Taking notice

It's Palm Sunday. As I looked bleary-eyed out the window I saw sunlight streaming through the trees, casting bold shadows in the garden. And snow—large flakes of snow, dreamily meandering to earth. Surely, it can't be bright sunshine and snow at the same time? I rubbed my eyes and looked again. Same vista. As I investigated further, a large snow cloud was beating a hasty retreat to the west before the advancing blue sky of the east. It was memorable, and I penned a couple of hasty haiku:
at the same time
on palm sunday
sun and snow
pushes snow
I took notice, and in taking notice my life was enriched for a few brief moments. What an amazing planet we live on!
Last year, in the midst of the media hype of crises in government, bad news on a daily basis, and frequent predictions of coming disasters, I decided to do something. It was not a big something, rather a lot of small somethings. I decided to take notice of life, of nature, of the amazing stuff all around me. I decided to slow down and notice the things we take for granted and don't even see in the normal busyness of life.
Part of my noticing has been to write haiku to record my "seeing." Haiku is a short three line poem, and comes from the Japanese tradition. Haiku is simple, yet with multiple layers of meaning and complexity. Really good haiku take much practice. As a haiku novice, mine are fairly simple, but have deep meaning for me. I recall where I was, what I saw, how I noticed. A Japanese haiku is composed of 17 on. When the art first came to the West, on was translated as syllable. So an English language haiku is sometimes written with 17 syllable, a line of five, a line of seven, and a line of five. This practice is largely abandoned as there is no real correspondence between on and syllable. So, by and large, a haiku can be thought of as a short line, a longer line, and a shorter line. In the literature, writing haiku can be very complicated with many rules (I have seen as many as 65!). Here's the few that I work with:

  1. Haiku has short, long, and short lines
  2. Haiku is about what you experience and not what you think. 
  3. Haiku connects with nature in some way. 
  4. Haiku uses verbs in the present tense.
  5. Haiku has a fragment and a phrase.

So, I notice, then I wait a while, "holding the notice" and sometimes a haiku emerges, and sometimes not. Noticing for the last several months has been quite fun. It does not mean that I have withdrawn from the world into some cave or other. I still go to work each day to teach the complexities of social philosophy, and engage in the vibrant and challenging life of the university. I still read the daily news (but less of it). But noticing the richness of life and nature, even for a few minutes each day, helps me to ignore the silliness and hysteria that is the daily fare of the media. In noticing the little things, I have found my life enriched. Noticing gives me perspective. Noticing gives me a sense of connectedness. Noticing gives me a confidence in the stability and dependability of nature. In noticing, life becomes lighter and simpler.
So, for me, in noticing the little things, I have found my life enriched. Of course, you don't have to write haiku. That's just one tool to help. But do try taking notice for yourself.
Have fun looking,
+Ab. Andy