Skip to content

HAIKU DIALOGUE – A Good Wander: The Art of Pilgrimage – The Call to Adventure

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: first steps

“Beginning is everything.” – Spanish Proverb

I took my first steps on the Camino de Santiago and regretted them. It wasn’t right. All these years I saw myself taking off my trail runners, whispering a sacred incantation of some sort, and snapping a photograph of my bare feet at the first directional marker in Saint Jean Pied de Port, France – a brass triangle engraved with a scallop shell and the words “Saint Jacques de Compostelle.”

In reality, on the day of commencement, after a long train journey from Paris, and caught up in the exuberance of fellow pilgrims leaving the Pilgrim’s Office where we received our Camino passports, I passed over the marker without a thought, let alone any rite of initiation. And I was still wearing my Merrells.

Remembering my intention half a kilometre later, I excused myself from my newfound travelling companions and backtracked to the start where I, superstitiously, fulfilled what my mind’s eye had envisioned all those years. As I took my first “official” step replete with the requisite pomp and circumstance, it wouldn’t be long before the Way would further subvert my vision of how it should all go.

This week, please write a haiku/senryu about first steps, real or imagined. As Lao Tzu once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” The first step of a momentous journey is, prosaically, simply one of a million more to come, or poetically, the crossing of a threshold into a journey of discovery. Either way, as Julie Andrews sang from another mountain range, “Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.”

The deadline is midnight Pacific Daylight Time, Saturday October 15, 2022.

below is Peter’s commentary for the call to adventure:

Fellow travellers, sojourners, dreamers, and pilgrims, what a joy to read your adventurous poems! Your marvellous treks and travel planning have me adding new destinations to my bucket list. I’ve learned about Varanasi, the holy dirt of Chimayo, Australian landscape painters, and the dancing deer of Keibul Lamjao. I’ve added a few extra words to my vocabulary, including Zugunruhe and middelmannetjie. As someone longing to travel sometime soon, I empathize with those of you whose spirit soars to places that your body can’t physically take you. The next best thing to actually getting out for a good wander is hearing tales of travel and visiting locales vicariously through the art and stories of others. I hope this selection of poetry inspires a sense of adventure for you. Thank you to all who submitted poems. It’s a hard task selecting favourites from well over two hundred submitted. The following six especially made me pick up my pen to write a commentary. Please take a few minutes to encourage the other poets selected this week in the comment section below. Everyone’s favourites are different. Share with us what makes one or more of these poems special for you.

full moon
the owlet’s eyes
in the nestbox hole

Keith Evetts
Thames Ditton UK

Leaving the nest is a time-honoured rite of passage. Here, with a moonlit view of the nocturnal adventures that await, an owlet’s wide eyes (and the repetition of all those wonderful “O’s” in the haiku) tell the story of desire we all feel at various times of our lives but most acutely in our early years. The warmth, comfort, and security of home is undeniable but, oh, the call to spread one’s wings and flee the nest is such a powerful, inexorable, and necessary force! What joys, challenges, triumphs, and sorrows will the night bring for our little hero? Life in its fullness awaits!

zugunruhe…
the picture of her birthplace
sets me off

Laurie Greer
Washington, DC

I marvel at the German predilection for combining multiple ideas into single words like little cars linked in one long train. While a mere tram compared to some German words (Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften for example), the poet’s use of the word “Zugunruhe” sent me on a trip, nevertheless. Etymologically, the word is a compound of two words/ideas: Zug which means “move” or “migration” (and “train” incidentally), and Unruhe which means “anxiety” and “restlessness.” In ethological circles, the word is used to describe the anxious behaviour of migratory animals, particularly birds, when their internal switch to get moving flicks on. Captive birds will exhibit cabin-fever-like responses (hopping about, fluttering wings, banging against their cage) as they approach that natural date circled on their internal calendars. Like Keith’s owlet in the preceding poem, when it’s time to go, It’s. Time. To. Go! Evocatively, in this haiku, the poet’s sight of a loved one’s birthplace precipitates Laurie’s own “zugunruhe” to go. The desire to fly to where it all started sets off an undeniable decision.

