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.
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.