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HAIKU DIALOGUE – A Good Wander: The Art of Pilgrimage – Ruminations

A Good Wander: The Art of Pilgrimage with Guest Editor P. H. Fischer

“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.” – Basho (translated by Sam Hamill, The Essential Bashō, Shambhala, 1999)

Ready to lose yourself in the wonder of wandering? If so, grab your rucksack, water bottle (filled with a bit of sake perhaps), a pair of good trail shoes, a sturdy walking stick, and, of course, your favourite notebook and pen.

Over these next two months, I’ll share brief reflections and photo prompts from my Camino pilgrimage. This 900 km trek, from France across the Iberian Peninsula to Santiago de Compostela and beyond to the Atlantic Ocean, reignited a passion in me for haiku. I committed to composing at least one poem per day as a practice of being present to the moments unfolding along the way.

I’m not the first to scribble haiku while sojourning through villages, cities, mountains, plains, and sacred sites. Beginning with Basho (his Narrow Road to a Far Province remains the classic haiku travelogue), many poets including Santoka, Ryokan, and Kerouac, have taken to the open road to wander lonely as clouds, sing songs of nature (and themselves), and return to inspire others to join in on the chorus.

I invite you, likewise, to heed the poet’s instinct to get outside to go within; to ramble with intent, to write, and to return from your journey renewed, perhaps even transformed. You don’t need to go to Santiago, Jerusalem, Stonehenge, Graceland, Burning Man, or Matsuyama to accomplish this. Even a walk to the corner store can be a pilgrimage if experienced with our haiku senses attuned. Through the wonders of technology, we can journey from the comforts of our home if a physical jaunt is not possible. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that perhaps the most fascinating journey – navigating our interior landscape – can happen while sitting quietly on our meditation cushion.

It may be true, as J.R.R. Tolkien attested that “not all who wander are lost,” but let’s have fun trying. Isn’t that the goal of both pilgrimage and art – to lose oneself utterly in the present moment? To experience the ineffable/transcendent/divine (pick your term), and at least try to transmute our experience through a creative medium like haiku?

Alright, enough talk! Let’s get out wandering and writing. I look forward to reading your poems about real, imagined, imminent, interrupted, or eventual journeys. May the wind be always at your back!

next week’s theme: Encounters

I walked the Camino by myself, but I was never alone. All of my heart’s occupants walked with me. Those I knew and who had gone before, those who surrounded me in the present, and the many more who were yet to come. I was buoyed by the feeling that on this ancient path – climbing, dipping, winding, and leading over the Iberian Peninsula – innumerable pilgrims through the centuries had trod the same stones toward Santiago. Countless more will walk over them again.

Most of the people I had the privilege of meeting became like fellow dear citizens of a small town that uprooted and moved with me every morning. We shared our stories, carried each other’s pain, and celebrated each other’s small victories. We came and went and hoped our pedestrian lives would intertwine again. They did – at albergues in the evening, over coffee in the cafes, tapas and pints of cerveza in the bars, or while patching blisters on park benches in the noonday heat.

Sometimes they didn’t – news spread down the line that Sebastian had a family emergency in Berlin. Wilma’s knees couldn’t take the pain any longer and went home to Holland. One American pilgrim, a week ahead of me, had a heart attack and died. Cremated, she rested in her husband’s backpack as he committed to finishing their pilgrimage together.

For this week’s haiku/senryu, think of your own encounters with the people you met on your journeys, whether around the world or in the park down the street. What stories were they carrying that you were privileged to hear? How have you taken to heart Issa’s view that under the cherry tree (that is, the fullness of life), there are no strangers? Perhaps we are all just friends waiting to happen. I snapped this week’s prompt picture steps away from the Astorga farmer’s market on the Saturday I was walking through town. I couldn’t resist capturing this scene of local citizens, clearly with stories to share.

