A wise man once opined
That nothing so focuses the mind
Quite as much as knowing
That you’ll be hanged in the morning.
And while that may be true,
That knowledge is not really new.
Another wise man said
Soon or late we all wind up dead.
NOTES: I can’t imagine what it must have been like in Hawaii Saturday when the alert of an incoming ballistic missile was issued by mistake. Hopefully, all of the sober reflection that occurred during those tense minutes will bear some positive fruit.
My recent Hawaii trip sent me back to the files digging through old poems. As I mentioned yesterday, being in Hawaii puts me in a haiku state of mind. Here are a few from previous trips to Hawaii.
More Hawaii Haiku
Sometimes don’t you wish
It could be like this always?
Mai tais at sunset!
Odor of mildew,
Shelves too full and disheveled.
Bookstore in Hilo.
Excited by blurs,
Cold night on Kea.
One night we visited a cousin of our friends on the Big Island. Our friend’s cousin had married a woman from Polynesia. His mother-in-law was the first to greet us, coming out of her garden. I was struck by the similarities of simple country folk, wherever they come from.
Hands full of basil,
The woman greets visitors,
So like my mother.
While we were at Hilo, a strong storm blew in from the northeast, with wonderfully big waves. At first we watched the waves from a home safely atop a high cliff overlooking the sea.
To merry clinking glasses.
The night of big waves!
We drove down to a seaside park for a closer look. Then, an especially large wave came …
When you dared the wave,
It came, all right, making us
Climb trees like monkeys.
One adventure involved a very long hike through the Kilauea volcano park. It was like another world.
Lava and cinder,
Much more than I’d imagined,
Lava and cinder.
Warming themselves by steam vents
Near the south end of Hawaii’s Big Island, which is the southern-most spot in the United States, is Green Sand Beach.
It’s a magical spot — and secluded. Unless you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle, you need to walk 2.5 miles from the closest decent road. When first come to the end of the path and get to the edge of the cliff, you almost can’t believe it. You survey a beautiful horseshoe-shaped bay, ringed by rocky cliffs, with the bluest water washing ashore on a perfect sandy beach.
Then, you have to clamber down the rocky cliff to get to the water. But it is so worth it.
The sand is literally green. Some miracle of volcanic rock formation has created just the right conditions for this little beach to have the most beautiful olive green sand. The day we were there was perfect. Hot and sunny. With a nice strong waves coming in, perfect for body surfing.
I tried to go with the flow of the waves and was body slammed into the surf more than once. It was so much fun, I didn’t care that the waves were having their way with me. I had green sand coming out of my ears for a month.
We learned that clothing was optional at Green Sand Beach. It’s so remote, who’s going to care? Or enforce rules?
And, of course, it led to haiku.
What kind of island
is this never-winter place?
Even the sand is green!
Young hippie couple
living how I’d tried to live
thirty years ago
“Would you mind if I
went topless?” she asked. Why no,
not on Green Sand Beach!
I never really understood Issa’s haiku about the roof of hell until I visited Hawaii’s Big Island. We hiked for miles around the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
It was like walking on the moon. Except with full gravity. Over jagged rock formations. Boulder fields. Through pebble fields. Past sulfur-stinking steam vents. Up and down. A death march. There were times when you could look around and swear you were on another planet.
It inspired a few syllables of my own:
“We walk the roof of
Hell,” said Issa. He must have
Issa’s original poem went like this:
In this world
we walk on the roof of hell
gazing at flowers
Much more profound than mine. But I appreciate his inspiration.
Issa was a poet and Buddhist priest who lived from 1763 to 1828. Which means he was coming of age just as American was becoming a nation.
He’s considered one of the four great haiku masters along with Basho, Buson, and Shiki.
His full name was Kobayashi Issa, but he went simply by the name Issa, which literally means “cup of,” or “one cup of tea.” What a great name for a haiku master!
I like his stuff and I’ll likely be coming back to it from time to time.
On a trip to Hawaii several years ago, I wrote a lot of haiku. Something about being closer to Japan in a land influenced by Japan, I guess. On the big island, there are bands of feral cats. I tried to make friends. Of course, I had no control over the situation at all.
Today I bring cheese
my little wild black cat, but
you will not be bought
The haiku masters often mentioned cats. Issa wrote some of my favorites.