Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

The Best Season

December 12, 2016

In the memoir, Poser: My Life in 23 Poses, author Claire Dederer talks about how my yoga classes often have a theme related to the seasons.  Claire was my yoga student for years, and wrote a book about her life and, in part, about me/my teaching, so she would know the truth about my interest in the seasons and how we are affected by seasonal changes. Spring fills us with hope!  We are more energetic in the summer.  Kids do much of their growing spurts in the summer.  We tend to shed more hair in autumn.  My mother used to say in Sicilian, “Cadano li castagni”, which translates to “chestnuts are falling” because my chestnut-colored shedding hair was everywhere. We need more rest in the winter.  We crave light foods in the summer such as seasonal fruits and vegetables.  In the winter, we crave warm soups and starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and root vegetables.

Below is a poem I shared yesterday during the two yoga workshops I taught in Seattle.  The poem has to do with the seasons (!) and is followed by photos, shot throughout the years, representing the four seasons.  I took all of the photos with one exception: Rick took the tulip against the blue sky.  The author of the poem is Wu-men Huikai.  He was a Chinese Zen master who lived from 1183-1260.  He wrote poems about enlightenment and called his poetry “sacred poetry”.  He also wrote social, political, and anti-war poems.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.

“Ten Thousand Flowers in Spring” by Wu-Men


Nothing like a tulip to say SPRING

Nothing like a tulip to say SPRING (Ocean Shores)


Fawns (Ocean Shores)

Simone's poppy

Simone’s poppy (Simone’s garden)

Fragrant late spring rose

Fragrant late spring rose (Simone’s garden)


Summer Dahlia

Summer Dahlia (Carl’s garden in Stehekin)

Flower Power of Summer

Flower Power of Summer (Stehekin Garden)

Lilies in the Sun

Lilies in the Sun (Kelley’s garden)


Color of Autumn

Color of Autumn (Fremont, Seattle)

Fire walking

Fire walking (Wallingford, Seattle)

Autumn Boots

Autumn Boots (Wallingford, Seattle)

A long stretch of Autumn

A long stretch of Autumn (Capitol Hill, Seattle)


Jack Frost painted this fern.

Jack Frost painted this fern. (La Push, Washington)

Frosted vegetation

Frosted vegetation (La Push, Washington)


Autumn Haiku

December 2, 2016

It’s already December!  Have I really been back from Japan for almost a month now?

On the first day the group was together in Japan, I gave everyone an index card containing a haiku translated into English. Each haiku had an autumn theme.  I asked everyone, if possible, to capture an image with their cameras to match their particular haiku.

A haiku poem traditionally contains a specific image which becomes a symbol for a given season.  For example, crows, red dragonflies, colorful leaves, full moon, moonlight, bamboo, sake, frogs, wild geese, cranes, and herons are common images or symbols for autumn haiku. It was a tough assignment I gave out.  It was not always possible or easy to capture the simple-yet-rich imagery depicted in the haiku.

I did, however, receive the following examples of Autumn Haiku with their corresponding photos below.

The first haiku below is the one I assigned myself (!).  I thought it would be easy to find a lone empty road, but I couldn’t seem to find what I wanted.  Instead, I captured the lonely beauty of the ancient cemetery at Mt. Koya.  The tombstones, tilted drunken sentinels standing watch next to ancient trees atop the forested mountain, were covered in moss.  Instead of a road, there was a footpath running the length of this vast cemetery.  I certainly would not want to brave this path alone at night.

Not one traveller
braves this road –
autumn night.


Cemetery at Mt. Koya

Lonesome path. Cemetery at Mt. Koya. The five stacked stones represent the five elements Earth, Water, Fire, Wind/Air, Space.

And Jeff was the first to submit a photo for his haiku!  Here is his assigned haiku and his photo from the bamboo forest:

Moonlight slants through
The vast bamboo grove:
A cuckoo cries


Jeff's photo of the bamboo forest

Jeff’s photo of the bamboo forest

Bill was not able to photograph the solitary leaf of a kiri tree while in Japan, but when he returned to Vancouver, BC, he saw an image which would help him investigate the loneliness Basho describes:

Come, investigate loneliness
a solitary leaf
clings to the kiri tree


Bill's photo and haiku below

Bill’s photo of the solitary leaf

Yoga Inspiration

November 8, 2016

I am back home now.  I woke up in the middle of the night trying to figure out which city I was in. Was I in Kyoto, Koyasan, Osaka, or Miyajima? Or was I in Tokyo or back in Tsukiji at Kazuko’s apartment? Gradually, I figured out I was back at the condo in Green Lake, home sweet home, with the memory of Japan freshly imprinted in my mind. The Japan experience was incredible, rich, and so varied in scope.  I have a lot of processing to do!

There are a few more Japan-related blog posts to come. For now, I share this poem with you, along with photos of my fellow travelers and yogis, whom I spent the last two weeks of my life with, in the land of the Rising Sun, the Land of Kindness, Japan.

I chose the poem below before going on the trip. It embraces the philosophy of Hokusai and I feel it reflects what we experienced on our trip. Hokusai was an Edo era painter and lived from 1760-1849. He is most famous for his work of art called The Great Wave. He is the best-known and most revered Japanese artist and was extremely productive. He is perhaps the most famous non-Western artist and may very well be the equivalent of Michelangelo.