rucksack its hidden wings

Adrian Bouter
The Netherlands

Yet another great poem linking travel with flight! With only a humble rucksack as companion, the poet delights in the open road, the living skies, a trusting heart and widespread wings. The implicit joy is palpable and infectious. Who doesn’t want to join in wherever this flight of fancy takes the poet? Saying “Yes!” to whatever the journey may bring, there’s nothing stopping the poet’s imagination here. No matter how weighed down they may have felt in their daily life back home, the call to adventure has set the poet’s sights higher now, much higher! It’s poems like this one, Adrian, that make me want to soar into my next adventure!

wanderlust
all I gather
is dust

Teji Sethi
India

Sometimes our love of adventure is unrequited. For a multitude of reasons conspiring against us, we decide to shelve our travel plans. But does the desire ever depart? Simple awareness of the layers of dust settling on our dreams can be subtly enlivening. “Can these bones live again?” a prophet of old once asked. Within the question is the answer. The very act of noticing our dusty dreams gives them a spark of new life. The poet’s act of giving voice and words to their desire, no matter how unrealistic, gives hope (I hope), no matter how small. While not encouraged in haiku writing, the end rhyme of lines one and three in this poem provide yet another small sounding of hope to help ease the sadness for the house-bound pilgrim waiting ever-so-patiently for their time to come.

call-up papers
crows gather
in a murder

John Hawkhead
UK

John’s masterful poem attests to the fact that not all calls to adventure are welcome. Whether it’s yesterday’s youth burning their draft cards during the Vietnam war, or Russian men fleeing Putin’s forced conscription today, all too often autocrats and shortsighted leaders thrust others into a journey not of their own choosing. The poem’s euphonic structure with its hard consonance (“c’s,” “p’s” and a “g”) and each line ending with an “er” beat, brings to mind the relentless pounding and marching of the machinations of war. At first glance and first reading, the murder of crows is an ominous sign, a foreboding of death and destruction. In world mythologies, crows portend many of these misfortunes, but they also exhibit a prophetic function. Birds of spirit, in Hinduism, crows carry messages from the world of the Pitr (ancestors). Norse, Celtic, and Druid mythology revered crows and ravens as beacons of intelligence. Is the world wise enough to heed the call of the natural world rather than the shrieking warmongers who perpetuate senseless cycles of violence that imperil the very planet we share? These are the questions this haiku raises for me.

no matter where I travel her crayon heart

John Pappas
United States

A beautiful, simple, heart-warming poem that embodies the adage “home is where the heart is.” While smartphone technology, with its plethora of apps that shrink the world onto a digital screen, has its obvious benefits for keeping in touch with the home-front, it still can’t compete with analog keepsakes that act as touchstones of the love that binds hearts and lives together. No matter our compass coordinates, these mementos act as our lodestar, magnetically orienting our own hearts to those we hold most dear. This monoku is an arrow straight to the heart, John, and like the crayon treasure you carry everywhere, I will attach this poem to the refrigerator door of my heart where it will stay for a long time.

and here are the rest of the selections:

pilgrimage
the unknown pathways
within me

Lori Kiefer
London, UK

 

lingering
in the landscape
of Namatjira and Heysen

Carol Reynolds
Australia

 

calendar
the snow capped mountains
wave at me

Minal Sarosh
Ahmedabad, India

 

retirement –
all the places yet to see
… online

Natalia Kuznetsova
Russia

 

world tour…
my finger along the
mapline

Chittaluri Satyanarayana
Hyderabad, LB Nagar, India

 

origami workshop
with each paper fold
closer to Japan

Mirela Brăilean
Romania

 

nothing to keep me—
your name washed away
by the tide

Tony Williams
Scotland, UK

 

packing light
I leave some room
for melancholy

Bryan Rickert
Belleville, Illinois USA

 

camino dreams. . .
filling my empty pack
with stars

Carole Harrison
Australia

 

boots waxed
one more look
at the topo map

Bruce H. Feingold
Berkeley, CA, USA

 

wild iris opens
dreams take shape
into plans

Kerry J Heckman
Seattle, WA

 

travel plans –
wrapping my tongue round
new words

Annie Wilson
Shropshire, UK

 

off to Vienna
all the arrangements
by Mozart

Marianne Sahlin
Sweden

 

luggage divider
how you compartmentalize
your problems

Susan Burch
Hagerstown, MD

 

suitcase bulges
at the seams
Tuscany or bust

Seretta Martin
California, United States

 

