whitebait – – haibun

This week, for the Haikai Challenge, Frank Tassone presents ‘whitebait’, a traditional Japanese spring ‘kigo’ (haiku season word). As well, Frank reminds us that we are in the Christian season of Lent, a period of reflection and restraint in which eating fish sometimes plays a role. Christian symbols and practices are part of the culture I grew up in…though I have long been a vegetarian with other spiritual leanings.

For centuries and perhaps millenniums, schools of immature fry (whitebait) have been easy spring catches for coastal peoples around the world. Though still traditional delicacies, small fry are less available today. As human populations have grown, fish numbers in oceans and rivers decline. Conservationists warn that it is unsustainable to take the young of large fish…for this reason whitebaiting has been strictly regulated around the world.

A Lent tradition is to eat fish instead of meat, on Fridays and Ash Wednesday (the Wednesday before Easter Sunday). Fasting, meditating, and abstaining from certain foods are spiritual practices in many religions. As we reflect, our motivations for restraint may extend beyond ourselves to the natural world around us.

spring fast

grandfather’s fishing net

on the wall

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