I think the poem depicts the way of the yogi. I loved the words of this poem and ideas conveyed before I left for Japan, but as I read this poem to the group on our last yoga session, I realized that the words had taken on a deeper dimension after having experienced Japan these past weeks. The poem embraces values found in Japanese culture as well as a deep running undercurrent of the Japanese approach to life.  It is a blend of the indigenous Shinto religion where stones and trees hold spirit and intelligence and of Buddhist philosophy and wisdom, where awakening oneself to the moment, living a life of mindfulness and awareness of thoughts and actions, and living a moral life lead to becoming an enlightened peaceful being.

Hokusai Says

Hokusai says look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing

He says look forward to getting old.
He says keep changing,
you just become more of who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat
yourself as long as it is interesting.

He says keep doing what you love.
He says keep praying.

He says every one of us is a child,
every one of us is ancient
every one of us has a body.
He says every one of us is frightened.
He says every one of us has to find
a way to live with fear.

He says everything is alive —
shells, buildings, people, fish,
mountains, trees, wood is alive.
Water is alive.

Everything has its own life.

Everything lives inside us.

He says live with the world inside you.

He says it doesn’t matter if you draw,
or write books. It doesn’t matter
if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It matters that you care.

It matters that you feel.

It matters that you notice.

It matters that life lives through you.

He says don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid.

Love, feel, let life take you by the hand.

Let life live through you.

– Roger Keyes



Theresa, Daphne, and Fran

Theresa, Daphne, and Fran

Sisters! Debby and Daphne

Sisters! Debby and Daphne



JD and Kim with the lovely Maiko-san

JD and Kim with the lovely Maiko-san

Ginger and Woody

Ginger and Woody

Kevin and Fran

Kevin and Fran

Marc and Nellie

Marc and Nellie



Jeff and Karin

Jeff and Karin (Udon Cooking School)

Bill and Bridget

Bill and Bridget

Marc, John, Daphne, Bridget, Debby, and Bill

Marc, John, Daphne, Bridget, Debby, and Bill

Yukiko and Chiaki

Yukiko and Chiaki

Last night in Osaka: Jeff, Kevin, Don, Karin, and Fran

Last night in Osaka: Jeff, Kevin, Don, Karin, and Fran

Mirrors: a yogi reflects on mirrors

January 27, 2013

(updated version with a link that works!)

Every year for Christmas, Rick and I each get a gift from our friend, Herb Sundvall.  The gift is a chapbook of poetry called Crow Tracks.

Crow Tracks is filled with Herb’s poems.  In the latest volume of Crow Tracks, I fell in love with his poem, Mirrors.  Instantly, I recognized the place to which he was referring.  Years ago, I occasionally taught classes at the University District YMCA.  At the University District YMCA, the placement of the two mirrors in the yoga room is enough to drive anyone mad!  Or you would think!  I asked students about it once, but not everyone had made note of it.  From my perspective, the mirrors made it look like I had 300,000 students with their hands and feet flying every which way, every limb duplicated 100 fold!

Arms Hands Infinity

Arms Hands Infinity

Just yesterday I was in the U District and decided to pay homage to the crazy-mirrored room. I had to explain to Chelsea, the employee who greeted me at the front desk, why I was there and asked permission to take photos.  She agreed to let me take photos of the room as long as it was empty.  Luckily, no one was in the room! After I took a few photos myself, Chelsea came in, excited by the idea of the blog and the new perspective she had with the mirrors, and took a few more photos for me while I posed in my raincoat and boots!

Not everyone sees their reflections quadruplicated to infinity....hard to believe there are only TWO mirrors...

Not everyone notices their reflections quadruplicated to infinity….hard to believe there are only TWO mirrors facing each other…

Boots and More Boots

Boots and More Boots

Here is Herb’s poem:


The mirrors on the walls
of the yoga class
facing each other
repeat themselves into
and the old man sees himself
and old-looking
He moves to a far wall
where he does not face
the mirrors,
the old man,
the wall clock
so he can stretch out
feeling young inside himself
and timeless

by Herb Sundvall

Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t let me retain the breaks in the lines the way Herb wrote them originally!  Log on  to Herb’s blog site where you can see Mirrors  in its original format and where you can read other poems written by Herb.

Herb’s poem, Mirrors, reminds me of how conflicted I am about having mirrors in the rooms or studios where I teach yoga.  On the one hand, looking at yourself in a mirror while doing yoga can help you see your alignment and give you an honest perspective about how deep you are in a pose.  For example, there are certain poses I do, like Dancer’s Pose (Natarajasana) or Bow (Dhanurasana), and I swear it feels like my feet are about to touch my head, but the mirror tells me the sobering truth: that I am nowhere near such elasticity!  On the other hand, the mirror can make one terribly self-conscious about one’s weight, how one looks in general, how tall or short one is, how young or old (often in comparison to others since the class is filled with many people also reflected in the same mirror).  I know, not everyone feels this way, but I have gotten enough unsolicited feedback from students to get the picture that reflections can be helpful with alignment or they can be a not-so-pleasant distraction leading to self-deprication.  About half of my classes have mirrors.

Yoga and Self Photography (sans tripod)

Yoga and Self Photography (sans tripod)

Chelsea comes in and saves the day:  A Billion Warriors

Chelsea comes in and captures this image: A Billion Warriors in Raincoats and Boots, preparing to combat Seattle rain!

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