Chimayo
packing my suitcase
with prayers

Cynthia Anderson
Yucca Valley, California

 

widow in distress . . .
again the book of James
pauses a pilgrimage

Geoff Pope
Paducah, Kentucky

 

knowing the destination
but not the path
I set out anyway

Sari Grandstaff
Saugerties, NY, USA

 

12,000 miles
to walk the streets
of my childhood

Margaret Mahony
Australia

 

spiritual retreat
those hours spent to perfect
the airport look

Vandana Parashar
India

 

high school reunion
a bit of hair dye
a brief scan of the obits

Richard L. Matta
San Diego, California, USA

 

first plane trip —
she asks if Montana
is in the sky

Ash Evan Lippert
South Carolina, USA

 

mouse ears packed
family heads out
American pilgrimage

Rehn Kovacic
Mesa, AZ

 

jungle safari
my wife mimics
a roaring lion

Arvinder Kaur
Chandigarh, India

 

rebooted
brambles
spring ginko

Helen Buckingham
Wells, UK

 

last year’s
beach sand
still travels with me

petro c. k.
Seattle, Washington

 

two TGVs, two locals
with a Métro ride midtrip
ah! Giverny

Maxianne Berger
Outremont, Quebec

 

missed the train
and
my journey begins

Ram Chandran
India

 

on the way
to i know not where
till i arrive

Michael Henry Lee
St Augustine FL

 

windy day –
a scarecrow
waving to me

Dan Campbell
Virginia

 

mountain pilgrimage
… the feeling
of living in clouds

Sushama Kapur
India

 

summer breeze
today I
follow the sky

Stephen A. Peters
Bellingham, WA

 

fluttering prayer flags…
the mountains
wrapped in secret wishes

Baisali Chatterjee Dutt
Kolkata, India

 

bent reeds
the way of the wind
along a road

Richard Straw
Cary, North Carolina

 

Pilgrim’s Path
we sleep in the room
where the cow was kept

Kath Abela Wilson
California, USA

 

Keibul Lamjao
the dancing deer
teach me their steps

(Keibul Lamjao is the world’s only naturally floating national park, with the unique Sangai/Dancing deer. It is situated in Manipur state of India.)

Subir Ningthouja
Imphal, India

 

walking in wildflowers
the whole world
buzzing

C.X.Turner
United Kingdom

 

between the fallows
my path determined
by the middelmannetjie

simonj
UK

 

rain soaked path
i take my tea
in mountain mists

Lynne Jambor
Vancouver BC Canada

 

hearing the bell
of pilgrim’s staff approach
in the fog

Teiichi Suzuki
Japan

 

soft rain
a snail sets out
across the path

Andrew Shimield
UK

 

solo travel
I sip tea
from the saucer

Priti Khullar
Noida, India

 

my way
in front and
behind me

Zelyko Funda
Hrvatska

 

Sunday morn—
a pilgrimage in
eighteen holes

Stephen J. DeGuire
Los Angeles, CA

 

unpaved roads
a new walker
with larger wheels

Deborah P Kolodji
Temple City, CA

 

clipped wings
the elderly who travel
no more

Valentina Ranaldi-Adams
Fairlawn, Ohio USA

 

walking sticks
bedroom to bathroom
two crutches

Stephen J. DeGuire
Los Angeles, CA

 

midday moon
dad’s expedition to the
garden’s edges

Alan Peat
Biddulph, United Kingdom

 

tire swing—
I happily revisit
my childhood

Mona Bedi
Delhi, India

 

beyond the
expanding horizon
thin places

Curt Linderman
Seattle

 

solo trip
perhaps I’ll find myself
around this bend

Christopher Peys
Los Angeles, CA

 

adrenaline rush
on a dip in the Ganges
… Varanasi

Lakshmi Iyer
India

 

