2021 Haiku A Day Anyone?

Happy 2021! I took a two week break from blogging. The laptop, which represents work, was firmly left closed and put away in the drawer. I hope you have had a time of rest during these Twelve Days of Christmas that are time our of time. Literally! The twelve days were leftovers when they switched from the Julian to Gregorian calendar. My rest has been spent reading, calling/Zooming friends and family, making nice food, eating same, making sure I get some exercise everyday (step counter appended) and writing a haiku, senryu or tanka for the Omen Days.

The Omen Days come from a tradition of observing nature during the Twelve Days of Christmas, from 26th December/St. Stephen’s Day/Boxing Day until Epiphany/Nollaig na Ban on 6th January. From each day’s observation one should have some augury for the month of the year ahead. So Stephen’s Day would be Day 1 of the Omen Days. And January 6th is Day 12 of the Omen Days.

Some use tarot cards. I used some Emily Dickinson Divination cards last year. I cannot say if they accurately foretold the theme for each month in the year ahead, but I can say that over 2018/2019, writing a poem a day sustained me while my husband’s sister was dying, the funeral and aftermath.

This year nature and it’s resurgence (and THERE is a lovely word of the year for 2021, isn’t it?!) has sustained us in our isolation. So it seemed right to write a haiku, senryu or tanka each day through the omen days. We shall see if they have been any kind of augury.

Then,as I was totting up some steps on my pedometer the other day, I wondered if I could keep a haiku/senryu/tanka journal for the 365 days of 2021. I have said in previous posts that I feel that Doorways is a real theme for 2021. What doors will open? Maybe by keenly observing nature I will record this threshold time.

I have been given a lovely notebook with bees on it by our goddaughter. It is quite small. A perfect size for keeping a haiku journal. I have a couple projects that are going to keep my nose to the grind stone over the next few months, so keeping my poetry writing hand active with small, obtainable daily objectives seems sensible.

It’s been frosty and cold most of these Omen Days with Day 8 being the exception. Far sunnier than we normally experience in winter, too. My ten year old grandniece in Pennsylvania is a keen amateur meterologist. I wonder what she would predict from our weather? Although she is having far more fun following tornados in Galveston.

Here is a sampling of my Omen Days haiku, senryu and tanka. Haiku traditionally has a season word and, ideally, a bit of an ‘Ah ha! wrapped up in its seventeen syllables. Senryu also has the same seventeen syllable pattern, but observes human nature rather than the environment. A tanka is basically a haiku/senryu capped with two lines of seven syllables each.

Omen Day 1 - St. Stephen's Day, 26th December 2020

When's the sky true white?
A blank page that's fluttering
Wind an ocean roar

Omen Day 4 - 29th December 2020

Birds glide on thermals
They trust in their skill - or fate
Would that I could
Omen Day 5 - 30th December 2020

The forecast: snowfall
Frosty, bone cold daybreak
Prediction: mug's game!

Omen Day 8 - 2nd January 2021

Look up! Starry night
Dots of light sprawl the sky
The infinite small

The haiku shoguns would probably come after some of these efforts. But sometimes you just have to allow yourself to do the best you can and not let others judge it as not good enough.

Be gentle with yourself. Take care. We are not out of this viral storm yet. In the meantime, continue to create. Keep the hearth fire burning in your soul. St. Brigid’s Day is coming soon, and with it a 30 Day e-course to keep you inspired and resilient.

Snowdrops, a harbinger of Spring and Renewal, sacred to the saint and goddess Brigid

Featured image Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

Enter Winter

It has been a week where rain has been turning into sleet. We have had hoar frost for a couple mornings this week and a distinctly unbalmy -1C at dawn today. Which is blooming cold for Ireland! The Light in the Window: 21 Days Journey through December’s Dark Days e-course started winging into email inboxes last Tuesday. We have our first Zoom fireside chat in a couple hours.

And yet, what I want to report on is the amazing play of light and cloud at both dawn and sunset this week. Also, fog banks hovering on the horizon. As I tap out this blog outdoors is a white mist. We have an orange alert fog warning tonight. But it is also very beautiful. I am wont to say we live in Tir na nÓg, and weeks like this tend to prove my supposition.

Most days I have been running around with a camera to capture some of the gorgeousness on display. I like winter since moving to Ireland. Or maybe it comes from living out in the country. Either way I have been seriously excited about it many days this week.

At dawn I was looking out at the frost and fog and felt some tanka coming on. So you get a bonus weekly poem.

8:30 AM, St. Nicholas Day, -1C

Each twig is outlined
Trace tree's bare bones with the frost
Backlit by pale sun
Fog freezeframes this whitened world
The blackbird looks in at me.
10AM, St. Nicholas Day, -1C

Gold light glimmering
Frost crystals shiver teardrops
Eyewatering cold
A good day to be alive
If you have a place inside

Which leads into a segue regarding this Christmas. Spare some cash for whatever local charities who are supporting the homeless. This is what one organisation is doing to provide support with Virtual Santa Boxes during this time of Covid19. https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2770392549878979. The pandemic has done one good thing. It has really made people think creatively and laterally to achieve what is needed. I hope we keep it up once the virus is under control by spring.

