I’ve been told that most children in the United States learn to write haiku in third grade. At the very least they learn that haiku is a traditional poetic art form using seventeen syllables divided into lines of 5 – 7 – 5. The idea is to capture a moment in time. The famous Japanese poet/priest, Issa (1763-1828), focused on creating haiku using his love for nature in the process.
I did not grow up in the American school system, so it wasn’t until I took an undergraduate Zen Buddhism course that I learned to appreciate and have fun with creating this particular kind of poetry.
In the following haiku, I try to capture the moment I experienced the natural scene in front of me. Taking a photograph and then writing an accompanying haiku can be a meditative exercise. I keep striving to make that exercise a daily happening.
These photos and haiku are snapshots from my adventures in Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina this summer. I am discovering that pausing frequently to take in and experience my surroundings using all my senses has a salutary, expansive effect—something that allows me to focus on what’s in front of me right here, right now. I can wrap my head around the particular. The general is diffuse.
I alone cannot “fix” the blatant injustices so prevalent in our country—Black men killed by police at traffic stops, women denied access to life-giving abortions, many of us working two or three jobs in order to survive. What I can (and plan) to do is center myself and work like the dickens in a local, particular space with the goal of alleviating distress of those who are held hostage by unjust laws..
BIO Esther Nelson is a registered nurse who worked for several years in Obstetrics and Psychiatry, but not simultaneously. She returned to school (Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia) when her children were in college and liked it well enough to stay on as an adjunct professor. For twenty-two years, she taught courses on Human Spirituality, Global Ethics, Christian-Muslim Relations, Women in the Abrahamic Faiths, and Women in Islam. She is the co-author (with Nasr Abu Zaid) of Voice of An Exile: Reflections on Islam and the co-author (with Kristen Swenson) of What is Religious Studies? : A Journey of Inquiry. She recently retired from teaching.
6 thoughts on “SNAPSHOTS FROM SUMMER by Esther Nelson”
Your photos, haiku, and commentary are so beautiful! I think it is so important in these tumultuous times that we do take time to revel in Nature and the beauty around us when we can, to revive and open ourselves for whatever else our life holds. Stopping and just being and witnessing when I’m in Nature is something I’ve been doing more of this summer after taking a birding walk where the focus wasn’t on identifying birds as much as just being silent and listening to the sound of their songs.
Thank you for your lovely comment, Carolyn. So important to be present in whatever we do. I have found that nature helps me focus.
Love ’em! Reading these took me back to the golden days at the beginning of my marriage to a poet . He taught me to write haikus. We lived in a university town in southeast Missouri, and I hardly ever went out into nature to look, so my memories are the words, but now I’m very envious of your stunning images. Yes, indeed, we do indeed need to look around, get centered, and write. Thanks for sharing. Brightest blessings to you and your sister and all the good work you do
Thank you, Barbara, for your kind words and encouragement. Enjoy reading your posts as well!
Thank you for the beautiful images in words and photos! I love your blue hair! You look beautiful.
Thank you, Faelind, for reading and commenting as well as your kind words!