Tag Archives: blogging

Spring Haiku #3

blossoms emerge —
incessant rains engulf
hopes of children

I sometimes feel as if a haiku isn’t enough of a post, as if eight words aren’t worthy of a week’s worth of creative work. And then there are blossoms; it is incredible how much of our own experience they bear on their tender petals and stems.

Untitled

fading
somewhere past paper thin

wisps of mourning
unreclaimed images

Many of my poems recently have been starting our long; I let them sit and then find myself stripping away words and lines that seem to clutter the feelings that first prompted me to write. Some moments I think I could write more without disturbing the essence if I were a better poet. Other moments, it seems just right.

Spring Haiku #2

morning carries
cold lilac breezes —
whispered and gone

When posting my last few haiku, I have described my struggle to write, how I have had to circle around and coax out the words. In contrast, three pieces have emerged in succession in recent days – this haiku, a free verse poem, and a piece of prose. While two are not yet complete, I marveled at first at the difference. But I suppose that is simply how it is – as a writer, as a father, as a husband. Quite striking and not-so-remarkable all at once. I’m looking forward to sharing all three in the coming week.

Winter Haiku #5

yesterday’s snow
streams across asphalt —
blue skies deepen

I’ve been working on letting go of a rigid syllable structure for haiku and tanka. It has been difficult – it turns out that letting go of one structure simply means giving myself over to another, however it might be veiled.

Fatherhood, Reality, and the Promise of Zen

I was excited to have the day off today, to spend some time with the kids in the warm comfort of our home while a bitter winter wind howled outside. With dinner time just ended, though, I stood on the front porch in the eleven-degree cold. Alone. In the quiet.

Back inside, the boys where whirling around the family room. They alternately laughed and bickered with each other about the rules to a game that involved holding your breath while running and seeing who could land sideways on the couch from the furthest distance. My daughter played the flute in the kitchen in unintended accompaniment, each note a bit off since my wife was trying to fix one of the keys on the removed lower third of the instrument. It had just been too much for me, and so I found myself standing outside. Breathing.

So much of the day hadn’t seemed to line up quite right. I was trying to make progress on a project that involved working the odd and inconsistent angles you find in a 19th century New England home. Our pantry has no door, and since the space was originally designed a literal ice box, well, it’s quite cold, and that chilled air rushes into the adjoining kitchen. I worked on reshaping a rescued antique door to fit, but between the angles and the interruptions, I didn’t get very far, except for breaking the hinge that I was trying to rescue.

There were a few of the peaceful moments with my children of the kind I imagine as I look forward to a day such as this. An errand out with one son, being asked by the other to sit on the couch and watch him draw, listening to my daughter make invitations for her brothers to an after-dinner episode of Word Girl.

But each fell apart in the chaos that inevitably overcomes a household of five human beings. Someone sits too close to another, complaints about household arise, frustration at the way the toy train tracks are coming together bubbles over, and a father who sometimes just wants a moment of quiet can’t find one and raises his voice. All of it like the angles and lines of antique door frames that won’t accommodate a partner.

Yet this is the great promise of Zen. Not a promise that it will all someday get better, that if I meditate long enough, everything will become free and easy. Instead the promise is that there is nothing to fix. Nothing to do. This is it.

That’s what I’m told. That’s the lesson that has been presented to me over and over and over – yet one that is so very difficult to grasp in the moment.

Shohaku Okumura wrote in his Realizing Genjokoan that “Zazen is not a method of correcting the distortion of our fabricated conceptual maps, but rather the act of letting go of all maps, and sitting down on the ground of reality.” I read this tonight as I prepared to sit and realized I have a lot of conceptual maps that preclude the difficulties I faced today. Perhaps I draw even more maps when I write in these spaces about moments of quietude and serenity; how much I write about these moments is disproportionate to how much I actually find of it in my daily life.

The reality of fatherhood is that it involves bickering, no matter how much I wish it didn’t. It involves having a child whose natural inclination and joy is found in a nonstop stream of talking, which doesn’t always line up with my own joy, no matter how much it endears him to me in late night reflection. It involves days that don’t go the way I planned, and the self-discovery of realizing I’m clinging to something that just isn’t there. It involves disappointing my children, who had their own ideas about what this day with their Dad might be.

Fatherhood is an incomparable joy. One that comes with generous doses of frustration, loss, and helplessness. This, too, is a truth I have encountered innumerable times, but one that is difficult to meet fully. Perhaps I have been waiting to get really good at fatherhood, just as we imagine we might get really good at meditation when we first arrive on a cushion.

But this is the same lesson, the promise of Zen that I have heard so many times. Now so clearly in front of my face that I have no choice but to hear it. There is nothing to fix. Nothing to do. Except get up tomorrow morning, sit with my children and pour them bowls of cereal, quiet breakfast time or not – and it does tend to vary.

Winter Haiku #2

breathless light struggles —
long shadows arrive early
in the day’s passing

I feel like I’ve been writing around the edges recently. Circling around words that need to be expressed but aren’t ready to be committed. My notebook is littered with opening lines and untitled strings of paragraphs that don’t quite go together. This haiku managed to emerge complete, perhaps a part of circling inward. It is, in any event, one step next to another step, and what this moment holds.

No Merit

A scroll hanging in the entrance hallway at our Temple reads “No Merit”. It recalls the conversation of Bodhidharma, who brought Zen to China, with the Emperor Wu. When the Emperor asked Bodhidharma what merit he had accumulated through his support of monks and building monasteries, Bodhidharma replied: No merit.

One of my initial attractions to Buddhism was, in fact, the possibility of accumulation of merit, the idea that through diligent work in this life, I could earn merit that would propel me towards eventual release from suffering. The idea provided me concrete and tangible comfort from my fear of loss and annihilation. There was something I could do, after all.

And so Bodhidharma’s words and this idea in Zen initially came with a sense of loss. I came to the practice for the promise of comfort, because I thought (in an interesting connection to my family’s Puritanical roots that will someday make a separate topic for writing) that I could earn my way out of my fears. As the years go by, it doesn’t feel as much like a loss anymore, and more like an example of what simply is. No loss. No gain. Loss and gain. No idea.

I’ve been thinking about this tonight because two fellow bloggers have written to recognize this blog. Yesterday, hillbillyzen wrote to say she had nominated the blog for the Reality Blogger Award. And today, Linda at mayandseptember wrote to say she was giving a nomination for the Leibster Award. I know well that none of it makes me a better blogger or writer or more worthy of reading. But I think we blog because we’re interested in sharing what we think and notice and feel, but perhaps a lot of us (or, speaking for myself) don’t otherwise know exactly how. Recognition might mean that we have met our intention.

And so I will accept the kindness, badges or not, offered by hillbillyzen and mayandseptember (you should visit their blogs), and may try to recognize some fellow bloggers (perhaps in this space). As for the rest, I still don’t know how I feel about the whole process. Neither accepting, rejecting, nor ignoring the awards quite feels right. That not-knowing does feels just about familiar, though.