On strongholds and ideas


High on a hilltop in County Cork, Ireland sits the Neolithic wedge tomb of Labbacallee.   Remnants of a dark forest surround it.  The tomb was constructed around 2,500 BC and is sited to catch the rays of the setting sun at the autumn equinox.   It is home of the goddess in her guise as the crone –  a symbolic representation of the energies of birth, death and rebirth.

Lasting through the millennia this strange and rather creepy tomb exists a container or stronghold for the energies of the old religion.


In the blog post titled Permitted not to tell on CDHK Chevrefeuille recounts an episode on Basho’s journey to the deep north where he visited Mount Yundano:-

Mount Yudano (meaning “bathroom”) a very sacred (and secretive) Shinto place. Today’s episode not permitted to tell is written after Basho’s visit to Mount Yudano.

According to Jane Reichhold, Basho wrote the following haiku on Mount Yudano (bathroom). On this mountain was a spectacular waterfall which had been a Shinto place of worship since early times. Only men could visit it and only after a rigorous climb with several rituals and services in various temples. At the gate, after purification rites, they must remove their shoes to climb the rocks barefoot. In addition, before being allowed to view this wonder, each men had to swear never to reveal what he witnessed there. In modern times, in interests of disclosure, the secret of Mount Yudano has been revealed.

Due to the wearing away of the rock and the reddish minerals in the thermal-warmed water, the waterfall looks exactly like the private parts of a woman complete with sounds and gushing water. The practice can be thought of as worshiping the reproductive aspect of the feminine earth.

The priest Ekaku had asked Basho to write some poems on his visit to the three holy mountains of Dewa. Basho couldn’t do that because it was an awesome experience for him and so he couldn’t find the words. Also it was forbidden to talk about what he had witnessed on the mountain.

katara re nu   yudano ni nurasu   tometo kana

not permitted to tell
how sleeves are wetted
in the bathroom

© Basho (Tr.
Jane Reichhold)


Why did the men go to a sacred feminine place?   In indigenous cultures such a place would be the domain of the women.  

It seems to me that the fact that men went to a sacred feminine site then referred to it by such an ignominious name as ‘the bathroom’ and kept their visit secret has ramifications that resonate deep in the modern world.  The Shinto religion is not the only example of men assuming control over sacred feminine knowledge.  Such behaviour has equivalences in many cultures and religions and lies at the root of patriarchy.  Across the globe the concept of the sacred feminine has been placed within a stronghold of ideas that assert the supremacy of the divine masculine principle.

At the core of most contemporary cultures and religions (be they west, east or middle) lies the assumption that men are in control and have the power.  Over everything.   Not just over women and children but of the planet itself.  Such thinking dominates our world and many people, women included, subscribe to this belief system.   Such people believe they have the right to rape and pillage the body of Mother Earth as much as they like.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that such behaviour is unsustainable.   If we continue to allow the rampant exploitation of the earth our planet will become a barren, infertile place and our days as a species will be numbered.


I’m not suggesting we return to some Neolithic matriarchal culture.  Archaeological evidence suggests this culture had it excesses too.   Human sacrifices appear to have occurred at Labbacallee and other ancient mother goddess sites in Ireland and, perhaps, across the globe.   There’s no way I want to return to that world.

Perhaps the way ahead lies in a union of the principles of the sacred masculine and the sacred feminine

– a  sacred marriage where the highest qualities of the masculine – qualities such as generosity, clarity, steadfastness, focused intention and productivity – unite with the higher feminine qualities of fertility, abundance, nurturance, tolerance and healing.



Perhaps if we truly learning to love and respect another and the planet we live on a new way forward will be found.






Carpe Diem Haiku Kai ‘not permitted to tell’ and ‘the clam’ – although I have taken a different direction that was perhaps intended with recent Carpe Diem prompts I have linked my posts to CDHK because the original stimulus for the haibun and haiga came from there.   In so doing I mean no disrespect to Chevrefeuille or anyone at CGHK.   I have the greatest respect and admiration  for Chevrefeuille and his interesting prompts.   I am also deeply grateful to Hamish Managua Gunn for teaching me how to write haibun.   It has been one of the most profound learning experiences of my life.   Comments from group members at CDHK have often been catalysts that have led me to a greater understanding of haibun, haiku and wabi sabi.  Thank you all.

Walking on



I decided I wanted to learn more about the ideas underlying the concept of wabi sabi.  

On the web site http://www.hermitary.com/solitude/aesthetics.html I read that wabi is the philosophical construct that underpins the way of life or spiritual path of the hermit living in harmony with nature.   Beneath the hermetic existence lies the recognition that the world of duality is an illusion.  There is an understanding that clinging to the ego and the material world leads to suffering.

sabi is ‘the outward expression of aesthetic values is built upon the metaphysical and spiritual principles of Zen and translates these values into artistic and material qualities.’  Sabi objects are asymmetrical, irregular, unpretentious and ambiguous.  They reflect impermanence through an aesthetic experience that is peaceful and transcendent.

Wabi-sabi is ‘an aesthetic sensibility that finds a melancholic beauty in the impermanence of all things.’

On this website I also read:

The Japanese haiku poet Basho transformed the wabizumai he experienced into  sabi poetry, and the melancholy of nature became  a kind of longing for the absolute. But this longing never fulfilled — the “absolute” is not part of Zen vocabulary –makes the tension between wabi and sabi an enriching and inexhaustible  experience.

Intrigued, I looked further.   On the website http://www.globalonenessproject.org/library/articles/beauty-wabi-sabi I discovered the work of Leonard Koren, a contemporary writer who explores the concepts of wabi-sabi and applies them to the modern world.  In article titled ‘The Beauty of wabi-sabi’ he writes:

On a metaphysical level, wabi-sabi is a beauty at the edge of nothingness.

‘…it is apparent that the “wabi” sensibility—the form and spirit of wabi-sabi—began mostly as an aesthetic accommodation to the catastrophic realities of the day.

There are the parallels in our time. Increasingly, we can make out the dark outlines of catastrophic scenarios to come. It is predicted that more and bigger climate-related events will intersect catastrophically with an expanding global population. How far will our material resources stretch? After the damage is repeatedly cleared away, will most of us be forced into smaller and smaller living environments, with fewer, and more modest objects?

This need not be tragic. The beauty of wabi-sabi is rooted in modesty—even poverty—that is elegantly perceived. The aesthetic pleasures of wabi-sabi depend on attitude and practice as much, or more, than on the materiality itself. Subtlety and nuance are at wabi-sabi’s heart. Wabi-sabi resides in the inconspicuous and overlooked details, in the minor and the hidden, in the tentative and ephemeral. But in order to appreciate these qualities, certain habits of mind are required: calmness, attentiveness, and thoughtfulness. If these are not present, wabi-sabi is invisible.’


There is so much to think about here I’m not going to even begin trying to write some kind of commentary on them yet.  For the present I am making a zen garden.   As I work I am processing these ideas.   For today, I offer you this haiga.



CDHK – on the trail with Basho




Along the narrow road

When I began this month of May following Basho on the narrow road to the deep north by way of blog challenges on CDHK I had no idea just how narrow that road would become.   I had imagined it to be a soaring, sublime passage to the lofty heights of pure haiku.   Instead I find it is a steep and stony path lined with jagged rocks.   With every step  I discover the discourse as to what constitutes a good haiku builds up around me in conceptual layers my mind can barely comprehend.

A week or so ago these accretions tripped me up and I felt I could no longer continue following Basho along that narrow road.   My haiku, I felt, just weren’t strong enough and ambiguous enough to carry me further along that rocky trail.   Then, with the support of others, I found my own track northward.   I picked up my pen and continued on.

Now, just past the month’s midway point I falter again – Untitled-6

Why is it that I feel constrained by the contemporary reworkings of 17th century Japanese philosophical notions of what constitutes a good haiku, a good haibun?  I’m a 21st century Australian living in a world of climate change where the polar ice is thinning and polar bears are under threat.  A world where refugees float aimlessly upon the rising seas as country after country turns them away.   A world consumed by violence where terrible wars are fought over old gods I don’t believe in.  A world where the island of Japan is lapped by radio-active seas. All around me the over-consumption of late capitalism goes on day after while Wabi and Sabi haunt the collective unconscious like depressive uncles at a Christmas party.

