Monday, December 28, 2015

Carpe Diem #886 the journey continues: writing something, the moon clear, harvest moon, loneliness

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

I hope you all have had a wonderful Christmas and that you all are ready for the last days of this year. The "Narrow Road" continues and we are walking together with Basho towards the end of the "Narrow Road".


I went to the Tenryuji Temple in the town of Matsuoka, for the head priest of the temple was an old friend of mine. A poet named Hokushi had accompanied me here from Kanazawa, though he had never dreamed of coming this far when he had taken to the road. Now at last he made up his mind to go home, having composed a number of beautiful poems on the views we had enjoyed together. As I said good-bye to him, I wrote:

writing something
pulling apart the fan
missing someone

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

Making a detour of about a mile and a half from the town of Matsuoka, I went to the Eiheiji Temple. I thought it was nothing short of a miracle that the priest Dogen had chosen such a secluded place for the site of the temple.

The distance to the city of Fukui was only three miles. Leaving the temple after supper, however, I had to walk along the darkening road with uncertain steps. There was in this city a poet named Tosai whom I had seen in Edo some ten years before. Not knowing whether he was already dead or still keeping his bare skin and bones, I went to see him, directed by a man whom I happened to meet on the road. When I came upon a humble cottage in a back street, separated from other houses by a screen of moon-flowers and creeping gourds and a thicket of cockscomb and goosefoot left to grow in front, I knew it was my friend's house. As I knocked at the door, a sad looking woman peeped out and asked me whether I was a priest and where I had come from. She then told me that the master of the house had gone to a certain place in town, and that I had better see him there if I wanted to talk to him. By the look of this woman, I took her to be my friend's wife, and I felt not a little tickled, remembering a similar house and a similar story in an old book of tales. Finding my friend at last, I spent two nights with him. I left his house, however, on the third day, for I wanted to see the full moon of autumn at the port town of Tsuruga. Tosai decided to accompany me, and walked into the road in high spirits, with the tails of his kimono tucked up in a somewhat strange way. 
Credits: Mount Shirane

The white peak of Mount Shirane went out of sight at long last and the imposing figure of Mount Hina came in its stead. I crossed the bridge of Asamuzu and saw the famous reeds of Tamae, already coming into flower. Through the barrier-gate of Uguisu and the pass of Yuno, I came to the castle of Hiuchi, and hearing the cries of the early geese at the hill named Homecoming, I entered the port of Tsuruga on the night of the fourteenth. The sky was clear and the moon was unusually bright. I said to the host of my inn, 'I hope it will be like this again tomorrow when the full moon rises.' He answered, however, 'The weather of these northern districts is so changeable that, even with my experience, it is impossible to foretell the sky of tomorrow.' After a pleasant conversation with him over a bottle of wine, we went to the Myojin Shrine of Kei, built to honor the soul of the Emperor Chuai. The air of the shrine was hushed in the silence of the night, and the moon through the dark needles of the pine shone brilliantly upon the white sand in front of the altar, so the ground seemed to have been covered with early frost. The host told me it was the Bishop of Yugyo II who had first cut the grass, brought the sand and stones, and then dried the marshes around the shrine, the ritual being known as the sand-carrying ceremony of Yugyo.

the moon clear
on sand carried over here
by a saint

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

It rained on the night of the fifteenth, just as the host of my inn had predicted.

Harvest moon
weather in the northern areas
is unsettled

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

It was fine again on the sixteenth. I went to the Colored Beach to pick up some pink shells. I sailed the distance of seven miles in a boat and arrived at the beach in no time, aided by a favorable wind. A man by the name of Tenya accompanied me, with servants, food, drinks and everything else he could think of that we might need for our excursion. The beach was dotted with a number of fisherman's cottages and a tiny temple. As I sat in the temple drinking warm tea and sake, I was overwhelmed by the loneliness of the evening scene.
clarity is only out done
by an autumn beach

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)


I wonder ... how would Basho have felt as he was on his journey? Was he happy? Sometimes sad? Anxious to explore this part of his wonderful country?

As I read "Narrow Road" again ... than I can almost sense how much he loved being on the road looking for the beauty of nature, the beauty of his country, the beauty of the religions and so on. And than I feel almost one with him ... really awesome.

Water Bearer

For this episode I love to share a haiku which I have published several years ago:

The next haiku is based on the Hawaiian mythology and astrology. The Hawaiians thought that when the moon was in its first quarter in January and February that the moon was a bowl in which the Gods gathered rain water for spring. In that period of the year the Hawaiians can see what they call the Water Bearer (a constellation) the name of the moon in that same period is Kulua.

dripping wet moon
the Water Bearer spills
water from the bowl

© Chèvrefeuille
This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and it will remain open until  December 31st at noon (CET). I will (try to) publish our next episode, the last CD-Special by Georgia, our featured haiku poetess, later on.


  1. Basho never fails to astonish, does he? The way "writing something" observes the scene in novelistic detail to convey the character's emotion/distraction/frustration, so subtly. Another master-class :)

  2. Dear Chèvrefeuille,
    standing at the door between two years I want to thank you for being such an amazing host and inspiration - not only as a haiku master but also the idea generator and the well of constant energy and devotion.
    Wishing you, this wonderful haiku community and their families Happy New Year! May your dreams come true and the new ones are born!