THE HAIKU EXPERIMENT

March 12th, 2021

Photo by Michelle P-D

It isn’t always easy to figure out why we feel the way we feel.

If you had bumped into me two weeks ago, and had been able to see through the facade I was presenting to the people whose days I didn’t want to ruin, you would have understood immediately that I was fragile, and probably tired. You may even have perceived fear and discouragement. You would have been right.

Why this was so is both obvious and mystifying. Getting through winter, through the pandemic, treatment, and through the aftermath of the cornea transplant I underwent just before Christmas requires energy that I was running out of.

When this happens, the breach that is always there widens, and the worst thoughts you could have come out and make a mess inside you.

Whispering in my mind was a voice telling me that my cancer had probably started growing, I felt like those tumours were now expanding inside me. I know that eleven days after my last chemotherapy treatment, I still felt so tired…And, too, you have to live every moment you have that offers life and joy, but you also have to be ready for the day when the wheels fall off. I thought that day had come.

Still, you can’t live with a mind stuffed full of dread for too long. But where does the spark come from that leads to change? How does the light that casts a hopeful glow on everything around you appear? What is that mechanism all about?

I think it happens by accretion. Small, positive, good things become more visible. I think they may even come knocking. I’m still figuring that out.

What I know for sure is that through this bleak period, the people who love me kept loving me. I know that the phone calls I have with my mum–more frequently than ever before in my life–always make me feel better than before I call, and I’ve been making it a practice to call her more often because I think it does her good too. I know that my friend Louise C who is my partner in our daily blog, Aubade, continued to Message me every morning with a quote that matched her mood and her hopes–leaving it to me to post it along with evocative images. I know that my best friend Loulou called me regularly and we talked about our discouragement that a year into COVID, we still can’t hug our grandchildren, but also about simpler, everyday things…

And then, one day online, I connected with Charles, my brother-in-law who lives on the West Coast and has had a very tough year. He was, as he ALWAYS is, sending me messages full of kindness and intelligence, He is a man of many abilities and interests, and one of these is writing. And THAT’S when I had this flash of inspiration that led to what I’m now calling THE HAIKU EXPERIMENT.

I’ve tracked the genesis of The Haiku Experiment to February 24th (just a few weeks ago!), when I floated the idea to Charles and…well…he accepted! And that’s when the fun began. My old habit of finding images that matched some of the things I write (at REEF, at Aubade, and sometimes just on social media) is so ingrained that when Charles sent me his first haiku attempt, I matched it with a painting and then posted it. It got lots of online LIKES. And it was fun.

Soon, I was writing haiku, as was Charles, and Loulou (in French), and Hadi and Gail…And others were commenting and expressing delight and encouraging us to keep going! Charles was literally receiving requests! And then Patty asked if she could try, and yes was the answer and so she sent hers in as well. The rules are not true to Japanese haiku, and that’s okay. Five spoken syllables, then seven, then five again was enough of a challenge.

Yesterday, I spent part of my time with Hadi, who was once my French student, and who is now simply a friend. He is also brilliant, and, in his spare time, a visual artist. Turns out he’s also pretty good with the haiku form. He first sent me a longer poem written a few years ago, and then showed me how he could trim it to create a haiku. Back and forth we went, figuring out everything that had to be left behind by Japan’s verbal equivalent of bonsai. What was left on the page had to be beautiful. Hadi’s mother tongue is Farsi but he also speaks English, French and probably several more languages.

See what you think. Here is the original poem:

Today I saw a girl

Wearing the scent of flowers

Collecting flower pictures in her bag.

She stole the sunlight from trees

Took the colours from flowers

Absorbed it all
Fall’s let her leave with souvenirs

And I let her go

Before the sunset.

And here is Hadi’s haiku:

Today I saw a girl

She stole the sunlight

Wearing the scent of flowers

Sunset let her go

ART: Hadi Nejad, “Roots of Setting Sun”.

Here is a sampling of what a handful of people created because it was fun; because of COVID; because it felt great.

Freedom

Swiftly glide on edge

Scarring the glassy surface

Freedom is the ice.

(By Charles H).

ART: Ice Skating on a Lake Patricia Hofmeester

Longevity

I ask myself now

How light should my footprints be?

Like breath on cold glass.

(by Michelle Payette-Daoust)

ART: Stock image

Each lighted snow flake

Revisits the halo

of Narnia’s lantern.

(By Gail R)

Photo by Gail R.

AUX ARBRES

Perles de pluie suspendues

Soleil asséchant

Les perles, évanouies!

(By Louise-Gabrielle)

Moose Creek

The just got it done

Stemmed the flow on Moose Creek

Working like beavers

(by Charles H,)

ART: “Spring Flood”, Mark Kremer

Spring Thaw

Dazzling bright sunshine

Daggers liquefy and fall

Winter’s rest ending.

(by Patricia B.)

There are dozens more that I could post, but I think I’ll sprinkle the rest of them throughout my posts from now on…as long as the supply lasts.

Do you begin to see what magic was working that pulled me out of myself and my fears?

And then Patricia sent me this haiku, written by her friend Jack, A very moving, personal poem:

JACK’S HAIKU

It was on this day

You were never to come home

I came home alone.

ART: “Solitude”, by Daler Usmonov

On Monday, March 8th, I was back at the CHUM for my biweekly visit with the oncologist and the usual pre-chemo blood tests. I also knew that I would be getting the result of my most recent CT-Scan. You know what I was thinking. How do you gird yourself for frightening news?

I’m so happy to say that my worrying and sadness were misplaced. The tumours, it appears, after more than two and a half years of treatment, are still shrinking. Everyone was smiling. A reprieve. Something to write home about.

Poem:  THE HAIKU EXPERIMENT, by Michelle 

The other day I decided

                                                (it really happened that way)

To invite others

                                                (friends and their friends)

To open a door they mostly keep locked

                                                (sometimes it’s so small, they forget that it’s there)

To my surprise, many dared

Some with a whoosh!

Some with hinges that needed coaxing

And from all those doors swinging open

Words streamed outward

Like birds of a feather

Sunward

                                                (though a few, carrying pain, chose the shelter of the clouds)

They stayed in view a lovely long time

Word trails laid out in patterns

Five     Seven     Five

                                                (and sometimes a different symmetry)

It takes so little

To bring us together

Hearts beating to the rhythm of our joy.

ART: Photo by Gail Richardson, Isle-Verte, QC.

5 thoughts on “THE HAIKU EXPERIMENT

  1. Just wonderful Michelle! Your are so talented and bright! Haiku if wonderful has certainly helped you when times are difficult. Wishing you more Haiku magic. xx

    Like

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