Workshop’s Weekly Poems

Zoom

The weekly poem is back on Sunday this week. Tuesday is looking a bit too busy for long contemplation and poetry composition. Preparation for the e-course A Light in the Window: A 21 Day Journey Together Through December’s Dark Days, is going apace. I am also teaching two Zoom creative writing groups each week. In November we have been working on poetry.

And so, I will share with you some of the in session poems written this week. Given the two hour time limit I tend to concentrate on short poetry forms. We have been working with a number of syllabic forms; one introduced to me in a workshop by Angie Peita in June 2019, the shadorma, and the seguidilla. That made a lovely five, six, seven line progression.

The first form is a quote, something from the past, an action, the theme, and then the future. I drew some quotes from the Emily Dickinson Divination cards to give us a head start. These are the ones I wrote in the two hour session.

No lid has memory - 
yesterday, a month, a year ago 
is all in the clay pot - smashed.  
Last week is in shards and dust,
pieces picked up for tomorrow. 

The shadorma is a six line form that goes 3,5,3,3,7,5 syllables.

Lockdown Shadorma

How are you?
Are you shut in too?
All of us
goldfish swimming round our bowls
looking out from in.

The final poetry form is, like the shadorma, Spanish in origin. It was originally from a dance song tradition. It is also syllabic form, the lines running, 7,5,7,5,5,7,5. There is assonance rhyme in lines two and four. Also, like in some Spanish dances, there is a pause, in the dance for an instrumental interval. So there is usually a full stop at the end of line four. In my seguidilla, I ranged back to the Emily Dickinson quotation.

The lid on Memory's off
and the clay pot smashed
to Smithereens on the floor,
past lost, time forgot.
What pieces picked up
by the dustbroom and shovel
make up tomorrow.

I hope you are doing okay in whatever Lockdown you are experiencing. Stay well.

An E-course to Light December’s Dark Days

A Light in the Window: A 21 Day Journey Together Through December’s Dark Days

How are you? Are you okay? It’s dark outside most of the day. Most of us are staying inside, working at home, cocooning from the corona virus, shielding, trying to maintain and sustain life in a new, strange and inconvenient normal. Isolation can feel lonely even with the internet, telephones, Zoom and FaceTime. The dark days of December beckon us into silence and contemplation. This has always been so. But it has also been the time for storytelling beside the hearth and sharing experiences with those who gathered around.

This e-course is both a guide and companion. Each day you will receive an email with a short piece of writing for reflection. From that lit candlewick you can journal around the topic. You may spend twenty minutes or two hours. You may choose to write a poem, or write a memory, or make some visual art inspired by the prompt.

That is your journey.

But journeys benefit from companions, so this e-course is supported by the option to Zoom over the evenings of December 6th (St. Nicholas Day), December 13th (Day 4 of Hanukkah), and 20th (Winter Solstice Eve)  with me and any fellow traveller who choose to check in and share their light with one another.  It is not compulsory, but for those of you who may not be seeing or speaking to others often, you are welcome to my virtual fireside on those evenings.  We will light our stove and tune in via Zoom 6-8pm Irish Time on those days. That will mean North Americans can brunch or lunch with us while continental Europeans can sip their evening cocoa as we swap tales like 21st century Canterbury Tale travellers. Zoom invitations will go out with the Sunday email.

If I ask my husband very nicely I am sure he might be persuaded to give us a tune.

December marks the celebration of light festivals in three religious traditions. Christians will light the first candle on their Advent wreaths on Sunday, 30th November on a day that is a full moon, as well as a lunar eclipse. Jewish families will light the first of eight candles on their menorah on December 8th. Pagans will celebrate the shortest day of winter solstice on 21st December (depending upon where you live in the world) as the rebirth of the sun.

Photo by Olena Sergienko on Unsplash

Treat each daily email as a kind of window to open on an Advent calendar.  Treat it as some daily  low-cal, hi-inspiration. We are waiting for the return of the light – physical and metaphorical. Darkness can be frightening for some, but we can befriend it. We all grew out of the darkness of our mother’s womb to emerge into the bright lights of a delivery suite or the softer lighting of a bedroom. Most of us started life with our eyes shut tight, but gradually we adjusted to this new brightness and clarity.

We are in a time of change and uncertainty. Yet, this autumn the whooper swans flew over 800 miles from Iceland and made their winter home once again in local Lough Moneen. They honk overhead daily, just as they have done each year we have lived in our little home in West Cavan that  has a view of hills in County Leitrim and the wind turbines on Corry Mountain in Roscommon.

This e-course requires the most rudimentary of tools. You need a notebook of some sort to journal. You will need a pen. Crayons or coloured pens and pencils might appeal to some of you.  You may decide on some days to use craft materials that you already have around the house.  What you may not have is a candle. This could be a tea light or something fancier and scented; in the interests of home safety you may use a battery charged candle.  Keep it simple and safe and work with the requirements of your household.

No matter what you spiritual or religious tradition or upbringing, celebrate the light during these dark days this December. You are invited to reflect and contemplate as you wait for personal and collective epiphanies. We have the means in our hands and hearts. You are welcome to my virtual fireside each Sunday to share what is sparking within you.

The e-course will cost you 21 $/£/€ – or whatever is your local currency – for all twenty-one days.  You can register for the e-course using the form or by emailing bee@sojourningsmith.blog. You will receive an email to direct you to the Paypal account that will ensure that you receive your daily emailed ray of light during the dark days of December.

Featured image Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash.