02 Daily Read:

Haiku by Issa…

… one about a staring contest with a very large frog… this is a famous one i think… i look up the cultural significance of frogs and find an article on the usc.edu website that has this to say about frogs in Japanese culture…

In Japan, the frog is usually seen as a symbol of good fortune associated with magical powers. Because the Japanese word for frog is “kaeru”, which is pronounced in the same way as “return”, travelers carry a small frog amulet with the intent of returning safely home.1

another article on frog symbolism confirms the above and adds the moon as an association with frogs, the three legged frog and the moon, the three phases of the moon…

… the frog is associated with rainfall and good harvests, and is a symbol of spring, the seasonal reference in the poem… that the artist has a staring contest with the frog presents a kind of stand off moment… is it reluctance to pursue a spiritual journey?… is it a latter stage in life confronting youth?…

… another poem about being a devout Buddhist while killing mosquitos… Buddhism argues respect to all creatures, even the annoying ones… some sects can barely walk through the landscape for fear of killing something unwittingly… yet, there are annoying creatures that can actually make us sick… we kill them regardless of our devotions… mosquitos are a spring-summer reference… the poem perhaps about spiritual journeys having difficulties…

here is an article about insects and Japanese culture that is more general in nature…

02 Meditations:

Issa haiku…

… the one that catches my attention this morning is about being under a cherry tree and finding it strange to be alive… cherry blossoms are valued in Japan for there ephemeral nature, flowering briefly and gloriously, gone too soon1… like life itself…

… Issa knows the lessons the cherry tree teaches, that life is brief and one needs to be alive to it… to find existence strange at any moment in time and space is being alive to it…

… this will be a bit of a non sequitur, but in the film Black Widow, the theme of family is the unifying good… family of Avengers, family, even make believe family, of Russian spies… family transcends everything…

… i find in literature and life, again and again, that what is truly important are the simple things… home, family, being alive to nature and life… all these things can be had and enjoyed for free (or little cost) as long as basic necessities are met… we are constantly being distracted from these core simple things, especially by the consumer culture we live in, where things upon things are the symbol of a good life… even as aware of this as i am, i struggle to execute, have never gotten close to centering my life around the simple pleasures…

… family is a particular challenge for me… my birth family is difficult and scattered to three of the four corners of the continent, my in law family is a good one, but not the family i grew up with… i have never had children, just wife, dogs and cats, which do teach me many things, including the brevity of life…

… as i write this, an epiphany of sorts… living well along the lines of simple pleasures is anti-market, anti-capitalist… it’s generally anti most forms of economic organization… it is rigorously repressed as a way to conduct one’s life…

02 Meditations

Buson Haiku…

… an old well with a fish jumping at the bottom of it… this reminds me of the “frog pit” at Madam Brett factory… a little square plumbing access pit, no more than 30” square, filled with water, and a frog living in it… such a circumscribed world… i wondered why the frog chose to live there… how it made a living… did it reproduce?… did it ever come out of the pit?… i used to visit the pit regularly until someone decided to seal it up… it seemed like a sacred place, an old well… i wonder how the fish came to be living in the old well?… did someone put it there?… this leads me to a childhood memory, when i discovered a live trout in a cistern on a property near the road… someone must have put it there, to keep it clean?… to preserve until a future dinner?…

… another of the poems describes the beyond-reproach nature of the pigeon and questions whether the mountain cuckoo is… a little research on the internet suggests that the cuckoo was often considered an ill omen, portending tragedy or doing the bidding of the restless dead as in this Kunisada print on the tragedy of the Soga Brothers…

… pigeons are a more benign bird in Japanese lore, encouraged on the grounds of temples and shrines where they are thought to assist the transmission of “hopes and prayers” to the appropriate deities… a woodblock print by Watanabe Seitei, “Ginko and Pigeons”…

… the depiction of pigeons with a Ginko tree, often depicted as Buddah’s Dragon Tree, is a significant indicator of the benign, possibly sacred, nature of the pigeon in Japanese lore… both Ginkos and Pigeons were encouraged on temple grounds1

… Ginkos are symbols of longevity, living as long as 1000 years2

… Ginko trees were among a number of tree species that survived the blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and continue to live3

… well, this morning’s meditation turned into a bit of a research paper…