BEGINNING AUTUMN, BEGINNING DAOKU

Well, my morning glory vine has begun blooming, and that is always a sign that summer is ending, and we are about to enter the downturn of the Wheel of the Year into the beginning of Autumn.

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As long-time readers here know, every year at this time I like to post a quote from Natalie Babbitt’s bittersweet children’s book Tuck Everlasting:

The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning.  The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn.”

By the Hokku Calendar, August 1st is the beginning of Autumn.  It is the old festival of Lammas — “Harvest Home.”  It is the halfway point between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox.  And as I have written before, that does not mean the hot weather is over; it just means the Wheel of the Year has turned, and now the Yang energy — the active, warm energy — will increasingly wane as Yin energy — the passive and cool energy — grows, though the effects will likely not be really noticeable for about a month.  Except, of course, to those like me, who notice the signs of change in the plants and in the air.

Yesterday I talked about impermanence. Autumn is a season in which impermanence is clearly seen. So now we must prepare ourselves, as summer is coming to an end, for the arrival of autumn, a season filled with the sense of things passing and aging and changing, and thus filled with the spirit of hokku and so also of that particular category called daoku, that is, objective hokku.

As I have mentioned before, to me daoku is hokku at its purest. It is free of commentary and opinion, free of ego and self-importance. So this autumn, I want to shift the focus of my ongoing discussion of hokku to that of daoku as its deepest expression. It is Nature and the place of humans within and as a part of Nature, expressed with a spirit of poverty, simplicity, and selflessness.

LIVING IN A HOUSE AFIRE

It has been a hot, dry summer where I live. In a normally temperate region, we reached 116 degrees a few weeks back. It was hot enough to wither the buds and flowers and burn the leaves on plants. It was the first time in my life that I experienced such intense heat. It was the hottest weather ever recorded in my state.

Unfortunately, odd and dangerous weather events — both short and long term — are happening all over the world now. The whole southwestern part of the United States is drying out and experiencing ever-increasing water shortages. Forest fires are growing in number and extent. Glaciers are melting at shockingly rapid rates. Sea level is rising.

When one reads the scientific statistics, it is inevitable to conclude that our days are the last chance to make changes — and severe changes are needed — to protect life on this planet — human life included. Some predict that civilization could collapse within 20 years.

In short, humanity is on a fast ride to the abyss — and taking all of Nature along on the insane gallop.

One would think people would be concerned enough about their children and grandchildren — about the future of humanity — to rise up and demand change, and be willing to go through what is necessary to save the future for the young and the coming generations. But many seem lost in wilful ignorance — asserting that what is obvious to the rational is some kind of hoax, or that Jesus will come and save them (he won’t). And meanwhile, the planet is metaphorically and in many places literally on fire.

Here is the little alcove in my house:

On the right side is a lamp I found in a thrift store (what used to be called a “second-hand” store). In the center is a Buddha image — a symbol of transcendent wisdom. And at far left is a thin slab of rock with two fossil fish on it — a reminder of impermanence.

I don’t think people are sufficiently aware of impermanence — and what a delicate balance keeps human and other life on this earth possible.

When I was a small child, my “Weekly Reader” school newspaper was already warning about the need for population control. Scientists have been predicting the dangers of pollution and climate change for many, many years. And yet one would think from human behavior that none of these cautions had ever been made.

It is like the old parable of the children playing in a house aflame. They are so wrapped up in their play that getting them to notice the deadly fire is very difficult.

Well, all the signs are obvious. Humanity is headed for catastrophe — environmental disaster, loss of species, food shortages, water shortages, disease, suffering, and death. And yet humanity continues to play with its toys as the flames begin to engulf the house.

For a writer and teacher of hokku, this is not at all the kind of thing I want to blog about. And I certainly do not think my few words are going to have any effect on the course of things. Nonetheless, anyone writing a verse form based on Nature and the place of humans within and as a part of Nature cannot but speak out against what is happening to the climate and the planet.

As far as I can tell, nothing sufficient is being done by the governments of the world to stop this impending disaster. So perhaps this will be the last generation to experience something of Nature as we have known it in the past. Everything is now quickly changing, taking us headlong into calamity far faster than even scientists had anticipated. Joni Mitchell once wrote, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” Well, we are witnessing it all beginning to go. And with it will go countless lives, human and non-human. A human-caused Great Extinction. All the result of greed and ignorance.

Impermanence.

David