Alright, so I recently took up writing haikus, as many of you know, and am having a fantastic time. I’ve posted one thus far, and have three others scheduled, and then this weeked?
Well, along with the other writing I’ll do, I plan to spend time reflecting upon new ideas for a few more haikus.
What am I learning? Good question. A lot actually. Let’s take a look.
A haiku is a poem, which was created in Japan in the 9th century, that contains a 5-7-5 syllable sound pattern, which is elegant, beautiful, and challenging to craft. There are a few distinctions between traditional haikus, and more contemporary haikus.
For instance, in traditional haikus, there are some very explicit rules. Here is an example, taken from Your Dictionary.
There are only three lines, totaling 17 syllables.
The first line is 5 syllables.
The second line is 7 syllables.
The third line is 5 syllables like the first.
Punctuation and capitalization are up to the poet, and need not follow the rigid rules used in structuring sentences.
A haiku does not have to rhyme, in fact usually it does not rhyme at all.
As you conduct more research, however, you find that contemporary haikus are less strict, and can take on numerous forms, as you can see from the above example. It’s super interesting, and a lovely learning experience.
There is also a poem called the tanka, created in Japan in the 7th century. Unlike the haiku, which is 17 syllables, the tanka is a 31 syllable poem, typically in the syllable sound pattern, 5-7-5-7-7.
Here is an example of a tanka poem.
八雲立つ 出雲八重垣 妻籠みに 八重垣作る その八重垣を
Layers of cloud in the sky I am here, ‘Izumo’ country to protect my sweet wife I will make layers of fences eight layered surrounding our home
Now, I am just taking up writing haikus, so tankas will have to wait, yet there are similarities between the two; and, in fact, a tanka (the 7-7 sound pattern) can be added to the haiku. It might, then, look something like this, using my first haiku as an example.
Slowly, the rain falls, we rejoice in the moment. And then it is gone. I await the next moment, frenzied feeling of delight.
Growing up in Los Angeles meant that I could go to the beach, the desert, and the mountains. We didn’t spend a lot of time at the latter two, however, as I’ve written about in The Sound of Series #1: The Sound of the Ocean, I did spend a lot of time at the beach as a kid. And, my affinity for the ocean is vast.
Yet, in the past 12 years, we’ve now lived in two other geographies where access to desert and mountain landscapes, and soundscapes, are readily available. Let’s take a look at a few of these and the sights and sounds that I’ve most enjoyed.
There are a couple of different desertscapes that I’ve lived in. When we were in Phoenix, there was the Valley, which is full of hills and desert plateaus, which are often hiked. There is a certain majesty to desertscapes. Not something that I had ever noticed, nor really connected with prior to living in the Valley.
On the trails, you get to see many different types of cacti, low bushes and shrubbery. You also get to see wildlife, such as snakes, scorpions, and rabbits. They are rather common. Though, thankfully, snakes don’t come around often, at least not when I was hiking. Which, I was grateful for.
The sound of the desert is a quiet that is a bit different than the quiet of the mountains. The granular sound of dust as it is kicked up as you traverse the trails, getting all over your shoes, and all over you, really. Fun.
Rabbits moving here and there, swishing through the brush, in search of their prey, or simply avoiding you. The wind, as it howls through the Valley, whistling through the shrubbery and low bushes, brushing your face and body. Enjoyable, and feels so good, especially on hot days, of which there are many in the Valley.
The sound of lizards as they scurry across the trail, moving ever so fast, avoiding you as you continue up and around the bends in the trails. Birds moving from one rock and tree to another, perching themselves, sitting, and waiting; looking, and calling other birds in the area.
What I didn’t know a lot about before moving to Arizona, was just how different the Valley was from the northern part of the state. Though considered high-desert, it is really a completely different landscape, with similar, and yet very different sights and sounds.
The high desert in Northern Arizona is full of trees, many of them, especially in Flagstaff. A vast pinetree forest. You can get lost in there quite easily, and it is fun. Much of Northern Arizona, however, is mostly desert, like the valley, though the weather is quite different. Cooler, and of course lots of snow in the winter.
