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.