all the routes
to St. James
repentance

Jonathan Epstein
USA

 

last journey…
in my backpack
dad’s ashes

Florin C. Ciobica
Romania

 

mountain monastery –
Gregorian chants blend
with the setting sun

Paul Callus
Malta

 

desert dawn
near the labyrinth
a coyote

marilyn ashbaugh
edwardsburg, michigan

 

weary
the heart of the wanderer—
noonday sun

Ruth Holzer
Herndon, Virginia

 

desert pilgrimage
I practise
my poker face

Tracy Davidson
Warwickshire, UK

 

forgetting to pack
calamine lotion…
blister beetle

Adele Evershed
Wilton, Connecticut

 

moving day
what I choose
to leave behind

Pippa Phillips
Kansas City, MO

 

road to Santiago –
a backpack on the shoulders
and a smile in the heart

strada per Santiago –
uno zaino sulle spalle
e il sorriso nel cuore

Dennys Cambarau
Sardinia, Italy

 

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 27 Comments

  1. My compliments to Guest Editor P. H. Fischer (Peter) for this delightful selection and the comments which accompany it. Thank you for also highlighting my humble contribution. Thank you Kathy and Lori for your efforts. Congratulations to all featured here. Always a pleasure to participate.

    1. Thank you, Mirela! Your poem was a joy to read. I’ve only had a brief layover in Tokyo for an hour. Someday I’d love to have a proper visit to Japan as well. I hope you can realize your dream of travelling there 🙂

  2. It is enlightening to read the commentaries and responses. Thankyou.

    I feel this poem a lot because I have been trying to visit Japan, and am unable to, and somehow the poem comes across as a positive affirmation. Origami is an art that has originated in Japan. And that reinforces the idea. A beautiful poem, positive and deep. Brava, Mirela !

    origami workshop
    with each paper fold
    closer to Japan

    Mirela Brăilean
    Romania

    1. Dear haiku friend, thanks for the nice thoughts. I really want to go to Japan too. Actually, one of my daughters is in Kyoto as a tourist. She has already visited half the world. Writing haiku makes me feel closer to Japan. I love these people!

      1. Let us make origami happen it ,yes ? Cheers.
        Mirela, my art was exhibited in Kyoto twice but I did not visit because of the pandemic. I hope it gets chosen the next many times too !

  3. So many delightful verses.
    Thank you KJ munro and P.H. Fischer.

    retirement –
    all the places yet to see
    … online
    Natalia Kuznetsova – Russia

    As I have a fear of flying this resonates with me.

  4. great selection of poems.
    I particularly liked:
    full moon
    the owlet’s eyes
    in the nestbox hole

    Keith Evetts
    as commented on by Peter
    +
    world tour…
    my finger along the
    mapline

    Chittaluri Satyanarayana
    +
    travel plans –
    wrapping my tongue round
    new words

    Annie Wilson
    and
    bent reeds
    the way of the wind
    along a road

    Richard Straw

  5. Thanks to all of you for your encouraging comments!

    It’s heartening to read that you are enjoying the selected poems as much as I did. It’s certainly not an easy task to choose 70 or so poems out of hundreds and I’m learning that while there are technical and objective criteria to guide my guest editorship, there’s an undeniable subjective element as well. Please continue submitting your poems these next weeks. I’m already enjoying the next round of submissions!

    There are many more miles to this journey, but I’m thrilled with the experience thus far. You’re wonderful travelling companions. I think I’ll pause this evening and raise a glass of cheer in your direction!

    Ultreia!
    Peter

  6. thank you peter for including my poem “rain soaked path” in your list of poems. Fond memories of wonderlust in Kyoto. Cheers

  7. Thank you Peter for including my haiku in this wonderful collection. Look forward to weeks ahead. Congratulations to all poets.

  8. I just wanted to thank you, Peter, for your beautiful commentary and for inviting us along on this creative journey.

    I was delighted to see Stephen DeGuire’s poems and the humor and pathos within them.

  9. Thank you, P. H. Fischer, for this evocative prompt. I hope you are able to add Chimayo to your bucket list! (I’ve had extraordinary experiences there and keep my tiny stash of holy/healing dirt close at hand.)

