Monday #36: Haiku, To You

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Oh my goodness, I love the vibrant yellow, greens and yellow-greens of spring!

It’s springtime now but, at the end of this summer, the 52 Mondays Blog will turn three years old! Wow! As a creative, self-employed person, I often feel the anxiety and overwhelm that can come from this quirky professional life. I work in a variety of genres when it comes to how I make my way: writing and illustrating books, teaching kids and grownups, directing community art projects, public speaking, coaching, graphic design and fine art, just to name a few. I am pretty much all over the place and, while I truly love this way of life, there is an emotional and psychological impact that comes from this that is very different from someone who punches the proverbial clock.

I would say that, overall, it makes me more ambitious, more eager to move forward with personal goals and more aggressive with my artistic vision; and I have been doing it for so long now that I know I would feel a great sense of loss if I went back to a day job. But, some days it can be hard to know where to start or which project to devote my attention to when there are so many things I have to choose from. It can be difficult to get myself going when the deadlines I have are either self-imposed or off in the distance. It often feels tough to summon up my creative mojo when it’s gorgeous outside and I’d just rather take a long run–or it’s rainy outside and I’d rather putter around my house avoiding my creative call because I don’t know what to do first. And, if I’m being totally honest, sometimes I just feel like staying in my pajamas and drinking tea all day long while I play on Facebook or Pinterest, look at new recipes to make for the following weekend and, then, wait for the procrastination guilt and subsequent overwhelm to set in!

So, one of the things that keeping this blog does for me is to add a little structure to my creative life–a life which can often be very unstructured. I’m grateful for that and even more grateful for all my dear readers and followers. Some weeks it is easy to think of things to write, but other weeks, it feels like a real challenge, although I believe I’ve missed fewer than three Mondays overall and maybe, really, only one. While I’d love to have my weekly posts written the night before and up by 8:00 a.m., generally I am racing the Monday morning clock to get them online by noon because, well, that’s kind of how we creatives roll. And, you don’t know this, but I’ve also invented kind of a “free pass” post that I’ve made a personal rule to use no more than four times a year. When I’ve gone through an entire week and nothing out there strikes my fancy, when I’m about to approach a busy weekend with few openings for a blog-writing sit-down, when I get to late night Sunday and my brain is totally fried and nothing sounds inspiring to write (or read!) about, I pull out my quarterly Haiku.

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I had a busy, busy weekend and, this morning, I was pretty certain I was going to pull out Spring’s Haiku post. Friday night we attended the annual Pinot to Picasso event held by the Princeton Arts Council where I am a faculty member and a contributing artist to the event’s Tombola Auction (my piece is the tree with the yellow sun, entitled “The Gathering Tree.”). It’s a fancy affair with good food, good wine, lots of schmoozing and a cool art auction. Then, Saturday I spent the morning driving to every corner of kingdom come, gathering up stray paintings, having finished work shot by my photo lab, and matting prints for Sunday’s annual Communiversity Arts Festival in Princeton. Saturday night I was frantically packing up my van with my display booth and still finishing up some small paintings so that they would dry by Sunday morning to hang.

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The weather was fine, fine, fine yesterday and it was a wonderful day to see friends, meet the public and talk about my work. The sound of great music and the smell of delicious food filled the air on Nassau Street and people came out in a mob to enjoy all that this annual arts festival has to offer. I even got to meet the people who won my piece from Friday’s auction because they stopped by to tell me! But, after breakdown and cleanup, dinner and a glass of wine (well, OK, maybe it was two), I lasted about nine minutes in front of the TV before calling it a night.

It was looking like a Haiku Monday.

Turns out, you guys actually like haiku and these posts are some of my most-read! Many of you even turn on your own inner-poet and add yours to the mix. In working with children, I’ve discovered that haiku is one of the most approachable poetry formats because it uses the beautifully simple syllabic symmetry of 5-7-5 in a trio of lines that devote them selves to an immediate and rather personal vision of the natural world. I use haiku as a go-to thing, both in my writing workshops and here on the blog, but I don’t even have one single book of haiku. Or… do I?