The deadline is midnight Pacific Standard Time, Saturday November 12, 2022.

below is Peter’s commentary for ruminations:

In my part of the world, we’ve set the clocks back to standard time. A sure sign of winter’s approach. The days are shorter, the darkness more profound. Winds are picking up and temperatures are plummeting. Atmospheric rivers gather to release torrents of rain. We suddenly feel small. We retreat, quiet ourselves. The journey continues, but we pause frequently to catch our breath, to assess conditions, to gaze in wonder at how elemental nature can be. Some of us are preparing to hibernate, even if metaphorically. This time of year is humbling. Yet it can be restorative. With its natural quiet and sombre tones, this season of transition inspires ruminating on the bigger questions encountered on life’s journey.

It’s an honour to read hundreds of your submitted poems on the theme of quiet contemplation. I wish I could accept them all. Thank you for your continued participation. This week’s selections reflect the depth, breadth, and heights of the human journey and the poet’s ability to convey that experience through art. I hope you will enjoy the following poems as much as I do. Please consider leaving positive comments in the comments section, encouraging the authors of the poems that you especially enjoy. You may just make that poet’s day with your kind appreciation of their work.

With gratitude, Peter

silent night the river bends right through me

Bryan Rickert
Belleville, Illinois USA

There’s something holy here. Not only do the melodic words “silent night” always pair up with “holy night” when I hear them, but the experience of this moment embodies the transcendence many of us poets live for. In the stillness, in the quiet surrender to the night and the river (which could be the Mississippi, the Illinois, or even the Milky Way overhead), the subject of this poem experiences satori – a oneness that goes beyond metaphor and touches the very essence of reality. Subject and object become I and Thou, become I am. Resonant with Annette Makino’s Touchstone Award-winning poem “long before,” which you can find here, the poet is limited in their ability to express in words this experience of unity that existed long before language made any attempt to convey it. That said, Bryan Rickert’s effort at expressing the ineffable is exceptional. We’re standing on holy ground in this poem. Deep inside, this river of life runs through all of us. Can you feel it? More important than answering with a word, this poem inspires us to answer with our lives.

between certainty and uncertainty seatherny

Arvinder Kaur
Chandigarh, India

A great spiritual leader once invited his followers to consider the birds, how they neither sow nor reap, or worry about anything; how they trust that life provides. How different it is for our species. We worry about everything, even worrying about worrying! There’s illusory comfort in certainty, in cornering truth and crowning it with a capital “T”. Until the next absolute idea asserts its claim to supremacy. Perhaps we’d be wise to find some space in all our seriousness for a bit more ambiguity, awe, and worship (in the genuine sense of the word – to give honour and worth to the object of our attention). This poem helps us enter that space and simply enjoy the serenity of listening to a choir of birds exult in the precious gift of life.

in silent protest
the stillness
of winter

C.X.Turner
United Kingdom

Once upon a time, my family lived on a small island in the Salish Sea. Just for a year, but long enough to discover that the community lived more in tune with nature and her seasons than we ever experienced in the city. Winter was a time to slow down, come inside, and go inside oneself; to introspect, reflect, tend the home fires, and rest. Increasingly, our consumerist culture views this natural inclination as aberrant or even abhorrent. Winter is the time to consume to the limits of our credit. With our ability to click and drop innumerable products to escape winter into our online shopping baskets, why embrace nature at all? The poet as prophet does not stand up on a soapbox and preach the many answers to that question. Rather, C.X.Turner’s poem is a quiet invitation to experience the stillness of winter for ourselves. It’s a powerful, three-line manifesto echoing the late Thich Nhat Hahn’s advice: “don’t just do something, sit there!” For the good of our soul, community, planet.

fallen snow
the blank page
before the haiku

Valentina Ranaldi-Adams
Fairlawn, Ohio USA

A field of fresh unmarked snow. A new notebook cracked open to the first page. How to improve the perfect, limitless beauty of these things? Perhaps, as in the preceding poem, we can choose to sit in silence, unhurried, simply appreciating the spaciousness of the unsullied snow or the notebook’s field of infinite potentiality. If/when we choose to step out and leave a mark, on the earth or on the page, we do so with care, humility, and intention. Not to dominate nature or conquer the page, but to flow interdependently with life, joining in the solemn privilege of creating something out of perfect nothingness. This beautiful poem honours this sacred space and the call to create within all of us.