  10. Thank-you P. H. for selecting my haiku for publication. It is always a pleasure
    to be in this column. Thanks also to Kathy. Lori, and the Haiku Foundation. Congrats to all the poets who are on this journey regardless of whether or not they were selected for publication this week.

  11. lingering
    in the landscape
    of Namatjira and Heysen

    Carol Reynolds
    Australia

    I got quite excited reading this poem of Carol’s, bringing back good memories of the Outback and two of Australia’s great artists…Albert Namatjira and Hans Heysen both of whom loved to paint white gum trees in stark environments. My mother’s book of Heysen’s reproductions was a particular treasure for her as a German émigrè and artist, and she would have loved, too, to linger in all these landscapes.

    This series will indeed be an adventure, thank you P. H. Fischer and everyone involved.

    1. Thank you Ingrid for your lovely words. I am on the tour back to the big smoke as I am writing. What an amazing journey I have had to The Flinders Ranges. Australia’s Camino. A pilgrimage inspired by a long lost Heysen print on the walls of my family home.

  12. Wanderful journey through those nearly 70 haiku!

    My current favorites are the two that made me laugh:

    jungle safari
    my wife mimics
    a roaring lion

    Arvinder Kaur
    Chandigarh, India

    Sunday morn—
    a pilgrimage in
    eighteen holes

    Stephen J. DeGuire
    Los Angeles, CA

    P.S. Thank you, Blesseditor Peter, for including my “widow in distress . . .” based on James 1:27 — “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (NIV).

  13. Peter, thank you very much for the (perfect!) commentary. I’ve been struck by the infra-red owl shots in our BBC live nature-watch programmes, and also by photos of the wide-eyed young owls my daughter has been ringing lately in advance of their release from an owl rescue reserve.

    Among many enjoyable poems I was particularly engaged by:

    soft rain
    a snail sets out
    across the path

    — Andrew Shimield UK
    (pictorial and representational, I like the choice of ‘across’ rather than ‘along’ the path, perhaps pausing us in our journey….thinking my hostas a likely destination for the snail. And no matter if progress is slow.)

    desert pilgrimage
    I practise
    my poker face

    — Tracy Davidson Warwickshire, UK
    (a trek can be an endurance test; but we try not to let on, especially on Instagram)

    moving day
    what I choose
    to leave behind

    Pippa Phillips
    Kansas City, MO
    (plenty of space for the reader to consider these circumstances)

    windy day –
    a scarecrow
    waving to me

    — Dan Campbell Virginia
    (original and a little fey as expected from this creative haikuist, whose work is so often engaging and brings a smile in the haikai tradition)

    off to Vienna
    all the arrangements
    by Mozart

    — Marianne Sahlin Sweden
    (a pilgrimage after my heart and a harmonious play on ‘arrangements’)

    no matter where I travel her crayon heart

    — John Pappas United States
    (all said in the commentary above. One of my treasures is a crayon drawing by my first daughter, the one that now works in wildlife conservancy — a heart with “Daddy I Lov you. Ples give me sum of yor money”
    Who wouldn’t melt?)

    1. Thank you for commenting on my haiku, Keith! The preparations for the trip to Vienna did include a lot of listening to, and playing, the very productive Mozart.

      I love your owlet haiku, by the way – such an evocative and adorable image of curiosity of the world outside.

  14. Dear PH Fischer,

    I appreciate your comments, it seems that it’s something you’re very good at. That’s why I’ll never get to make comments, because I’m not good at it. Instead, from time to time I write haiku. Of course, I generally do it at the way of the tradition, which is a bit annoying. That’s why I want to ask again with all the cordiality I can prove, if you want to comment on the two poems, a haiku and a senryu, which it seems you didn’t like. I’d be very curious ,if you do not mind and if it is allowed.Because we still like to talk about wabi-sabi, yugen, karumi, etc.

    at a crossroad
    I started to grow old
    autumn dew

    old sake
    after the other hill
    a haiku is waiting

    With friendship and sincerity,
    Mircea

Comments are closed.

Back To Top