Perhaps I should be writing haiku about these things  but then the form is an aesthetic one developed by the philosopher poets of old Japan who found inspiration in the beauty of nature. If I am sincere in my quest to follow Basho along this narrow road surely I must learn from the master and take inspiration from his haibun:  ‘In the beautiful spectacles of the mountain, field, ocean, and coast I see the achievements of the creation. Or I follow the trails left by those who, completely unattached, pursued the Way, or I try to fathom the truth expressed by those with poetic sensibility’.


Today on CDHK the host Chevrefeuille writes:

As Basho started with his journey into the deep north he got a lot of gifts from his friends and he also got a few wonderful haiku to encourage him to see special places worth seeing. One of them friends was Kyohaku. Kyohaku gave him a farewell gift in the form of a haiku:
pine shows him
late cherries
© Kyohaku
The pine of Takekuma was famous in poem and fact because it was split into two trunks. In an earlier version of this poem the first five sound units were: chiri-useru “cherry blossoms have completely fallen away.
since the cherry blossoms
I’ve waited three months to see
the twin-trunk pine
© Basho (Tr.
Jane Reichhold)

I wasn’t inspired enough so I just leave you with this (short) episode.


Perhaps Chevrefeuille is also finding this journey along the narrow road an arduous one or perhaps he is just a busy man.  

Either way, I’m  not inspired to write haiku about cherry blossoms. I’m still contemplating Basho’s haibun of yesterday.  For me, the narrow road north is a metaphoric one.   I cannot time travel back to 17th century Japan but I can pursue the Way.    I can follow a spiritual path to my own deep north, or to put that in contemporary terms, my own true north.  Webster’s online dictionary says finding true north is essential for accurate navigation :-  

‘Hence the metaphor. In life’s journey we are often uncertain where we stand, where we are going and what is the right path for us personally. Knowing our true north would enable us to follow the right path.’  

In following Basho this far through the month of May I come to a point where I now seek to find my own path to my own true north.  I realise I am no want to tie my head in knots attempting to write haiku that conform to some aesthetic I don’t fully understand.   For now I will leave Basho to his ambiguous meanderings and continue on with my own.    I offer this haiku as a farewell gift.



prompt: http://chevrefeuillescarpediem.blogspot.com.au/2015/05/carpe-diem-737-since-cherry-blossoms.html

The right to choose

Prompt:  Carpe Diem  – the childless woman

This is a repost of a haiga I wrote a while ago. Although I am a mother I believe that all women everywhere should have the right to choose the way of life that is right for them.  Motherhood isn’t for everyone.   I know many successful and happy women who have chosen not to have children. Digital Camera

Along the Way

                                                                     2015-05-21 11.36.14-1

Today on CDHK Chevrefeuille quotes a haibun by Basho where he writes of his motivation for both his journeys and his haiku:   ‘In the beautiful spectacles of the mountain, field, ocean, and coast I see the achievements of the creation. Or I follow the trails left by those who, completely unattached, pursued the Way, or I try to fathom the truth expressed by those with poetic sensibility”.

Chevrefeuille writes about how Basho was influenced by the poet Saigyo (1118-1190) then goes on to say – ‘In “Oki no Hosomichi” or “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” Basho is anxious to see a certain willow tree at Ashino on which Saigyo ( has written a poem:

along the way
where water is running
in the willow shade
I have stopped to rest
for a little while

© Saigyo (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

Saigyo’s Willow

With the haiku for today came a preface:
“The willow tree with “clear water flowing” was in the village of Ashino, by a paddy path. Ashino Suketoshi, the local lord, had written to me from time to time to say, “I’d like to show you the willow”, so I had wondered in what kind of a place it would be. Today I was able to stop in the shade of this willow”.
one patch of a rice field
when it was planted I left
the willow tree

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold).


I loved Basho’s explanation of his life and work.  Humbly I pursue the Way. The photo of Saigyo’s willow inspired me to take my morning walking through the local Botanic Gardens.


  I took the photo with my mobile phone and processed it with the Apps, Pixlr, Snapseed and Photo Studio.   If you are thinking I have enhanced a reality just a bit too much, here’s the original photo.

2015-05-21 11.24.13

The Botanic Gardens were laid out in 1870s by the brilliant landscape gardener, William Guilfolye.    Walking through them it is easy to see that he must have been influenced by Japanese garden design.  They are particularly lovely in the autumn –

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