Tuesday 13 August 2019

Instead of huddling around a heater inside The Oaks marquee, we found ourselves sitting outside beneath a sunny blue sky. How unexpected! The recent bleak weather with its wind, sleet and local snow, had at last decided it was almost spring. Sunshine lit up the pink blossoms on two weeping apricots near the entrance, magpies gave full voice to the day, and one by one we even shed our coats. Ideal conditions for a stimulating afternoon!

Five of us gathered around the table – Hazel Hall, Kathy Kituai, Glenys Ferguson, Marietta McGregor and Jan Dobb. Our sixth member, Greg Piko, was cruising the North Atlantic, writing ocean haiku no doubt. As usual, greetings were warm as we relaxed into the mode of coffee, friendship and haiku. There was certainly plenty to keep us going.

Jan had brought along the latest issue of Ribbons in which, this time, Hazel had selected the Member’s Choice Tanka and written a sensitive article of her findings. With Hazel’s permission, Glenys read an extract to the group. Such writing, one of us confessed, offers a renewed verve to flagging inspiration.

Marietta had kindly printed off for each of us a copy of results from the 1st Morioka International Haiku Contest, in which we were delighted to see two of her haiku as Honourable Mentions. Some time was spent perusing and commenting on the various winners. How enlightening a pooling of reactions can be!

As show-and-tell continued, a magpie perched from time to time on the back of a spare chair and warbled loudly into the conversation. A welcome guest.

Kathy introduced us to a book on mindfulness that she is currently reading — Jon Kabat-Zinn: Coming to our Senses. In it the author quotes Basho, and at Kathy’s dictation we copied his haiku for consideration, a wonderful exercise that found us mutually responding to the deep significance of being present.

even in Kyoto
hearing the cuckoos cry
I long for Kyoto


From this a question evolved. Why do we haiku? Why feel it is important to catch the moment in writing? Where does this strong urge to write originate? Surely a matter to muse upon, though not to seek cut-and-dried answers . . .

As our afternoon was drawing to a close, Hazel generously distributed copies of her publication You Are Her Words: A Tribute to Our Best Friends, written in collaboration with artist Karen Bailey. Just the sort of cosy reading for Canberra’s chilly evenings. Thank you for the treat Hazel.

Jan Dobb

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