Butterflies

Watching four or five monarch butterflies dance around our swan plant (Gomphocarpus physocarpus) last evening was a delight – sadly though, unless I intervene, there likely won’t be a new generation as nesting wasps consume any caterpillars until about the end of February when the predator’s diet changes.

Leaving that unfortunate thought aside, I thought I’d browse my bookshelves for butterfly-related haiku and there in the first book I opened, on the first page I looked at was …

on the manuscript
the shadow of a butterfly
finishes the poem

Nick Virgilio
from naad anunaad, an anthology of contemporary world haiku (2016)

Heartened, I continued …

summer butterfly
between my fingers the thickness
of a playing card

Katsuhiro Takayanagi (tr Koko Kato)
from A Vast Sky, an anthology of contemporary world haiku (2014)

 

echium

Monarch  butterfly. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Two from the internet:

my son noticing . . .
the attention i pay
to butterflies

John Stevenson
from The Heron’s Nest 1.1 (1999)

黄色組白組蝶の地どりけり
kiiro-gumi shiro-gumi [chô] no chidori keri

yellow gang, white gang
the butterflies claim
their turf

Kobayashi Issa, written in 1820 (tr David Lanoue)

At his website, David Lanoue notes: Chidori is an old word, a form of the verb chidoru, which means to measure out a lot on which to build a house.

And back to the bookshelf …

blue butterflies
a knife without a handle
on the lichened stone

Peggy Willis Lyles, 1939-2010
from Haiku 21 (2011)

longtailedBlue - Copy - Copy

Long-tailed blue butterfly (Lampides boeticus). Photo: Sandra Simpson

first white butterfly
my cabbages
not yet planted

Elaine Riddell
from the taste of nashi (2008)

traffic lights
all eyes follow
the butterfly

Belinda Broughton
from Third Australian Haiku Anthology (2011)

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Paulownia – the haiku tree

The paulownia trees are flowering just now – they always catch my eye because the purple flowers seem such a long way up. We used to have one on a boundary with a neighbour but it’s not so much the flowers I remember from that tree but the sound of sparrows rattling the seed pods.

Paulownia (empress tree, foxglove tree) is named for Anna (1795-1865), the daughter of Tsar Paul 1 of Russia (1754-1801). Courted by many, including it’s said Napoleon Bonaparte, she married the future King William II of The Netherlands, who stayed with the Russian royal family for the best part of a year before she agreed to the match. In The Netherlands, she was known as Anna Paulowna, which gives us the tree’s botanical name. Read more of this story here, as well as some botanical background.

Just about past, the blossoms of a paulownia tree. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The faintly perfumed wood is traditionally used in Japan for clothes chests, particularly kimono, as it contains a natural insect and mould repellent, and is slow to burn (a big consideration when everyone lives in wood and paper houses). Read more about Japanese traditions associated with the paulownia here, including the planting of a paulownia when a daughter is born.

Underlining its treasure box status is the fact that in The British Museum is a set of four calligraphy albums featuring haiku by Basho – one album for each season and each album stored in a paulownia box.

I wasn’t able to find any haiku about paulownia blossoms – only the tree’s leaf fall in autumn which has significant, and ancient, connotations for Japanese and Chinese poets.

hitoha chiru / totsu hitoha chiru / kaze no ue

a leaf falls
Totsu! A leaf falls
on the wind

– Hattori Ransetsu (1654-1707), tr William Higginson
The Classic Tradition of Haiku: An Anthology (Courier Corporation, 2012)

The notes with the haiku say this (in part):

The term ‘one leaf’ in a Japanese haiku is code for paulownia (kiri in Japanese).The fast-growing tree’s leaves drop throughout the year and symbolise loneliness and connote the past. The large, purple flowers are deeply associated with haiku because they hold 3 prongs of 5-7-5 buds, respectively. The blooms and their bracket of leaves form the crest of the Empress of Japan. Totsu is an exclamation uttered by a student of Zen Buddhism when enlightenment is achieved – it is also said to be the sound a paulownia leaf makes as it hits the ground upon falling.

Sourced from the Old Pond Comics website.

鳴蝉も連てふはりと一葉哉
naku semi mo tsurete fuwari to hito ha kana

with a singing cicada
softly…
one leaf falls

– Issa, from Haiku of Kobayashi Issa website.

David Lanoue’s notes say: The phrase, “one leaf” (hito ha), specifically denotes a paulownia leaf in the shorthand of haiku. Shinji Ogawa notes that naku semi mo tsurete means “together with the singing cicada”. The falling leaf has a passenger!

