild places, even when I'm in the suburbs. I find a natural resource area, a bird sanctuary, or even out-of-the-way corners of a college campus. Wild creatures act out their true selves; nature informs my world view. I look around as I walk; I also look within, taking the pulse of my feelings. Many times I fixated on a leaf, a dead twig or log, or an ant walking across my path. But underneath, I was counting out "5/7/5" syllables, turning over words and verses in my head, working my way to the true center of my feeling and a poetic description of what was in front of me.

I used to carry around one of those little voice recorders but it got too cumbersome and distracting. Now I keep a miniature journal in my back pocket. I like pen-to-paper contact. What can I say, I was a journalism major. Sometimes I have 8 or 10 haiku to transcribe to my harddrive's documents folder, sometimes only one or two. Sometimes none, but that's OK too. There's always tomorrow - or tonight - or dreamtime.

I write in my book
an ant crawls across the page
my smallest critic

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