First Snow: Hatsuyuki

This is for Victoria’s beautiful prompt for Haibun Monday – Wabi sabi – the beauty of imperfection.  Come visit us and read the haibun inspired by this.

Hatsuyuki – First Snow
Midnight.  I walk to the trees at the verge of the woods. I can see against the rough black bark where bits of snow have settled into the crevices of the bark – like exotic plants on the steep side of the cliff. I touch the snow with my lips – soft cold against rough and then melting. I bow my head against the tree – I murmur 侘寂 wabi-sabi.

The stillness, the snow, the silence.   I am no longer here but there – years past on the viewing platform at *Ryoanji. On the wall sit hundreds of suzume – sparrows.  Like me, they are watching the rocks in the 枯山水, karesansui. Feathers fluffed against the cold, tiny bright eyes seeing all. The air becomes sweet and before the suzume begin to flutter, I know…snow. I feel them on my face before I see the flakes and soon, they stick to the gravel, to the moss around the base of the rocks. The birds flutter off to more sheltered spaces but a few stay for the crumbs the humans leave behind.

Ryoanji and hatsuyuki. I stay until the moss is white and the suzume have all left. Straight down and fast, the snow falls. I stand and bow the long, deep bow of deepest respect. As I leave, it comes together for me – mujo – impermance, wabi sabi – the beauty of imperfection, mono no aware – the deep sadness at the passing of things – the snow that falls, the snow that melts, the birds that fly away…and the rocks that stay behind.

snow falls – white **sho-ru –
silence drifts to cover rocks –
peaceful dragon sleeps

* Peaceful Dragon

28 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. erbiage
    Aug 05, 2017 @ 23:17:08

    This is what haibun should be. This moves me to an open place. Bless you

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. lillian
    Aug 07, 2017 @ 15:15:31

    Oh Toni….you are a master of this form. I am literally swept into (not away) your words, this scene, your respect for nature and this aspect of Japanese culture. Truly beautiful. Serenity defined. Calm. Reverence.


  3. Victoria C. Slotto
    Aug 07, 2017 @ 15:17:03

    You have so much to share with us, Toni–the deep reflectiveness of this Haibun is brimming with it. Thank you for so many insights and for your help with this, my first Haibun prompt. Your details are so poetic.


  4. kim881
    Aug 07, 2017 @ 15:17:33

    Just wonderful, Toni.


  5. Jane Dougherty
    Aug 07, 2017 @ 15:27:20

    This is why I feel so inept at the Japanese forms. I can’t even begin to emulate it.


    • kanzensakura
      Aug 07, 2017 @ 15:31:14

      Ah Jane. I know you could. Years ago when I first started writing haibun, I couldn’t get it right. Then my Teacher suggested I write freeverse poetry…and remove the line breaks to make sentences. It took lots of practice but finally I think I got it. I began to write serious haibun after my first trip to Japan and being at Ryoanji and then, helping to plant rice. It will click. It really will. And you just need to write the prose in your own style and add the haiku at the end. I write in the Japanese style because I started it so young and have studied, taught and lived it. Just do it in your own style of prose. It will be lovely I know.


      • Jane Dougherty
        Aug 07, 2017 @ 15:34:23

        I write lots of haibun, but they are all just chunks of prose the way I like to write it, with a haiku on the end, like the chocolate flake stuck in a cone of ice cream. It’s western and it’s me, and it has absolutely nothing to do with Japanese culture. That is what I will never get, but you do and it’s wonderful 🙂


        • kanzensakura
          Aug 07, 2017 @ 15:37:01

          Then that is your style and I love the flake of chocolate and sprinkles and whatever else stuck on the cone of ice cream! And actually, we should write from our frame of reference so the haibun will be true and honest and full of delights. Just like those corner all purpose stores stuck between two grand stores – full of hidden treasures.


          • Jane Dougherty
            Aug 07, 2017 @ 15:49:37

            You are permitted to write in the Japanese style, because you do it faithfully, from experience, and as naturally as writing in English. For most of us, even the concepts are foreign and strange, and I have adapted them to suit. I agree that we should write what we know and not try to copy what we might admire from afar.


  6. Glenn Buttkus
    Aug 07, 2017 @ 15:36:49

    You are our “Mistress of the Haibun”. This one is just damn stunning; transporting us to Asian sensibilities, teaching & hosting us. Makes me feel like a rough shod lumberjack who likes to tramp around in Japanese culture, but remains a stranger to its essence. Loved your description of the sparrows.


  7. Grace
    Aug 07, 2017 @ 15:37:49

    Love the capture of the moment – that stillness, that grace…deep bow to nature ~
    .Amazing haibun Toni ~ Hope you are well ~


  8. Frank Hubeny
    Aug 07, 2017 @ 15:39:45

    Passing of things brings sadness. Interesting that the rocks stay behind. Something new appears.


  9. Linda Kruschke
    Aug 07, 2017 @ 16:08:57

    You have an uncanny way of making me appreciate, if not almost like, snow. You paint such a beautiful scene.


  10. sarahsouthwest
    Aug 07, 2017 @ 16:13:14

    ” the snow that falls, the snow that melts, the birds that fly away…and the rocks that stay behind.” how very beautiful.


  11. Beverly Crawford
    Aug 07, 2017 @ 16:30:40

    Such beautiful use of words leaves me in awe.


  12. Misky
    Aug 07, 2017 @ 16:59:33

    Superb. Just breaktaking.


  13. nosaintaugustine
    Aug 07, 2017 @ 18:39:32

    Snow, a wonderful choice to illustrate impermanence. Many beautifully crafted lines in this haibun such as: “…against the rough black bark where bits of snow have settled into the crevices of the bark – like exotic plants on the steep side of the cliff” which I could see and feel vividly.


  14. purplepeninportland
    Aug 07, 2017 @ 20:25:11

    This is beyond elegant, Toni. I could feel the change in the air.


  15. Waltermarks
    Aug 07, 2017 @ 21:24:02

    Your Haibun is very evocative of a Japanese landscape. It is so real it makes me think I’m there. The last vestige of Fall leaves with the sparrows. And then there’s only you, the rocks, and the snowfall


  16. paul scribbles
    Aug 08, 2017 @ 07:41:37

    Delicate as the falling snow. Perfectly imperfect.


  17. alisonhankinson
    Aug 10, 2017 @ 14:44:28

    I thought it was very very beautiful and such peace, Do you have snow already? Please can you tell me what is suzume?


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