The Daily Grace of Haiku

When my new media expert badgered me into joining Twitter last summer, I was grumpy. What in the world could I do on Twitter, in 140 characters or less, that wouldn't just seem stupid? I thought about something my husband, Richard, taught me when he was a university professor honing his teaching skills: the concept of added value. In his case, that meant finding what he brought to teaching that students couldn't get from textbooks, videos or the internet. In applying that idea to my presence on Twitter, I thought about what I could do on Twitter that would be useful and reflect my voice and perspective.

After a bit of fumbling around, I realized, haiku. Richard and I have always played with haiku when we're on long road trips as a way to capture moments and experiences that might otherwise be forgotten in the rush of getting from A to B. (When I say we "play with" haiku, what I mean is we come up with the haiku in our heads and speak it aloud to each other as we drive along.) It occurred to me that Twitter is like a radio station of sorts, and I could post a daily haiku as a way to "broadcast" a snippet from wherever I find myself out to the social media universe, like a virtual locator beacon. "I'm here, and this what's happening in my landscape."

So I started posting a daily haiku as my contribution to Twitter. (It cross-posts on Facebook, thus saving some digital energy.) It doesn't have to be anything as grandiose as this view of the mountains that rise above our valley shot from the highway coming down the last passon our drive home. A detail can be as telling as a whole view. Sometimes something I notice in the garden prompts a haiku, like this one:

Clear dawn turns to rain
frost forecast—harvest like mad!
fall comes tomorrow.

Or this one:

Fog hid the dawn sky
then crescent moon at sunset
day passed in between.

Or something I notice as I look out the window:

Rising fast and high
fifty vultures slip-slide south
silver under wings.

The practice has made me more attentive to where I am and what's happening in the world around me, so that I've even come up with haiku from Richard's stays in the hospital, like this one from a difficult night in the ICU:

Outside snowflakes reign
inside lights blink, sensors beep
life sighs, in and out.

The gift of finding a haiku worth posting on Twitter nearly every day (I'm not perfect!) is that it asks me to find a bit of grace in the day, no matter what comes. And the practice of turning that bit of grace into haiku gives me experience in finding the essence in the moment and communicating it in words. As life-writers, it seems to me that an important part of what we're doing is finding the essence in our experiences and figuring out how to communicate it. That makes Haiku excellent practice: it's short, it exercises our vocabulary and hones our awareness, and it can be done anywhere at anytime and memorized until it can be written down.

If you want to try a daily practice of seeing and communicating via haiku, here are the basic rules:

  • Three lines in a 5-7-5 pattern (five syllables in the first line, seven the second, five the third–haiku experts say that this rule isn't firm, but I find it a useful discipline)
  • Based in nature or natural phenomena
  • References–directly or indirectly–the season

The gift? I've found beauty and grace in the toughest moments, from Richard's time in the ICU, to the morning I woke way too early and lay in bed wide awake and tired, until I opened the blind:

Crescent edge silver
ghost moon rises escorting
Venus and Saturn.

3 responses to “The Daily Grace of Haiku

  1. My thanks to Susan Albert for guiding me to this post today. In the past few months, since taking your course “Writing Wild” I too have found Haiku to be a “gift”. I never thought I could write Haiku and mine probably isn’t all that good but it forces me to take a really good look at nature while I’m out walking every day. It forces me to observe and be present – “be here now” – as Ram Dass wrote many years ago. Haiku is a gift. This brief post is a gift – a gift of added awareness and new insight. The concept of “added value” is another gift. What a full day this has been with all these gifts.
    Thank you, Lindy

  2. Susan, I too adore composing the occasional haiku in my head. Although I’m not on Twitter, I’m going to try to find time, in the extreme busyness of my day, to do this more often–possibly even on my commute home, or while doing the grocery shopping! I had never thought about haiku in quite this way before, and I thank you for helping me to see that it’s a magnificent way both to take a snapshot of a moment and to exercise my powers of perception and awareness.
    Thanks, Lynne

  3. This was just what I needed to read today. I’ve been thinking all week about how to be more in the moment. Thanks so much, Sharon

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