and here are the rest of the selections:

holding on to
the last of my dreams
silent dawn

mona bedi
India

 

forgotten watch…
on the way to the station
morning moon

Keiko Izawa
Japan

 

going anywhere
thinking for moments
of never coming back

Patricia Hawkhead
United Kingdom

 

early snow
the only visible colour
a robin’s breast

Marilyn Ward
Lincolnshire UK

 

winter
day to day
fractal existence

Sankara Jayanth Sudanagunta
Hyderabad, India

 

peeling an orange morning fog

Mariel Herbert
California, USA

 

foggy morning –
listening to the tunes
from cowbells

Dan Campbell
Virginia

 

deckchair
sitting empty
by the bandstand
in the rain

Herb Tate
UK

 

dropping the needle for the sound of silence

Richard L. Matta
San Diego, California

 

dark cloud
the dog’s puzzled look
when I stop humming

Marion Clarke
Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland

 

limping dog
the pigeons shuffle
just a little

Kaushal Suvarna
Pune, India

 

the toddler’s
sudden silence —
a big black spider

Sheila Sondik
Bellingham, WA

 

the feel of his heartbeat . . .
rocking him a little longer

Kimberly Kuchar
Austin, Texas

 

hermitage path
I stop to listen
to my breath

Padma Rajeswari
Mumbai, India

 

meditation hut
stone walls
share their silence

marilyn ashbaugh
edwardsburg, michigan

 

praying
with the mantis
becoming stone

dustin hackfeld
Ingleside, TX

 

summer sky no i in cloud shapes

Susan Burch
Hagerstown, MD

 

alone
33,000 feet above
my identity

Julie Bloss Kelsey
Germantown, Maryland, USA

 

towards
a complete silence
journey to Mars

Chen Xiaoou
Kunming, China

 

desert night—
the vertigo of falling
into stars

Gary Evans
Stanwood, Washington

 

of starstuff I empty myself to find the universe within

rs
Middletown, DE USA

 

a thousand miles . . .
all the things
I wish you’d said

Allyson Whipple
St. Louis, MO

 

keeping distance
a friend tells me
she is fine

Deborah Karl-Brandt
Bonn, Germany

 

depression
the therapist asks
where it hurts

Kerry J Heckman
Seattle, WA

 

day spent ruminating
a faucet’s
steady drip

Christopher Seep
Ballwin, MO

 

teardrops ripple her silence

Ravi Kiran
India

 

salmon mid-stream swimming to be still

Alan Peat
Biddulph, United Kingdom

 

riverside path
listening to the memoirs
of a stone

Lori Kiefer
London UK

 

the silence
in the rock garden
deafening

Bruce H Feingold
Berkeley, CA, USA

 

still
a slow pulse
in this sleeping volcano

Tracy Davidson
Warwickshire, UK

 

molten silver
moves above me
evening clouds

Mandy Macdonald
Aberdeen, Scotland

 

a pause in our ramble
at the viewpoint
the silence of wonder

Ingrid Baluchi
North Macedonia

 

from my bed
by the bay window…mountains
birthing clouds

kris moon kondo
kiyokawa, kanagawa, Japan

 

pouring
from the clouds
a skylark’s song

Keith Evetts
Thames Ditton UK

 

tapping my fingers
to the beat of the rain
inside myself…

Adele Evershed
Wilton, Connecticut

 

the fall of a raindrop atonal

Lynne Jambor
Vancouver BC

 

pale blue sky
the stillness left by
a thundershower

Manoj Sharma
Kathmandu, Nepal

 

night window
a sideways brushstroke
of rain

James Gaskin
Fukushima, Japan

 

open window
meditating on whatever
comes through…

Tony Williams
Scotland, UK

 

satori
the sudden realization
of a skunk somewhere

Mike Stinson
Nebraska USA

 

it must have withered
that peony in full bloom . . .
deathbed

Milan Rajkumar
Imphal, India

 

raining
rose petals
pujari’s chant

(pujari = Hindu temple priest who performs puja [worship])