A couple of weeks ago, Jeff and I stopped by an area school for a huge, local used book sale on the last day for the last hour. You could tell that the volunteers who had worked the entire weekend were exhausted and annoyed by latecomers but we wanted to get in on the deal because it was $5 bag day and we both wanted to feed our book love for a fiver. They handed me a map of the sale layout and I immediately felt overwhelmed by the vast collection of used books laid out on tables in the gymnasium of the school and had no idea where to start. The person on the PA kept reminding us how many minutes we had left… 30… 20… 15… 10… I could feel my anxiety rising with every announcement until I felt certain I would leave with nothing because I couldn’t even decide which section to look in. Children’s? Travel? Novels? Classics? Cooking? I know! Self-help! Sounds good, self-help, that was exactly how I was starting to feel.

Jeff said just pick a section you like and find a few books then move on to another–give each section like five minutes; no big deal. OK. So, I started in children’s, made my way to contemporary novels, then (yes) self-help and psychology and, finally, to cooking, which happened to be next to the poetry section which, oddly, Jeff was cruising.

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Now, this guy of mine is as cool as a cucumber. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone as even-tempered and, since we’ve been together, I have truly come to appreciate the influence of being with someone whose calmness and pragmatism provides a perfect antidote to the intermittent buzz of anxiety and attention deficit that we artist types often possess. As the announcement that we had like seven seconds left or all our books would be taken away went off, he calmly hands me this sweet, little Japanese Haiku book.

photoIt is a narrow hardcover book that was published in 1955 and the cover is an aesthetic and simple, two-color print job with a beautiful dustjacket that has the most delicious matte-papery feel to it and is adorned with a weird and wonderful purple insect. The book is a collection of haikus by the likes of Basho, Shiki, Kikaku and Joso and the pages are filled with seventeen syllable poems accompanied by a small, square, geometric, nature-inspired thumbnail illustration in the gray ink used for the cover. It is a lovely little book and the printed price on the inside flap is…. wait… $1.00.

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Jeff knew I was looking for books to cut up for altered books and my art journaling projects, but there is no way I am cutting up this little gem. It’s a Life Keepsake.

Check out this April Haiku from Basho:

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So, what’s today’s blog all about, my friends? I think that maybe it is about trying to recognize how we can find calm in our lives, how we can deal with whatever it is that rattles our cages, how we can cope with our responsibilities and do so with a sense of joy and grace. It’s about how we can honor the world around us, and the people in it, in the midst of our busy, busy lives. It’s about simple ways to stop, take a breath and, just maybe, find seventeen little syllables that capture a moment of awareness and reverence.

Incidentally, I have not used up one of my Haiku posts. Just sayin’. :)

Enjoy this yellow,

green and yellow-green spring.

For, my friends, beauty calms.

TRY THIS WEEK: Ask yourself, what’s a small way I can soak up the calmness and combat the overwhelm?

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About Dar Hosta James

I am an artist living in New Jersey. I write and illustrate children's books, paint, draw, blog, coach, teach and speak about creativity.
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9 Responses to Monday #36: Haiku, To You

  1. Sheri Fuchs says:

    Great post! A good hug can usually calm me down :)

  2. Heidi Medhurst says:

    Dar, I love the way you started this post with such a unique photo of blooms. I’m not familiar with that plant. Can you please tell me what it is? I felt your stress when having to choose books while someone is counting down the minutes. That isn’t the way looking at books should feel :(. What a wonderful book that Jeff found for you. It is really beautiful! Have a happy week- Heidi

    • Hi Heidi! That is a lovely plant. Quite ordinary, actually, and used in many landscapes in this part of the country because it is hardy and grows quickly plus has a nice show of cascading blossoms each spring. It is a variety of the Andromeda plant. Even has a pretty name. :) Yes, that little book is wonderful. The guy is alright too. ;)

  3. James Tadych says:

    Sensitive Blog, Love, Dad

  4. Don Cadoret says:

    Us cool guys are coll

  5. Dee says:

    Thanks for sharing your weekend and your haiku with us. Taking a walk helps me unwind- walking my dog makes it even better.

    I visited my grandson, John in Kansas this week. He loved the book you signed for him at the Cranbury show. Thank you.

    Dee

  6. Rita Tadych says:

    My first Haiku:
    May be sweet and sour
    Choose both-and not either-or
    Life is not black-white.

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