I remember being on a hike when we first moved to Flagstaff, just around the apartment where we were living at the time. I was on a trail and was looking down, noticing all of the lovely flowers to my left and right, and when I picked my head up, there was a huge stag about 50 yards from me.
Heart racing, I began to slowly back away from the animal, back the way I came, looking toward the stag to ensure it didn’t follow or run at me. I was completely unaware at the time, that running into a giant deer was even possible. Remember, I grew up in Los Angeles. You have to travel to see that kind of beauty in LA. Phew. What an experience.
I especially liked hiking in the winter. There’s something quite tranquil about being out on a hike, when everything is white with snow, melting and dripping in the afternoon sun. Quite lovely.
Of course, the Grand Canyon is also in Northern Arizona. Majesty. I’ve only been once or twice, and I have to say, looking out over the canyon is one of the most awe inspiring sights I’ve ever seen. It is so vast. Amazing. And, there really is no sound. Not needed. It’s as if time stands still as you look out over the vast gorge. Phew. The coolest thing.
The Willamette Valley Scape
Have you ever been to the Willamette Valley? I hadn’t either until about 12 years ago. It is located in Western Oregon, and is very green. The first time I flew into Portland, we were living in Phoenix at the time, I didn’t know geography could be that green. I remember looking out the window from the plane, and being in awe of all the green. Everything was green.
When we moved to the Valley about 8 years ago, I remember thinking about the rain a lot. Would I be able to handle all of the rain? Was very unsure. Turns out, there’s been only one year, about 2 years ago, when there was so much rain, and lack of sunshine, that I thought moving might be best. Mostly, throughout the year, you get sun here and there, and, yes, you get a lot of rain. It’s part of living here.
With the rain, you also get the opportunity to get out and into nature. Easily. Trails, and hiking abound, where you can, dependent on the time of year, get hard pack trails, or muddy and slippery trails. You have to be careful. You also get tons of moss. Moss grows everywhere, and is on everything. Seriously, moss is also part of living in the Pac Northwest.
You also get deer. Friendly deer. Meaning, that they come down from the hills at certain times of year, usually during spring and summer, and they love to eat your flowers and vegetables. Be careful. A couple of years ago, I had three awesome looking tomato plants when I left for work, and when I got home, they were gone. Really. Gone. All that was left were a few stubs. Kind of funny actually.
There are also lots of waterfalls in the Valley. Hiking plus waterfalls equals a super cool experience. There is something quite exhilarating about the sound and sight of water rushing towards a precipice, then falling, falling, down to the water awaiting below. Separate, yet connected. Super cool.
You also get the coast in Oregon. Lots of coast to visit. As was aforementioned, I’ve previously written about the sound of the ocean, yet mentioning the sight and sound of the ocean here also seems appropriate.
The sound of the ocean reminds me of our own breathing. The coming in of the waves, the going back out of the waves. Waves that are also seemingly separate, yet completely connected. Lovely. There is also something quite special about looking out over the vastness of the ocean. Just looking. That’s it. That’s all. Love it.
The sounds and sights of nature are everywhere, even where I grew up in Los Angeles. One of the things I loved about the sights and sounds of nature in LA, was that of the crickets during summer time. I love that sound. I remember laying in my bed as a child, listening to that sound, thinking and dreaming about the next day.
Crickets singing, singing the song of summer in Los Angeles, to a boy that was ready to create something anew each day. To play, live, and have fun. All the while the sights and sounds of nature surrounded him, as they surround you now. All you have to do is stop, listen, and take them all in.
I love the ocean. Love. Growing up in Southern California meant that the ocean was never far away, and was, in some way, part of your life. I have tons of memories of going to the beach with my parents as a kid, as a teenager with friends, and less so as an adult, though I have many memories of the time I worked at the beach.
The smell of the salted sea is one of the most profound of those memories. I also always had an inner knowing that it would be there. Just to drive by and take it in, and in those moments, to live in awe and wonder.