The footnote to another poem amplifies the power of ‘one leaf’: Shinji Ogawa comments: “In a Chinese book, Enanji (in Japanese pronunciation) published in the early third century, it is written that when a paulownia leaf falls, the world’s autumn is known. The ‘world’s autumn’ implies the changing of the dynasty. Since paulownia leaves are the crest of the Tyotomi family that ruled Japan in the sixteenth century and was ruined by the Tokugawa, the word hito ha (“one paulownia leaf”) implies a sort of sadness.”

imperialgarden3

The symbol of the Japanese empress – three paulownia leaves – is seen on a roof tile in the Imperial Palace, Kyoto. (The tadpole-type symbols on the other tiles are apparently water drops that act as a ‘charm’ against fire.) Photo: Sandra Simpson

 

making sure we know 
that autumn is here, a leaf
from the empress tree

– Den Sutejo (1633-98) tr Makoto Ueda
Far Beyond the Field: Haiku by Japanese Women (Columbia University Press, 2012)

Sharp blades drumming

Yesterday turned into a wet day (much, much worse further south on the island so not complaining) so I dived into the video store and hired some DVDs.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011) is a delightful documentary looking at the work (which it turns out is also the life) of Jiro Ono, an 85-year-old sushi master who has three Michelin stars for his nine-seater restaurant in a Tokyo railway station. A food writer says dining there may take 15 minutes – which probably makes it the most expensive restaurant in the world. Although no mention was made of whale meat, there was plenty of discussion about tuna. Anyway, it seemed serendipitous to discover this haiku, new to me.    

                     whale-meat market 
sharp blades
 
drumming

– Yosa Buson (1716-1784)

The translation is by Stephen Addiss and appears in his book The Art of Haiku (Shambhala Publications, 2012). There are amazingly sharp blades featured throughout the film.

.貰ふたよ只一切のはつ松魚
morauta yo tada hito kire no hatsu-gatsuo

my portion
just a tiny slice …
summer’s first bonito

– Issa, written in 1824

Translated by David Lanoue and from his Haiku of Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828). This note also appears: Shinji Ogawa explains, “Bonito swim along the Black Current (or Japan Current), from the Philippine Sea to the northern sea around Hokkaido. They pass near Tokyo (Edo) in spring [old calendar = summer] on their way north. They return to pass Tokyo in the fall on their way back to the south.” In haiku, bonito is a summer season word.

Horse Mackerel and Prawns, a woodblock print by Hiroshige. Image: Wikipedia.

Towards the end of the film Jiro, who was abandoned by his family when he was seven years old, and his older son Yoshikazu bemoan the small numbers of fish available, and that the quality is more variable than in the past. They believe part of the problem is the proliferation of sushi bars throughout the world (I had the impression they didn’t much care for the conveyor belt outfits).

桜えびすしに散らして今日ありぬ
sakura ebi sushi ni shirashite kyoo arinu

cherryblossom shrimps
sprinkled on my sushi —
what a fine day!

Hosomi Ayako (1907-1997)

Translated by Gabi Greve and taken from her World Kigo Database page for Raw Fish, which includes this note: The shrimps are a speciality of Suruga Bay, Sagami Bay and a few others, where they are caught and dried on the shore, with Mt. Fuji in the background … Eating them brings the pleasant feeling of spring, even in winter.

Bowl of Sushi, a woodblock print by Hiroshige. Image: Wikipedia.

Mid-winter evening,
alone at the sushi bar —
just me and this eel

– Billy Collins, from Modern Haiku 35.3 (2004)

ひとみ元消化器なりし冬青空
Hitomi moto / shôkaki narishi / fuyu-aozora

eyes used to be
digestive organs —
winter blue sky

– Yukihiko Settsu (1947-1996)

Translated by Keiji Minato and taken from his essay Notes on Modern Haiku, section 3.

Gochisōsama deshita! (Said after a meal by those who have enjoyed eating it – I hope you like / enjoy these haiku as much as I have.)

Soaping Fabulously 4

Yet another from the back of the wardrobe (still not my wardrobe, honest) is “luxury English soap” Bronnley Merry Christmas which comes in a box with a holly pattern on it, reminiscent of a Victorian Christmas card. At the time the box was made the company had warrants from HM Queen Elizabeth and HRH the Prince of Wales, but its website now displays only the former.

From a little bit of surmising I would say the soap was purchased in 2008 (the website has different Christmas soaps now available) but it had lost none of its soapiness or its scent – apple and cinnamon, which yes, did remind me of Christmas, a bit. A pleasant soap to use, a decent-sized bar and it lasted for a good length of time.

