Kobayashi Issa (小林一茶) is, like Matsuo Bashō and Yosa Buson, regarded as one of the great haiku masters. The following haiku about a snail (katatsumuri, 蝸牛) climbing Mt. Fuji reveals that he had a child-like sense of humor and wonder.
Little Snail, Slowly, slowly, climb Mt. Fuji
蝸牛 そろそろ登れ 富士の山
katatsumuri/ soro soro nobore/ fuji no yama
Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828)
Climbing Mt. Fuji
A tiny snail, shell in tow, steadily climbing Mt. Fuji. Q: Why? A: Because it is there.
Compare this gastropod’s herculean effort with the legend of Sisyphus, who was punished by Zeus (god of the sky) for cheating death twice and given the task of rolling a boulder up a hill and watching it roll down every time as it neared the top. Or think of Atlas, hoisting the world on his shoulders.
All three efforts lasting an eternity.
From the 36 Views of Mt. Fuji, by Hiroshige, as viewed from Satta Point and Suruga Bay, source Wikipedia.
It rained last night in Dallas. A hard rain with thunder and lightning, the kind of rain that makes my two dogs crawl underneath the covers, curl up, and hide. Today is no different. One might say it is raining cats and dogs or buckets, but that makes no sense to the dogs who are sadly staring out the window wondering.
It’s Thanksgiving, happy Thanksgiving, a good day to stay at home and cook, then to gather with friends and family, say a prayer and eat.
A rainy day in November
Dogs at the window
A hang-dog look
Our thoughts turn to what to do when it is raining so hard all one can say is, “Oh my God!”
It rained all night, it rained all day. It rained, then stopped, and rained again. It rained like someone pounding at my door. The windows rattled, as did I. It rained so much, I screamed, Enough!
Is it Her fault that She chose Thanksgiving as the day for us to stay home and ponder life’s mysteries.
I am not abandoning Matsuo Basho, but looking over his shoulder as he reads from a book of poetry by the 12th century Saigyo Hoshi (西行法師). Saigyo was both poet and wandering Buddhist monk whose travels inspired Basho’s own journeys.
Deep in the mountains, Water from rocks, drip drop, Me, gathering chestnuts Falling plop-plop
Saiygo, [Sankashū, Collection from a Mountain Home, 1290]
And what, dear reader, do you suppose Basho thought when he read the words “katsu-katsu?” — “kerplunk,” a pond and a frog, that’s the sound of water.
It is late November in the Midwest where, much to the delight of squirrels, spiny chestnuts, prickly tot the touch, are falling all about in my backyard, such that two dogs are loathe to play. Later, out for a peaceful walk, I am in the woods where the plop-plop of falling walnuts surprise my dogs.
Katsu-katsu (かつかつ) a word shouted out in Zen Buddhism to induce a state of Enlightenment. Also, an onomatopoeic phrase to indicate clicking, clopping; clacking, plop-plop. Tochi (橡), chestnuts.
The candy’s gone. A little sadness, some melancholy, descends on one the day after Halloween night. A beautiful moonlit evening, houses decorated gaily, neighbors wondering if they have enough candy, kids in costumes, smiling, politely asking for candy.
“Trick or treat.”
But night turns into day
The parents safely tucked the younger children in bed by eight. The older children walked the streets til late. Now, they are back in school, or they slept in, suffering from a tummy ache.
The falling leaves, a moonlit night, costumed kids, all so polite, “trick or treat” its so much fun, until the candy’s gone — Halloween
Bashō no yōna, 2022
The 12th century poet Saigyō Hōshi (西行法師) wrote this short poem after a fruitless day of cherry blossom viewing and hazy night and moon watching. In the best Buddhist tradition, turning a negative thought into one that is positive. Teaching us that on the morning after Halloween, sadness can be sweet.
花散らで月は曇らぬ世なりせば物を思はぬわが身ならまし hana chirade / tsuki wa kumoran / yo nariseba / mono o omowan / waga mi naramashi
Were it not for falling blossoms and a cloudy moon, in such a world I could not feel this sadness
Eine Welt ohne Zerstreuen von Blüten und ohne Bewölken des Mondes, würde mich meiner Melancholie berauben
le monde sans fleurs qui tombent et une lune assombrie vole moi ma mélancolie