Wherever you go, there you are

It is October. It is fifty degrees here in Seattle, and fall has descended. The leaves have started to change colors and drop, and there is the occasional smell of wood smoke in the air. The coffee shops everywhere are offering pumpkin spice lattes, and as some stores are merchandising for Halloween a tacky few are already on to Christmas. I am enjoying the crisp tang to the air and the rains are becoming more common again.

Fall has always been my favorite season and I really enjoy it although the seasons differ a bit depending where you live. Fall here feels different than a New York autumn like those of my childhood. Minnesota is yet another experience. I wonder if this time of the year brings many discernible differences for someone in a warmer clime like that of Texas. I may never find out as I don’t care for the heat.

I have been thinking about this lately as I try to stay mindful of my surroundings and the passing of the seasons is part of the awareness I cultivate. I’ve also been thinking about seasonal markers because of my haiku practice. I work with a haiku group that often assigns seasonal words for the haiku, but these seasonal words are collected from Japan. Some things remain the same, but many of their festivals and celebrations are different. They don’t have all the same flora and fauna that are in other places.

This year I think I’ll compile some season words that are specific to Seattle. As a transplant, I’m trying to notice what marks the season here. What makes Seattle itself and not somewhere else? I think these are valuable questions to ask, and I’ve noticed more clues since I’ve started wondering. Sometimes answers can only come once questions have been formulated. My brain is buzzing and my hand is up in the air. I’ve got lots to ask.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
264. Start asking some questions about the place where you live. What makes it unique to itself? How does your town and region mark the seasons? Is that different than somewhere else you have lived?

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I love the change in the seasons. I’ve never been much of a fan of summer, so while others are mourning the summer’s demise I am looking forward to the fall. I love autumn and always have although it’s not nearly as marvelous here in Seattle as it was when I lived in New York–we got crisper air and therefore nicer leaves. It was more of a transition, although here it will cool down a bit and the rains will start coming back. This is still a win.

As a writer and a Zen girl, I try to be observant. One of the ways I hone my abilities to notice and stay in the present is through various forms of art. I love to draw. If you get very quiet and just observe a thing and draw what you see you’ll notice things you might never have noticed before. In order to draw something well you need to really look at it. The skill in your fingers will come with practice, but it all starts with the eye. Once you start drawing on a regular basis you’ll start studying things with a casual glance. Beware, as you may start to get distracted by the lovely curvature of your next teacup or the patterns on the light sconce in the hallway. You are starting to see, and it is good.

I also write haiku. In order to write about a brief moment you must first see that moment in all its detail. The more detail you have, the more choices you have as a writer when crafting your haiku. Writing is also a way to take a tour of your own brain. Writing exercises require you to use details you have stored up in your memory. I particularly like writing exercises that use random words because they allow me to create something that I might not have imagined otherwise. I wander around noticing things, and it is this reality that infuses the poem or story even if that poem or story is about outer space. All writing is grounded in some sort of truth, no matter how fantastical it might be. If it isn’t, it generally fails because people do not believe it. You may not believe in hobbits, but everyone knows someone who would rather sit and eat cakes than go on an adventure. We know someone like Bilbo Baggins, and therefore we accept a lot that doesn’t make sense within our own experience.

As the season changes I’m going to be noticing how those changes manifest in Seattle. I want to fully experience whatever the fall has in store for me, and I can’t wait for the rain to start.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
257. How does the change in seasons manifest where you are? Are you noticing as much as you could? Try drawing something or writing about it and see if you notice more than you normally would.

Do you haiku?

I’ve been writing a lot of haiku this year, because a friend of mine accepted a challenge to write a daily haiku. I decided to take on the challenge too, and I believe it’s made me a stronger writer. I look forward to doing my haiku, and I’m hooked–I expect to recommit to another year when this one is over.

Haiku is a wonderful form because you can only capture a moment. It forces you to choose your words carefully. You only have so much space, so many syllables, but you can convey so much. I read the work of many fine haiku poets every day over at the Carpe Diem Haiku Blog, and I am inspired by how many of their haiku tell whole stories within the short format.

I sometimes write a haiku based on things I’ve seen during the day, and this forces me to be mindful of my surroundings. I also write a haiku each day based on the prompts over at Carpe Diem. I believe it’s helpful to do writing exercises. You demonstrate to yourself that you are capable of writing something even without the inspiration fairy sitting on your shoulder. When you do writing exercises you can prove to yourself that you can always lure her over if she hasn’t chosen to land on her own. This is a valuable skill for any creative type.

The writing prompts have also been a good exercise in the old writing maxim “show don’t tell.” Many of our prompts have been words like “joy”, “justice”, and “sacrifice”. It’s tempting to write a poem about how someone is feeling joyful, but it’s much stronger to depict the emotion. It’s usually better to show your reader something and let them draw their own conclusions. No one wants to be told how to feel. My daily haiku practice is a reminder of this, and a chance to sharpen my skills.

I’m glad I took this on. It keeps me writing daily, even when my world is busy and life is demanding too much attention. I’ve also discovered a vibrant community of online haiku poets, and my life is richer for their company and what they write. Haiku anyone?

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
255. Write a haiku. You can check out the info over at Carpe Diem or check out my blog Haiku Plate Special for examples. You can stick to the old format–five syllables first line, seven syllables the second line, five syllables the third line–or go with a more modern format and use fewer syllables if it seems to work better (the older format works better with the original Japanese). If you need a prompt, write a haiku about cake. How was it? Ready for some more?