Although this particular soap is no longer available, on the basis of how much I enjoyed it, I would try a Bronnley soap again.

Cost: $9.90 for 100g. Rating 4 stars.

Also coming in a box (actually, there’s something a bit special about soap in a box) is Linden Leaves aromatherapy synergy in love again. My first recommendation is to this New Zealand company is to come up with a snappier name! The soap is branded as “vegetable soap” (large print on the front) and is certified organic (small print on the back), while the box itself is printed with “vegetable inks” and is “attractively packaged in a paper-based wrap”. Okay, I added the hyphen, I couldn’t help it. What’s “paper-based” mean, do you think? Some paper and some other yukky stuff we don’t want to mention? What’s wrong with using 100% recycled paper?

Back to the small print on the back – besides the rosehip oil and avocado oil there are  things with numbers and chemical names on the list of ingredients. I guess we have to figure that if it’s certified organic (why isn’t that on the front in big letters?) it’s all good.

The soap itself was pleasant enough, but it is one of the pricier ones I’ve used and that extra cost didn’t really stand out in terms of scent or skin feel. In fact, it was probably a bit less fabulous than the six-year-old Bronnley soap. This soap is tagged as having a scent of neroli, vanilla and sandalwood (although the box shows an orange and orange blossom, which is just plain confusing). You all know how I am about vanilla and, once again, I have been disappointed. Pleasant but not nearly what I wanted or was expecting. See the full range of Linden Leaves soap.

At the same time I bought the soap I also purchased a bottle of Linden Leaves ginseng and orange blossom bath salts, which smell divine. Oddly, there is no soap to match.

Cost: $14.99 for 100g. Rating 3 stars.

Haiku Husband has been gallivanting and one of my proceeds from a recent trip was a bar of Honey I Washed Teh Kids (sic) from a Lush outlet in Dubai. Here’s a link to the New Zealand branch of Lush, which is a UK-based company.

The soap is advertised as “toffee and honey” and the bar comes with a honeycomb effect on top of the slice. It does have a scent, but I clock it as something spicier than either toffee or honey. I’ve always wanted to love Lush products but often feel let down when I use them. The fun names and the unique look of the stores usually don’t translate into the same fun at home (website slogan: “magic is something we make”).

The soap lathers okay, but being brown the soap isn’t so pretty to look at and the “honeycomb” on the end is sharpish and/or falls off … and this stuff isn’t cheap! Not one I’d try again.

Cost: Dhr410/kg or $NZ140/kg (Dhr42.65 for my block/ $NZ14.61). Rating 2 stars.

Read Part 3
Read Part 2
Read Part 1

.かくれ家は浴過けり松の蝉
kakurega wa yuami sugi keri matsu no semi

secluded house –
a hot bath
and cicadas in the pines

– Kobayashi Issa, written in 1804.

This haiku (both Japanese and English) is from David Lanoue’s amazing site, Haiku of Kobayashi Issa.

Time for a cuppa

I don’t know who researches these things but apparently enough tea is drunk annually to reach to the Moon and back 12 times!

For a few years my preferred hot drink was hot water but, unless I’m at work out of the house, I’ve gone back to tea and when I’m at home can have several mugs a day in cold weather. As an aside, I’ve never drunk coffee except once, by accident, when I was too young and polite to say anything, yeuch (love the smell of it brewing though).

      friend’s funeral
      a stranger uses
      her teapot

– Nola Borrell, 2nd place, Katikati Haiku Contest, 2006

Nola prefers herbal teas (more properly tisanes) generally, a lemon and ginger being her favourite, but also drinks the well-known Earl Grey.

teapot

my teacup cooling
on the windowsill,
dark leaves of the magnolia

– Richard von Sturmer, Suchness: Zen poetry and prose (HeadworX, Wellington 2005)

 

steeping tea
the time it takes to lose a street
to snow

– Ben Moeller-Gaa, an editor’s choice in The Heron’s Nest, XV:2 (2013)

Ben is an American writer of haiku who prefers “an Irish Breakfast with just enough milk to turn the dark mug gold”. My favourite tipple is Lady Grey, weak and black, thanks. According to the link, I must have some Scandinavian blood because I too find Earl Grey bitter.

And, of course, we couldn’t have a posting about tea without something from “little cup of tea” himself, Issa.

.なの花に四ッのなる迄朝茶かな
na no hana ni yotsu no naru made asa cha kanaamid

rape flowers
till the ten o’clock bell …
morning tea

– translated by David Lanoue and from his Haiku of Kobayashi Issa website

Read more about tea in Japan here.