ZenSR

Calendar Notes - Jan/Feb 2019

ZenSR
Calendar Notes - Jan/Feb 2019

Friday, February 1, 2019

I had been wanting to send out some annotations for this year’s calendar, and thought I may as well post them periodically to this blog. So here are the notes for January and February.

Image Above: Boulder Creek, Dec 26, 2018.


January: Cowdrey Draw

January’s image was photographed during Humpday Phase 1 on May 9, 2018, at Cowdrey Draw, along the Dirty Bismarck mountain bike loop in Superior, Colorado:

 
 

I liked the accompanying quotation, from the website dailyzen.com, as a cheerful opening to the year. As it turns out, the website (and thus the calendar) incorrectly attributes the poem to Wang An-Shih (1021-1086), a poet and statesman of the Chinese Song Dynasty. Since then, I have found the book Finding them Gone: Visiting China’s Poets of the Past, which attributes the poem to Hsin Ch’i-chi (1140-1207), of the Sung Dynasty:

How far I have declined
a lifetime of despair
scattered friendships
of which too few remain
a mile of useless white hair
when I laughed at all the things people do
you asked what was it
that might make me happy
I’m attracted to mountains
I imagine mountains
likewise attracted to me
inside and outside
we’re more or less the same
— Pine, Red. Finding Them Gone: Visiting China's Poets of the Past. Copper Canyon Press. Kindle Edition.

A rather more melancholy sentiment. Credit to the author (and PEN Award-winning translator of Chinese literature), Bill Porter (aka Red Pine).


February: Three Poppies

February’s image is “Three Poppies,” photographed on June 15, 2018, near KR&ML’s cabin at Fryingpan River, Meredith, Colorado, by request of my sister A, whose birthday is this month (but don’t tell anyone):

 
 

I chose the accompanying haiku, by Tachibana Hokushi (1665-1718), simply because it’s about poppies. The poem appears all over the web, generally without much explanation.

I write, erase, rewrite
erase again, and then
a poppy blooms.
— Hoffmann, Yoel. Japanese Death Poems: Written by Zen Monks and Haiku Poets on the Verge of Death (p. 186). Tuttle Publishing. Kindle Edition.

A hallmark of the haiku masters, notably Hokushi and his teacher Basho, is that seemingly simple verse unravels into layers of meaning. Much of this meaning is lost in translation; for example, the book Japanese Death Poems, by Haifa University professor Yoel Hoffmann, observes that this poem is constructed around a Japanese language pun: the word for poppy, keshi, also means “to erase.” Hoffmann adds that poppies bloom in Japan at the beginning of summer, the season in which Hokushi died.

How many layers can you find in this one? At least three, at least.