Sunday, December 26, 2010

Butterflies in Winter



Chiyo-ni (Kaga no Chiyo)1703-1775 began writing poetry at the age of seven. A student of the famous Japanese haiku poet Basho, Chiyo-ni later in life became a Buddhist nun not in order to renounce the world, but out of a desire "to teach her heart to be like the clear water which flows night and day." Her poems frequently reference the difficult gender dynamics of 18th century Japan, a time and place where women writers were highly marginalized, while also maintaining the haiku tradition of exposing the suchness of everyday life.

Amongst her repeated subjects is the butterfly. Sitting under a pile of snow and cold darkness here in Minnesota, butterflies seem far away. Their fragile beauty, strong determination (able to fly thousands of miles), and utterly obvious impermanence (most living less than a year) make them great subjects for Buddhist poetry. Here are four of Chiyo-ni's butterfly haiku. May they inspire dreams, especially for those of us living in the winter darkness right now.



Butterfly on a maiden's path
now behind
now in front.

Butterfly --
you also get mad
some days.

A butterfly --
What dream
is making your wings flutter?

What the butterfly
wants to say --
only this movement of its wings.



*Image can be found here.

4 comments:

Jomon said...

These are so lovely! Although I feel more like the cocooning kind of butterfly right about now.

ezzirah said...

Beautiful!

Ji Hyang said...

thank you, these are beautiful

MeANderi said...

Beautiful Nathan! "She became a Buddhist nun, not in order to renounce the world, but out of a desire 'to teach her heart to be like the clear water which flows night and day.' Wow - yes... Where do I sign up :) (just kidding). My heart sings with these words, as my heart wants this too, as I'm sure we all do... Thank you! Humbly - Christine