As a kid, we took family trips to the beach often. We lived about 30 miles from the beach, which, at that time, was about a 45-minute drive. My sisters, parents, and I would set up in the sand, towels demarcating your space for the day. Then we would play, in the sand and, of course, in the water.
On the way home from the beach, we would always stop for “big sticks.” if you’ve not had a big stick, you are missing out. Well, at least the 7 year-old within me thinks so. These ice cream treats are made out of pineapple and orange, and are delicious on a hot sunny day. Just make sure to not forget them in the car when you get home. They are not so good once they’ve melted, though I’ve eaten many that way.
As I grew older my longing to be at the beach grew. I would often go with friends in the morning, afternoon, or early evening. The time of day mattered less than being there, though you get a different experience dependent on the time you go.
There is something so calming about looking out over the open sea. The vastness of the ocean, it’s size and depth, is hard to comprehend. However, just looking out over it, you, or at least I do, get a sense of the scope of your own self in relation to something that size. Humbling.
When I was a young adult, I used to drive to the beach just to take in the majesty of the open water. On days that were particularly difficult, seeing the ocean created a renewed perspective for me, reminding me that my immediate woes were temporary.
As I’ve mentioned, I also worked at the beach for a time, only blocks from the open water. Drives home during that time were particularly beautiful, taking in the ocean as the sun was beginning to dip behind the horizon. Beautiful, and breathtaking.
When our first child born was little we used to take him to the beach often. He would play in the sand, run around, make sand castles, and splash in the water and waves, just as I did when I was his age.
When our youngest was born, we decided to move from Southern California to Arizona, so our youngest son did not get to know the ocean as his brother, mother, and myself did. Though, he has since, and loves it as we all do.
I remember being in Arizona those first couple of months, being away from the ocean, with no real possibility of seeing or experiencing it. I have to say that that first year, I did have some increased anxiety about being away from the ocean. I felt as if I was boxed in, or in some way limited, without access to the ocean, which I had so come to cherish.
When we decided to move to Oregon, and I was looking into the local culture, I remember finding that the ocean was only 50 miles from where we were moving. Oh Joy! I was so excited. Going to the coast, which is what they call the beach in Oregon, was one of the first things we did, once we were settled.
We’ve take many trips to the Oregon Coast since then, and I do now know that I will, at some point, live, or have a place, at the beach or coast. This I know, like I know that I breathe.
On one of the last trips we made to the coast, sometime at the beginning of last year, I recognized something that I had not thought about, nor really heard in a long time. The sound of the ocean.
Do you remember being little, and picking up a cool seashell, and having someone say, “put it to your ear, and you can hear the ocean.” I remember the first time someone said that to me. I was perplexed, and very little. I did as they instructed, and sure enough, I could hear the ocean. Wow! How cool that was, and how could that be?
Knowing that the shell was capturing ambient noise, was not so important then, nor is it much important now, for it is the memory of the sound, which focused and drew my attention in. As I’ve written here, I’ve always been drawn to the ocean, and part of that draw is the majesty, the beauty, and the vastness. And, it is also the sound.
I love the sound of the ocean, the waves coming in, and going back out. Crashing on the beach head, and against other surf, splashing against the reef, and breakwater. Lovely.
On that trip last year, I also realized something else. The sound of those waves coming in and going back out, I realized were a mirror for our own breath. It sounds exactly like our breathing. Just like it. When I recognized this on that last trip, it was one of the most beautiful realizations I’ve ever had.
Maybe that is part of why I am drawn to the ocean. Because it lives and breathes just like we do. The waves come in and they go back out, in, and out. Just like our breath. It just happens.
I believe we are connected to everything around us. A tree, the sun and moon, the ocean, all of these things live outside of us, and they also live inside of us. All made of the same elements.
I’m so glad that I had that realization last year. It has taken my lifelong love of the ocean and amplified it. Though I don’t get to the coast or beach as often as I like, they are always with me, and within me. I know this to be true. And to be close to the ocean, all I have to do is pay attention to my breathing, and the ocean comes alive. Breathing in and out, just like the waves coming in and out. Again, and again.