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Monday, May 02, 2005

HAIKU IN A JAPANESE GARDEN: A Romantic Springtime Retreat

"An old pond-
A frog leaping in -
The sound of water." Matsuo Basho 1644-1694

This weekend my writer's group, The Scribblers, had one of our bi-annual retreats to one of the lovely Gulf Islands. We've been doing this for over ten years, always to the same lodge and the same two units. It's something that makes our critique group unique. We are very much a 'family' and spend the weekend having fun, doing writing exercises, hiking, and enjoying each other's company in a relaxed atmosphere. Each time, we have a different theme. This time it was Romantic Springtime.

You can read more of the details of our weekend on my other blog "Conversations With Myself". Here, I want to tell about one of the most lovely things we did this weekend, and that was a visit to a Japanese Garden, built by the islanders as a memorial to the Japanese farmers who once resided there and were interned during the Second World War. We'd been there last Fall and decided to return this Spring, in particular to write some haiku.

It was a beautiful sunny day. The garden was glorious with flowers: rhododendrums, azaleas, magnolias, tulips, and many other flowers and flowering shrubs. We wandered around the garden and stopped to write. Some of the members had never written haiku before and it was amazing to find how many verses were written during our visit to that inspiring, serene place.

Here's some of mine:
Through the cedar gate
a winding path, tall fir trees.
Birds' welcoming song.

Pink cherry blossoms
float among the lily pads.
The stone heron waits.

The wild strawberries
blooming, pink among green leaves.
Bees search for pollen.

There were a number of magical moments during the weekend, which enhanced one of the writing exercises : to write a magical realism story.
The first evening, on our midnight walk, a late-rising gibbous moon, the sky brilliant with stars, Suzaki showing us the various constellations: a bright meteorite with a long silver tail streaked across the heavens.
"A poem is a meteor." Wallace Stevens 1879-1955 "Opus Posthumous 1957. Adagio"
Down at the beach, the phosphorous in the water glimmered like tiny stars. And off-shore, we could hear the barking of the sea-lions on the reef. Our Dora loves calling to them, and amazingly they answer her call!

We spotted various eagles soaring during our hikes; saw a playful little otter diving for his lunch; startled a number of deer along the roadways. (The island deer are quite tame!) Suzaki is the bird-watcher and added a number of species to her list.

I love the forest at this time of year with all the little mayflowers blooming like tiny stars among the salal and bracken, and the bright yellow broom blazing among the new green leaves.

"Pause and hear the sound
of the waterfall splashing.
Sun dapples the pond."

"Willow dips her leaves.
Reflections of trees on pond.
Waterfall gurgling."

Saturday night we dressed up in our 'romantic' gowns, ate a delicious gourmet dinner, afterwards read selections of romantic poetry and listened to romantic music.

Sunday we always go to what we call "The Circle Tree", which is in an arbutus grove up on the mountainside. The tree has grown into a circle, so you can sit on the curve of its trunk. In the grove is an old stump, and inside a small secret hole we have hidden a cache of messages, written over the years and stored in film cannisters. This is our 'time capsule' of Scribbler's notes. We drink a toast of wine to the Muses and the Forest Spirits, and toss the dregs into the earth, a ritual we've been practicing for all the times we've been coming to the island.

"Clear cascades!
Into the waves scatter
Blue pine needles." Basho

In the afternoon we had a reading of the magical reaslism stories. At first people weren't sure about how they'd write one, but it was amazing to hear the results. Everyone agreed it was a great idea, a new challenge, and a new genre to explore.

These retreats are what make our critique group special. This time there were ten of us (7 women, 3 men). We are a 'family' of writers. We are special.

"Thou wast that all to me, love,
For which my soul did pine --
A green isle in the sea, love,
A fountain and a shrine,
All wreathed with fairy fruits and flowers,
And all the flowers were mine."
Edgar Allan Poe 1809 - 1849 "To One in Paradise." 1834. St 1.

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