The other day we had a lovely summer gathering at one of my favorite places in Vermont: Kingsland Bay State Park. This grassy park, with towering black locust trees, juts out into a beautiful bay which, in turn, opens up into Lake Champlain. It’s so exquisite it is one of the most popular places for weddings during the summer weekends.
On the evening drive home we were heading north on Rte. 7 and I was chatting with my friend Ron in the passenger seat. Suddenly I heard a voice from the back seat with a tone of urgency, encouraging me to look to my left towards the Adirondack Mountains on the horizon. The sun was getting low and vying for position with a vast assortment of clouds, some of which had a menacing, stormy look to them. But stretching horizontally over the mountains, was a long, dark storm cloud. In five different spots you could see streams of rain, but the rain wasn’t reaching the ground. It just streamed down from the cloud and then stopped in mid-air. It prompted me to write this haiku:
Off in the distance
the sunset illuminates
a cloud with whiskers.
– Gregg Krech
What I really love about haiku is the attempt to try and capture a particular moment in time. To do so (successfully) one has to pay attention in detail. It also challenges us to see things freshly, without the name and label that makes it easy to avoid truly looking at what’s in front of us. If I see a tree and recognize that it’s a sugar maple, it’s easy for me to quickly turn my attention to the next thing. But if I see an unfamiliar tree I’m more likely to examine it in detail – the bark, the shape of the leaves, the overall shape of the crown. My curiosity becomes prominent – “Hey, what is that?”
On the surface, haiku poems may appear to have no depth – they are simply a description of reality as it is. But it is the ability of the haiku poet to describe reality without “anything extra” that expresses the profound nature of life as a miracle in itself.
A flash of lightning:
The screech of a night-heron
flying in the darkness.
In the words of the renowned Zen writer, R.H. Blyth,