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heights arts Blog

Seasonal Hikes and Haikus

Imagine standing on an old sandstone bridge over a stream that bobbles limp leaves in bubbles of soda water. As you wait for more students to arrive wrapped in light jackets, fidgeting with pens that itch to scratch thoughts onto naked pages, you naturally form a circle with the gathering group. Most eyes face your guide, an esteemed poet and nature lover. Conversation leads from banter about poetry to questions and remarks about the colors and patterns of leaves. Flowers shaped like stars emerge from a backdrop of outstretched woody arms grasping flickering bouquets of mostly emeralds, but also freshly golden and blush-colored leaves. The flowers are called, asters and now that they’ve been pointed out to you, more keep revealing themselves like points of light in the sky as your eyes learn how they should adjust themselves.  Staghorn Sumac sways like scarlet peacock tails, tufted with velvet seeds at the tips of each plume. You knew that this program was designed to inspire poetry, but you hadn’t realized how much activity and variety you’d be surrounded by, even before the hike would begin.

That’s what it was like to meet this Fall at Lower Shaker Lake and be immersed in the art of haiku while celebrating the changing seasons.  Mindfulness of nature quickly brought into focus new ideas that opened up our senses to curious shapes, patterns and phenomena we could use poetry to explore. We practiced the simple concept of noticing what we noticed which natural phenomena seemed readily responsive to, like accepting an open invitation. We worked on letting go of metaphors and presenting poetry without a need to offer explanations as is often the western tendency. We practiced rhythmically describing what we were experiencing in a literal way that a reader from another time could transport themself into. Something about describing what we were encountering plainly gave rise to deeper meanings that we could all tune into. By focusing on living in that moment, we were learning that one moment can be everything at once.

We moved from one beautiful space to another, pointing out a blue heron, the iridescence of porcelain berries, the fiery color of tupelo leaves, and the length of our shadows as they touched fallen leaves sparkling with domes of dew. By the end of our program, we had lots of haikus to share and even read some classics that felt appropriate and sparked more great conversation. A hike like this offered a much needed reminder as we all seemed to take a final glance and departed, refreshed. The rushing water below the bridge giggled as we got back in our cars, about how ego thinks it’s an island in the stream when it’s really just a bubble. As some of us rushed away, we knew we looked forward to rushing back soon.

We look forward to seeing you soon for our next seasonal Haiku Hike taking place on January 8, 2022. We’ll meet at the nature center at Shaker Lake. Bundle up, bring something to write with and be ready to have fun because nature and literature have a way of working together to stir up the unexpected!


Some haikus by participant, Mimi Plevin -Foust

Raindrops splash rings
on the brook’s hurried waters.
November begins.

Mushrooms, lichen, grass,
three kinds of tree sprouts— brothers,
fed by one old stump.

Chilly bees feast on
blue asters and sunflowers.
The lake dreams of geese.

Snap photo
or write a haiku?
Laziness wins.


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