Jonathan Epstein
USA

 

monastery at dawn
a songbird adds
to the silence

Padmini Krishnan
United Arab Emirates

 

the soundless flight
of a barred owl
triangulation

Seretta Martin
United States

 

wind farm
a silent graveyard
of broken birds

Jeff Leong
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

 

motion sensor switching off…
a red eyed vireo
forgets I’m there

Laurie Greer
Washington, DC

 

grubworm
a child’s palm filled
with earth

Jonathan Roman
United States

 

elderly couple
a chrysanthemum trembles
in the lady’s hand

Stoianka Boianova
Bulgaria

 

parting time
pa holds my hand
in silence

Subir Ningthouja
Imphal, India

 

last mourner
leaves
deafening silence

Susan Farner
USA

 

thin place
the empty chapel filled
with helping spirits

Cynthia Anderson
Yucca Valley, California

 

watching
the river rush
memorial bench

Maurice Nevile
Canberra, Australia

 

winter river
the stillness inside
and outside of me

Meera Rehm
UK

 

sitting still –
my greatest creation
out of nowhere

Cristina Povero
Italy

 

The Way:
mind full
of no thing

Helen Ogden
Pacific Grove, CA

 

autumn sun
on a late afternoon
the page fades

Richard Straw
Cary, North Carolina

 

looking back
the things
I never saw

Margaret Mahony
Australia

 

autumn shadows
all the things still
on my bucket list

John S Green
Bellingham, Washington

 

raspberry bushes
the laughing little girls
we were

Maxianne Berger
Outremont, Quebec

 

Zoom applause
the sound
of one hand clapping

Caroline Giles Banks
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

 

hearing aids
removed…in but out
of the moment

Stephen J. DeGuire
Los Angeles, CA

 

somniloquy
the mime artist
finds his voice

Vandana Parashar
India

 

lost –
a forester shows me the way
with his toothpick

Guido De Pelsmaeker
België – Holsbeek

 

wilderness moon
a wolf answers
a man’s howl

Ruth Holzer
Herndon, Virginia

 

thick fog
the way home passes
through the bar

Mirela Brăilean
România

 

at a crossroad
weighing the force
of the wind

Bona M. Santos
Los Angeles, CA

 

tabula rasa
scraping graffiti
off of my mind

Margie Gustafson
Lombard, IL USA

 

dusk
i chisel the words
till nothing is left

Vijay Prasad
Patna, India

 

silence
the space in between
its letters

Pippa Phillips
Kansas City, MO

 

no need
to speak
night rain

John Pappas
USA

 

Guest Editor P. H. Fischer (Peter) lives, works and plays in Vancouver, Canada, on the traditional, unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples. He is the winner of the Vancouver category of the 2022 Haiku Invitational of the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival, and is grateful to see his poetry published in a growing list of haiku journals including The Heron’s Nest, Modern Haiku, Frogpond, Presence, First Frost, Whiptail, Kingfisher, Prune Juice, Haiku Canada Review and others. His top passions (besides family) are walking and writing haiku. If he could, he’d leave on another 900 km ginko today!

Lori Zajkowski is the Post Manager for Haiku Dialogue. A novice haiku poet, she lives in New York City.

Managing Editor Katherine Munro lives in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, and publishes under the name kjmunro. She is Membership Secretary for Haiku Canada, and her debut poetry collection is contractions (Red Moon Press, 2019). Find her at: kjmunro1560.wordpress.com.

The Haiku Foundation reminds you that participation in our offerings assumes respectful and appropriate behavior from all parties. Please see our Code of Conduct policy.

Please note that all poems & images appearing in Haiku Dialogue may not be used elsewhere without express permission – copyright is retained by the creators. Please see our Copyright Policies.

This Post Has 25 Comments

  1. Peter,
    Your themes over these past few weeks have certainly resulted in some very moving and profound experiences for all of us. Your commentaries have added immeasurable depth and have challenged us to reach deep inside. What a community of fellow wayfarers you have created. Thank you! And congratulations to all poets selected. A very special group, indeed.

