In Celebration of Matsuo Basho

When we travel, we most especially enjoy immersing ourselves in new cultures. Last April we toured the Asakusa area of Tokyo. Many people strolled these special grounds, photographing the iconic 5-tiered pagoda and praying before the Shinto and Buddhist shrines. We saw a good number of people in formal kimonos, rented from nearby shops to mark a celebratory visit, perhaps a birthday, engagement or anniversary. We stood quietly in front of a temple, in awe of its gold and rich reds. Walking a bit away from the crowds, we discovered a memorial to the poet Matsuo Basho. He lived from 1644 to 1694, during Japan’s Edo period. His haiku are considered the ultimate example of this poetic form. I touched his memorial stone in awe and appreciation.

As we ended our time at Asakusa, I talked with Kaz, our guide. I learned his mother wrote and published poetry in her youth and he told me more about the continued honor that Basho is paid in his country. He gifted me with the special pen he’d been using to jot down notes, in Japanese characters. He also gave me a beautiful writing pad with cherry blossoms etched on it. I was so very touched.

Later, back at our hotel, I did a bit of research and discovered Basho’s haiku about this place:

A cloud of cherry blossoms
the chime of a temple bell
is it Asakusa, is it Ueno?

花の雲    鐘は上野か   浅草か

see with your eyes wide ~
bees visit many gardens
all have sweet nectar

Day 27 of National Poetry Writing Month. Today’s post is written for both Toads and dVerse’sHaibun Monday. ¯¯

Toads asks us to consider the ancient tea ceremony and The Way of Tea which includes a good number of suggestions on how to share tea meaningfully. One, that I used to motivate this prompt is: “See with your eyes! Listen with your ears! And if you wish to smell the fragrance, press for an explanation of every unresolved matter until your understanding is complete.”
My haiku at the end moves beyond humans appreciating other cultures and explains that even the bee appreciates nectar from many gardens. 

Frank hosts dVerse and asks us to consider how similar Basho and Shakespeare were to their cultures, in their own time and for many generations to come. He asks us to write a haibun related to one of these famous literary geniuses.

Haibun for Hiroshima

There is an expectant rise to the emotions – to visit Hiroshima where terror blazed. Hear survivors’ words, see artifacts, and one-thousand colorful paper cranes made by many hoping for world peace.

from devastation
hope bursts forth in blossomed trees
cranes lift wings to soar

Written for dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. Today Merril hosts Quadrille Monday and asks us to use the word “rise” in a 44 word poem. It can be any form, hence a 44-word haibun today.
Photos from our recent sobering visit to Hiroshima. The Atomic Bomb Dome miraculously still stands…especially considering it was so very near the hypocenter of the bomb. A three-year old boy was riding his trike at the time of the explosion…his family buried him in their backyard with the trike….and then years later, exhumed his body to place it in the family plot and donate the trike to the Peace Museum.The sculpture is the top of the Children’s Peace Memorial, dedicated to all children killed and hurt in the blast. In particular, dedicated to Sadako Sasaki who was 2 at the time of the explosion and seemingly escaped unharmed. At 9 she developed leukemia and died 8 months later. As she was in hospital, she folded (origami) one-thousand paper cranes…the crane is believed to bring health and longevity. When the memorial was dedicated many people from around the world sent chains of 1000 paper cranes. President Obama is the only US President to visit Hiroshima. He made 4 paper cranes…2 are here in the Peace Museum, the other 2 in Nagasaki. I am so privileged to have visited this place. May no one ever experience this devastation again for any reason.

Woods Divine

Woods beckon,
come walk among the pine.
Steps slow, lighten, whisper quiet.

Meandering deep into the balm,
worries lessen, shedding stress
through leaf-canopied sieve

Shoulders relax. Breath softens.
Warm leaf-filtered sun
soothes like salve to wound.

Some call it forest bathing,
immersion in the ever green.
I call it serenity divine.

Photo: 100 years ago this large forest was planted in Tokyo with the idea of simply letting it grow naturally within the city. It was planted with the express purpose of later constructing a shrine within the woods, dedicated to the first emperor who, by action of the then shogun, transferred power from shogun to emperor, thus establishing a new type of government for Japan. It is truly a serene and beautiful place. Although much much newer than any of the other shrine and sacred places we’ve seen, I found this to be the most beautiful setting.

Takotsubo

It was a day like any other day – until it wasn’t.

Rocking the elliptical to A Hard Day’s Night, I suddenly stopped. Did some invisible vice just clamp on to my chest? The Beatles still blared in my headset, I started to pump again . . . nope . . . can’t breathe. Off the machine . . . slowly out the club door into the sweltering day. I watched my feet in slow motion as the sun magnified everything. Sweat dripped through my pores. The elephant sitting on my chest was an unbelievable load. Takotsubo? The heart blows out in the shape of a Japanese octopus trap. Really? And everything slowed down to match the thick soup of summer’s oppressive heat. If you’re a woman who lives with stress, or has lived through stress, you should know the word: Takotsubo. I didn’t. Until I did.

octopus seeks its prey
eight suctioned tentacles grab and twist
latch on to suck out life

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It’s haibun Monday at dVerse Poet’s Pub where Toni is tending bar. She asks us to write a haibun (one paragraph of prose followed by a haiku) that relates to hot hot hot — perhaps a memory from a hot summer day. This is my memory. My experience. I urge all readers to read about Takotsubo, sometimes called Broken Heart Syndrome. It is real and frightening. In most cases, women completely recover with no lasting damage to the heart. I am, fortunately, one of those women, although it took three months. We must all learn to handle stress in our lives. It is a matter of life and death. Photo on left is a Japanese octopus catcher. Xray on right  shows the left portion of the heart blown out like a takotsubo….the heart does not pump efficiently. Take care of yourself out there!