On August 11th, I took a picture of my dog’s paw, resting gently in the cup of my hand. Not a work of art, photography not being a thing I’m particularly good at. It caught a little sweetness though. Without me trying, a haiku arose to sit beside it. I posted them on Facebook.
The next day, another haiku arrived, and the next day, another. I decided to make a haiku a day for a month. Thirty-one haiku later, I am grateful to this thread of small constructions of word and syllable: a spontaneous ritual that called me to meet myself on a daily basis.
I hold my dog's paw.
Ribbons of light, bind me tight
to this little life
I’ve never been a journal keeper. In fact, my writing is wholly undisciplined. I’m full of unwritten writing and that’s a sad fact. I suspect forgiving myself for that is a life-long project.
These haiku days, have been illuminating. And medicinal.
Dog haiku each day
Keeps Black-Dog, hound teeth at bay
It's a small Blessing
I have learned some things along the road, that hold me now. Of course, I wish I’d learned them sooner. Mostly these lessons have been about simplicity and kindness. How to be kind to the one I am, the one I’m with, and how to welcome, even revel in sometimes, a simplicity that’s like an empty table.
The thing about living in the hinterland of depressed, is just how much racket the storms of judgement can make. It’s hard to find the gateway to simple, within all that banging and crashing. Somehow, between my hanging on and giving up, by the kindnesses of others, a beloved dog and a few maps and signposts left by the poets and vagabonds, I have found that gate.
He takes me out, and back in
Three times, everyday
It’s been much quieter since the condemnations have ceased. I should be this. I should be that. The erosive violence of all that should and shouldn’t: weights and measures of success.
Mouth open: shouting
Gold falls out, and other things
It is not pretty
The haiku have helped me. A small discipline, but a discipline nevertheless. A practice, like walking Leonard The Dog. A commitment. A deal. A promise to show up. An actual showing up that is small and distilled enough for me to succeed at. See, even I’m doing it. Success: what does it mean?
Sometimes. Often, I can only stay for a fragment, a heartbeat, half a heartbeat. I need to retreat. I do come back, to myself or to you, but not immediately. I need a lot of breathing space. Quite literally, to just ‘breathe in’ space. I used to tear strips off myself for this disappearing. I deemed it absent, as a pose to the altar of Presence, where we all seem to worship. Now, I don’t even know if that’s true. I just know that I can forgive myself, if I need forgiving, and that I am free to be the one who disappears and comes back and then goes again.
No haiku came through
Running empty, all day long
Dog kissed my eyelids
The haiku are both small enough and big enough. Tiny and huge. A container. A street corner. A date. Every day the promise to haiku tugged at my hand and brought me to myself for a heartbeat or half.
And, looking back at these captured fragments of my last thirty-one days, I realise I have kept some kind of record. It’s a haiku diary.
Depressed needs to rest
Aches for the Aegean Sea
I dabble with the possibility of carrying on. A year of haiku. Or a lifetime.
On the 19th of August, Leonard and I ambled in our favourite London cemetery. This is the note.
Forgiveness of death
Old stones and trees, bent by time
Many of these of these tiny reports, are love letters to my dog. The one who’s teaching me just how much love I am capable of: the one I share my days and nights with.
You are my darling
The face I wake up and see
Dog rolled in something
Dog got washed from nose to tail
Dog smells wonderful
I am often lost. I stumble and fall, I lurch and crawl, and while these are metaphors, it is also direct reporting. I can’t quite understand how no-one else seems to notice me crashing into walls and falling over my own feet. Stumbling through the days of my little life, is graphic. Now, I know to keep things simple. There is a cradle I can fall back into, and it’s made up of small things: domestic repetitions, lighting many candles each day, always having flowers, walking in and out with Leonard, lists, naps, gratitude, doing the best work I can with my clients. This cradle of Grace is a living thing. There are flowers, reeds and weeds, growing in the nooks and crannies. I lined it with moss and earth. It both holds and anchors me.
Maybe, just maybe, the haiku can hold and anchor me too.