    1. Thank-you for the kind words, Gary. I am thoroughly enjoying this journey alongside this community of gifted poets, yourself included. It’s a great honour and privilege. Looking forward to the remaining miles ahead! :)
      Peter

  2. Another wonderful choice of verses, Peter.
    Difficult to pick out a few to comment on. Congratulations to all poets.

    the feel of his heartbeat. . .
    rocking him a little longer
    – Kimberly Kuchar

    I feel this verse can read in many ways from an unborn or a newborn child to an embraced loving couple and possibly holding a loved one that has an illness, that closeness that is hard to let go of.
    An emotional read.

    molten silver
    moves above me
    evening clouds
    -Mandy Macdonald

    This is a wonderful visual, however I feel there is something a little deeper within these words.

    wind farm
    a silent graveyard
    of broken birds
    – Jeff Leong

    There’s an irony, here, a wind farm used to supply green energy, reducing harmful carbons to help the environment, while harming a natural wonder.
    We’ll get there, one day :)

    1. Thanks, Carol! You have highlighted three of my favourites as well. They are all so very evocative and rich with emotion.

    2. ‘broken birds’, writes Jeff Leong.
      What a way to describe how we ignore all that is not of our species in order to assure our own survival, which ultimately may destroy all that we most cherish.

  3. Peter, I deeply appreciate your theme and commentaries. I recently returned from another road trip, I like to travel the highways and byways, and usually shape my trips around a particular spot I want to “pilgrimage” to. Thank you for this opportunity to create “road trip reflections”! Cheers!

    1. Hi, Mike, thanks very much for your comment and your contributions here. Pilgrimages come in many different forms. I love road trips as well! Grateful for your reflections on your journeys. :)
      Peter

  4. Peter, I am so grateful to you for choosing this theme. It has brought back to mind the spiritual experience I had walking The Camino, something I hope to do again someday, God willing. Your photograph for this week’s theme is stunning. I grew up in Spain and it so captures the essence of that place. Your commentaries are so thorough and deeply considered. Thank you!

    1. …and I am so grateful for your kind comment, Helen. Thank-you!

      I’m glad these weeks are helping you to reconnect with the memories of your own pilgrimage and perhaps inspiring another one. I too would love to walk the Camino again. Maybe the northern route or the Portuguese way next time. I do hope I can go back someday soon. It was such a wonderful experience, as it was for you by the sounds of it.

      Buen Camino! :)
      Peter

  5. As I started reading the reflections and the kus, I began to save them, to keep returning to them… soon enough, I was saving each one of these – and selected every gem here. To name one of them:
    “fallen snow
    the blank page
    before the haiku

    Valentina Ranaldi-Adams
    Fairlawn, Ohio USA

    A field of fresh unmarked snow. A new notebook cracked open to the first page. How to improve the perfect, limitless beauty of these things? Perhaps, as in the preceding poem, we can choose to sit in silence, unhurried, simply appreciating the spaciousness of the unsullied snow or the notebook’s field of infinite potentiality. If/when we choose to step out and leave a mark, on the earth or on the page, we do so with care, humility, and intention. Not to dominate nature or conquer the page, but to flow interdependently with life, joining in the solemn privilege of creating something out of perfect nothingness. This beautiful poem honours this sacred space and the call to create within all of us.”

    These are like an anthem to me – as I go through periods of simply watching the white spaces – in peace – and being in no rush to commit to making the foot print… cannot thank you all enough!

  6. raspberry bushes
    the laughing little girls
    we were
    /
    Maxianne Berger
    Outremont, Quebec
    /
    This one reminded me of my college days when it was easy for my best friend and I to joke and laugh. Thank-you Maxianne for a trip down memory lane.

  7. I, too, felt a sense of the holy in Rickert’s melodious “silent night” haiku. Just beautiful!

    silent night the river bends right through me

  8. I look forward to reading these dialogues! They are wonderful treasures to admire during the week. xo

      1. Thank you Peter! I got lost this week so I missed writing for ruminations. But more to read and enjoy this week. Thank you!

  9. P. H., I was pleasantly surprised to see that you had selected mine for commentary. Many thanks to you, Kathy, Lori, and the Haiku Foundations. Congrats to the poets who were selected and encouragement to those who were not.

    1. My pleasure, Valentina! It’s a delightful haiku. It especially resonates with me this week as we had our first snowfall yesterday. Just a dusting, but a beautiful start to the morning. :)
      Best wishes,
      Peter

  10. Another delightful line-up of verses! I know I will discover more gems as I read them throughout the week. Thanks, P. H. Fischer, for including one of mine. Congratulations to all the poets!

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